January 29, 2012

The Export From Davos

Fear:

In private conversations here this week, senior officials from the United States, Europe and Asia expressed a mixture of resignation and alarm that Greece may yet default on its government debts, despite several efforts by eurozone members to cobble together a credible rescue. Some warned that such an outcome could spook investors into pulling funds out of larger economies such as Italy and Spain, raising the prospect of defaults in those countries. A few suggested this could eventually trigger the breakup of the eurozone and the end of its shared currency, an event that could produce panic rivaling that seen after the investment banking giant Lehman Brothers collapsed more than three years ago.

In a riveting address here on Saturday, Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang recalled his place at the epicenter of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, and the experience of the 2008 global credit pullback, asserting that the current situation is worse.

“I’ve never been as scared as now about the world, what is happening in Europe,” he said.

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