French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks at the meeting of the Foundation for Family Businesses in Germany and Europe in Berlin, Friday, June 8, 2018. (Sina Schuldt/dpa via AP)
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Are brewing exchange-rate and debt crises in Argentina and Turkey localized events without wider implications?Or are they early warning signs of deeper fragilities in bloated global debt markets that are being exposed as the U.S. Federal Reserve continues to normalize interest rates?Indeed, the populist coalition government that has now taken power has hinted it wants write-offs for some of its under-the-table debts (not included in Italy's official public debt of over 130 percent of GDP) to the euro system through the European Central Bank.The good news is a full-blown global debt crisis is still relatively unlikely to erupt. It is notable how much the IMF, the world's debt and financial crisis watchdog, has been ratcheting up its warnings. After years of saying advanced countries no longer need to worry about their near-record public-debt levels – now averaging over 100 percent for general government debt – the IMF has started to warn many countries may find themselves squeezed for fiscal space if faced with a new recession anytime soon. It is certainly not difficult to imagine a temporary slowdown in fast-growing China that could roil world markets. And if the completely unexpected does happen, one thing we can anticipate is that governments with strong access to global credit markets will have much better options for responding.
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