Sunday, December 18, 2011

Are you ready for Doomsday?

One of the blogs I read this morning contained a link to this article in the Mail Online "Stocking up for Doomsday." The scenario it describes might seem to many of you a bit far-fetched but there are quite a few Americans who wouldn't think so. You don't have to look far to find web forums where people discuss survival plans. These people have guns to defend their families and their food and fuel store. They will use ham radios to communicate when the phones and internet are down.

This Doomsday picture doesn't seem so far-fetched to my wife Olga. Few people in the West even know about this as it received hardly any coverage in the media at the time but in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union Ukraine went bankrupt. Ukrainians who had money in the bank lost it all (and most have still never been compensated for it.) Food disappeared from the shops - not that there was much to start with. People stood on station platforms and begged for food from trains travelling through to Moscow. For years Olga suffered from stomach problems as a legacy from that period when she almost starved. Yes, this happened in a developed country that is right next door to Europe.

The Ukraine government allocated plots of land so people could create kitchen gardens and grow their own food but these were usually a long way from where people lived and anything you did manage to grow got stolen. Olga and her mother avoided complete starvation only because her mother had food coupons as a war veteran which entitled her to obtain military rations.

It's easy to think "it couldn't happen here" but the number of economists who are starting to predict a complete economic collapse is enough to make you start wondering if that is just being complacent. Most of us older people who have savings for our retirement have already experienced anxiety about the security of those savings. We naively trust that the British government will honour its promises to guarantee the first £50,000 of individual savings held in British banks but how do we know it could afford to? And how long would it be before we received that compensation? We'd have starved long before, I'm sure of it.

And what about businesses, whose deposits are not guaranteed: businesses that we imagine would provide the food and services that we would need but which wouldn't have the money to keep trading? Panic buying will have long since emptied the shops of food. What would we do then? Make soup out of five pound notes?

Happy New Year? I wonder.
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