The question on a lot of people’s minds is the state of the global economy. Some are predicting a return to recession and at best others believe we will see a period of stagnation.
With global stock markets taking massive hits in the last few months over fears about the eurozone and American economies, what can be done to ease these concerns?
The American investor and financial commentator Jim Rogers says the world is going through a historic shift that will see a period of slow growth. However, he is not worried.
On the BBC World Service’s Business Daily, Justin Rowlatt began by asking Mr Rogers how long he expected the US economy, the engine of global growth, to stagnate for?
Transcript of the interview:
Jim Rogers: I hope it’s only one decade of loss that we lose in America. Japan has had two lost decades now, as you probably know, and America is in much, much, much worse shape than Japan.
America is the largest debtor nation not just in the world, Justin, in the history of the world. We have serious problems. They are not addressing the problems in America. So I hope it’s only one or two decades we lose. It may be three or four.
Justin Rowlatt: So what do American politicians need to do?
Jim Rogers: First they need to get a little education about the rest of the world and about their own economic situation and then we have to change our tax code dramatically. We have to cut spending with a chainsaw; not with an axe, with a chainsaw.
We got troops stationed in over 120 countries around the world. I mean the politicians have sent them there you know, and those military establishments are making things worse for America, not better. We got to change our total way of thinking just as the British did when the British started facing reality.
Justin Rowlatt: When you say face reality, you seem to be suggesting that the age of American supremacy is over?
Jim Rogers: Absolutely, aren’t you? Listen to the BBC and you will hear what’s going on in the world. The 19th century was the century of the UK, the 20th century was the century of the US, the 21st century is the century of China, of Asia, Justin.
I mean, here is a simple fact. The largest creditor nations in the world now, Justin, are China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore. Those are all Asian countries. This is where the assets are. This is where the energy is, the dynamism is. You know who the debtors are and where they are.
Justin Rowlatt: I mean the Chinese economy, for example, just to take one Asian economy, isn’t looking so healthy itself, is it? I mean, yes, it’s still growing, but there are these real concerns about inflationary pressures within the economy, which could derail Chinese growth, couldn’t they?
Jim Rogers: Extremely insightful of you. Yes, China has got some problems and they will continue to have problems. Fortunately, they realised the problem. They are trying to cut back on the inflation.
They have made some mistakes too. They should have opened their currency to make it a convertible currency. The fact that it’s not convertible and all that money trapped in China is just adding to the inflation. So yeah, they are making mistakes too. Still, I’d rather be with the creditors than with the debtors any day.
Justin Rowlatt: I suppose what I am suggesting is that you look at America, you look at Europe, you even look at China and India, the two great Asian behemoths, and you see problems across the world economy. Are we entering now a period of slow growth globally?
Jim Rogers: Oh, yes. Yes, yes, absolutely. If that’s what you meant, there is no question about that. You just pointed out that China has got its own problems, but this is the way the world has always worked. We have gone through long periods when things were great followed by long periods when things slowed down for a while and we cleaned up mistakes of the past.
Justin Rowlatt: So you think we are entering one of these cyclical periods of slow growth worldwide?
Jim Rogers: Unless you know something I don’t know, yes, absolutely. The only areas of the world economy I see that are going to be dynamic are natural resources; farming is going to be one of the best professions of the next 10 or 20 or 30 years.
Justin Rowlatt: You seem very sanguine about it, but you don’t seem very worried by it?
Jim Rogers: No, not at all. The world has been going through big changes like this throughout history. In the ’20s and ’30s, the world moved from the UK to America exacerbated by a financial crisis and mistakes made by politicians.
The world is going through a historic shift again from the US to Asia exacerbated by a financial crisis and mistakes made by politicians. Justin, the world has been going on for a few thousand years and there have always been big changes and adjustments.
At some times in history, the financials types have been in charge; at other times in history the people who produced real goods have been in charge. It’s the way the world has always worked. The key of course is to figure out what’s coming next and go there. Become a Chinese farmer, that’s what you should do, Justin.
Justin Rowlatt: You say farming, why do you think farming will be such a crucial sector in the next couple of decades?
Jim Rogers: Farming has been a disaster for 30 years, Justin. The average age of farmers in America is 58 because it’s been such a horrible business. The average age of farmers in Japan is 66. In Australia, it’s 58. I could go on and on. In 10 years, those farmers are going to be 68 if they are still alive.
Justin, we have huge shortages developing in agriculture and great fortunes are going to be made by the people who address those problems.
Justin Rowlatt: And commodities is the other sector you said we should look up. Now hold on a second. If the world economy is entering a period of slow growth that you think is going to last not one decade but a number of decades, why on earth would you put your money in commodities?
Jim Rogers: Because you asked where the best areas of the world economy are going to be, that’s where the shortages are developing. In the 1970s, most of the world’s economies were in the tank, but commodities boomed.
Justin, we had one of the great world markets of history in commodities for about 15, 20 years in the ’70s, between the ’60s and the early ’80s in commodities, because we had huge shortages everywhere and because governments everywhere printed money.
Well, governments are printing money again. It’s a wrong thing to do Justin, but that’s all they know to do. So between shortages of supply and money printing, if you want to be in the dynamic parts of the world economy, don’t get an MBA and go to Wall Street, go and get a farming degree and move to Asia.