By Delphine Denuit and Matthieu Pelloli
The former number two of the New York Stock Exchange is certain. We must prepare for an unprecedented global financial crisis before the end of 2020. At 74, the current Belgian president and CEO of the consulting firm Galileo Global Advisors, Georges Ugeux, sounds the alarm and deciphers the reasons behind it in his latest book, "la Descente aux enfers de la finance".
Even more devastating than the one that shook the world in 2008, this crisis would no longer be caused by poor investment by banks but by the extremely high level of government debt. He explains to us what makes him fear the worst.
Ten years after the 2008 crisis, what makes you think we're running into a wall?
GEORGE UGEUX: For years, governments have been able to take on debt under excessively favorable conditions and have not deprived themselves of it. So much so, that countries such as Italy, France, the United States and Japan have reached a level of debt that is no longer sustainable. The amount of global public debt now stands at $63 trillion (€55 trillion), of which $10 trillion (€8 trillion) comes from Europe, $10 trillion from Japan and $22 trillion (€19 trillion) from the United States... As interest rates rise - as is already the case - budget deficits increase and threaten these countries' ratings and their ability to refinance themselves without exploding. It's arithmetic. That is why I say that by the end of 2020, we will have a financial tsunami. What happened to Lehman Brothers is lilliputian compared to what we're facing!
What would be the spark?
I don't know what the trigger is.... Central banks and governments may trigger it through their actions. Realizing the dangerousness and level of their government bonds, some of these players may start selling them and launch the spiral that will drive up interest rates, and we know what happens next.
What solutions do you recommend?
You have to get out of denial. Central banks must absolutely gradually stop lending easy money. Governments must have better budgetary discipline. And we must test the gradual rise in interest rates, as the United States did to get out of negative rates as a matter of urgency. I am convinced that when you have extremely low rates, moving them in one direction or another has no impact on the decision of a business owner or a household to invest.