The new debt trap

The new debt trapThe new debt trap

How the response to the last global financial crisis has laid the ground for the next

Executive summary

Inequality fuels debt crises

Debt crises have become dramatically more frequent across the world since the deregulation of lending and global financial flows in the 1970s. An underlying cause of the most recent global financial crisis, which began in 2008, was the rise in inequality and the concentration of wealth. This made more people and countries more dependent on debt, and increased the amount of money going into speculation on risky financial assets.

Increasing inequality reduces economic growth as higher income groups spend a smaller proportion of their income on goods and services than middle- and low-earners. To tackle this problem, countries relied
on either increasing debts, or for the countries which are the source of the loans, promoting exports through lending. This allowed growth to continue even though little income was going to poorer groups in society. Meanwhile, the rich were putting more of their growing share of national income into speculative lending and risky financial investments, in search of higher returns. Rising inequality, along with financial deregulation, therefore fuelled an unsustainable boom in lending and was an underlying factor behind the crisis which began in 2008.1

The new debt trap

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