What if the current period is more serious for the economy than last spring's lockdown? Because at that time, there was the prospect of no lockdown, summer vacation, the start of the new school year, in short, the fact of starting to live fully again and making up for lost time. The partial or strict lockdowns decided upon here and there in Europe, in disorder, often in a hurry, are all contradictory injunctions that obscure the future. Hard hit by these measures, restaurants and theatres have reopened as best they can, but they have to close again in several countries. No more forecasting is possible, so the core of economic activity that has been reached, and only a subsistence economy (food, energy) remains.
It is the prestigious McKinsey firm that warns us with a study with truly frightening conclusions on the crisis we are going through. The impact of the crisis is severe since 70% of European SMEs have seen their turnover decrease since the pandemic. And if this level of income persists for another twelve months, half of the European SMEs (55% exactly) risk going bankrupt. If the situation deteriorates further compared to today, three-quarters of them (77%) will go bankrupt. And if the situation improves by 10 to 30%, 39% of SMEs would still file for bankruptcy by September 2021. These are frightening figures, which far exceed the crisis of 1929. It should be noted that this is not a macroeconomic study or any kind of model, but a survey, which gives significant truth to these figures.
It is crucial to note that within six months instead of twelve, bankruptcies would concern "only" 11% of European SMEs, which preserves the hope of regaining the level of activity of 2019 fairly quickly. With the prospect of getting out of the current crisis within a reasonable period of time, we can save what is essential, otherwise a chasm will open up before us.
Of course, the governments can limit the number of bankruptcies by distributing money to companies and paying unemployed workers, with euros printed by the European Central Bank. But this "sovietization" of the economy only postpones the deadline, and it can also lead to a wave of hyperinflation that would ruin everyone- companies and savers alike.
The year 2021 is now at stake. The last quarter of 2020 will mark a decline in several countries, while the third quarter was green. If the year 2021 is still disrupted by these incessant jolts ("we stop lockdown", "we start lockdown"), the depression will set in and bankruptcies will explode. The European Union has forecast GDP growth of 6.3% in 2021 (5.9 for Germany, 7.4 for France, 6.5 for Italy, 7.0 for Spain), and all budgets (and tax revenues) have been calibrated to this figure. But it seems quite presumptuous today. If the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage, stagnation or recession awaits us. At that point, with so many corporate bankruptcies, we will not escape a massive banking crisis and the ECB will have to ramp up the printing press....
The worst is never certain, but in this scenario of a lingering crisis, even assets deemed to be solid, such as real estate, will plunge and only physical gold will maintain its value. In any case, it is important to get out of this chaotic Covid-19 management and quickly get back on the road to growth, otherwise an economic cataclysm will occur.