Despite a raft of government interventions, markets in Europe have
ended a tumultuous week with a steep decline Friday as fears of a
worldwide recession start to take hold. For VOA, Tom Rivers in London
has been talking to average Britons about the financial problems and
gauging their mood.
Following the lead in Asia, a shock wave of heavy declines hit all of the European markets Friday. And after weeks of extreme volatility, worries are spreading from the global financial centers to the average man and woman on the street.
In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown tried to shore up sentiments by urging other countries to adopt a financial rescue package similar to the one he unveiled two days ago.
"What we need now as I said this morning, is other countries doing similar things because this is a global financial system," he said. "We have got problems that have come out of America. I'm trying to persuade others leaders to do exactly the same as we have done so we can get the whole system moving again."
Mr. Brown is calling for a summit of world leaders to build a unified approach to what is now a firmly established global problem.
Market Analyst at BGC Partners in London, David Buik, says that cannot happen soon enough because the pain is just starting to be felt in the real economy of everyday life.
"The fabric of society is seriously damaged, old people, pensions, schools, all these sort of things," he said. "I sound like a politician, I can assure you I am not but you can feel it around you. So, unless people get a grip on this banking sector and restore this confidence that all these areas that are so dear to everybody's hearts in terms of their futures, is severely under pressure."
Here on a busy, bustling street in west London I spent the afternoon talking to average Britons about their concerns and worries. From senior citizens to teenagers the story was the same. People feel they are in a situation they do not control.
"I am worried, obviously," said a man. "I think everyone is worried. When it comes to finances, if you are not worried about your finances, there is something wrong with you. Things are changing all the time but it is never for the good. It is always for the bad at the moment. You know, things are going down so, I do not know really, it is definitely worrying you know, you are downsizing everything at the moment."
This man works for an airline at Heathrow airport. He says job security there is becoming a big concern. "We work for a firm at the moment where they are cutting back," he said. "You know, everything is being cut down and trying to go towards, cut back."
This week, the Bank of England, in concert with a number of other key central banks, cut interests rate by a half point in a coordinated move. So, what does the man on the street here think about that?
"Half a percent is a drop in the ocean to be honest," he said. "[Let us] see what happens in the next week, two weeks and take it from there."
"Well, every little helps but a little is not enough really," said another man.
At the other end of the age scale, young university students I spoke with are feeling the tightening financial squeeze as well.
"I would say we are cutting down on a how much we spend but purely because we have to," said a student. "We have no choice. We have no money. Like, I am constantly a poor student and so therefore everything else kind of goes with that like. I spend far less on things that I want to spend it on and I have to kind of manage my money a lot more so I can afford to live rather than just buy nice clothes and stuff."
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that this problem will not be going away anytime soon and there will be more pain is store before things turn around. And no one here seems to know just when that might be.