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Analysis: Economic leaders fear policy paralysis (2)

(People's Daily Online)

11:21, August 29, 2011

The calls from the world's economic policy elite may give some political cover to President Barack Obama, who faces a tough re-election fight next year with the U.S. unemployment rate stuck above 9 percent.

Obama is preparing for a speech after the September 5 Labor Day holiday in which he is expected to lay out proposals to boost hiring. He is reaching out to other world leaders too.

On Saturday, Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the White House said the two leaders vowed to act to shore up a global recovery that now looks at risk.

A day earlier Obama had called Lagarde to talk about fiscal policy. They agreed that the world economy needs further steps to boost growth.

Obama's potential presidential challengers, including leading Republican candidate Mitt Romney, have repeatedly blamed Obama's policies for impeding growth.

The U.S. economy grew less than 1 percent in the first half of the year and has yet to return to its pre-recession size.

In Europe, the biggest threat is a spreading sovereign debt crisis, and richer euro zone nations, chief among them Germany, have shown a hesitancy in picking up the tab for nations on the debt-strapped periphery.

Stress tests last month exposed the degree to which European banks are exposed to Greek and other shaky government debt, and lenders are balking at extending credit.

Lagarde and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet both said strengthening bank balance sheets is crucial.

"Although there is clarity on required policies, the uncertainty created by the political stances in both Europe and the United States poses some serious risks," Cornell University Professor Eswar Prasad said.

"Getting the policy balance right is tricky in itself; this adds a layer of uncertainty that will make it that much harder," Prasad said.

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