Wednesday, August 17, 2011

London Burning

Following the fiasco over the US debt ceiling, its subsequent credit rating downgrade, as well as the uncertainty over the Eurozone crisis in recent days, markets have been thrown into a panic. The British economy, although fraught with its own problems (such as tough austerity measures), was viewed as a sanctuary of some sort – strong in its credit ratings, comparatively liquid and hosting a relatively promising property market.

Unfortunately for the struggling British economy, this perspective has now been tarnished by the violence and unrest that was sparked off by the shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29 –year-old black man. The videos and images online are shocking – people in hoods looting shops, cars vandalized, windows smashed and fires ablaze. The riots have hit London especially hard, with violence and crimes not only occurring in the poorer areas of Tottenham, but also closer to the heart of the city – Camden, Hackney and so on.

The opinion of many is that the shooting had broken the floodgates of frustration of many impoverished Londoners. The austerity measures put in place in a bid to control Britain’s crippling debt have left many struggling to make ends meet, or even put a roof over their heads. After all, the riots began in Tottenham, which has the highest unemployment rate in London. Despite the speculation, the true cause of why the rioters are causing havoc has yet to emerge.

Whatever the reasons may be, it is time for the government to step in and put a stop to the chaos. The city plans to host the Olympics next year, and certainly cannot afford to have people lose confidence in the ability of the Metropolitan police to keep the peace. With its debt problems and hints of a double dip recession approaching, these riots could seriously damage Britain’s economy if not swiftly dealt with.

Should the root cause of the problem be poverty, how is the government going to help the frustrated and suffering while reining in its debt at the same time? Outreach programs and unemployment benefits all cost money that the British economy may not be able to come up with. As David Cameron puts it – “It is clear that there are things badly wrong in our society.” Question is, how are they going to right it and restore order to the once vibrant city of London?

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