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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Hungary's New Government Accuses Ousted Government Of Deception, Financial Mismanagement, A `Very Grave Economic Situation' Looms

Aired June 4, 2010 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INT'L. ANCHOR, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: A grave economic situation. And that's the official word from the prime minister of Hungary.

The euro sinks to 2006 levels. The president of the EC tells me it is still a credible currency.

And hiring in May and go away. Only temp workers do well in the U.S. jobs report.

I'm Richard Quest. And on Friday, I mean business.

Good evening. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the economic waters, now another country comes out of the woodwork, a ballooning deficit, unreliable data, and a government warning of an economy in deep trouble. A few months ago we were talking about Greece, today it is Hungary that gave that dire warning.

Join me over in the library as we put this into perspective. It all happened on Friday afternoon after the Hungarian prime minister's spokesman gave a press conference and said, frankly, some rather remarkable things. He said that Hungary was facing a grave, a very grave situation. However, he also went on to say that it would be avoiding a Greek style crisis, even there had been comments made that it was possible that there could be a default.

You are starting to get the picture now of just how complicated the day was when these comments came out. What it does mean is that any idea that Hungary will reach at 3.8 percent deficit, as it is expected do, over the next couple of years, is simply not credible, because as the new government which took office just a month or so ago, is discovering, the fiscal skeletons are coming out of the closet.

The new government has accused the old regime of having falsifying the data. They say, or it is believed that the deficit may be closer to 7 percent. But Hungary's official debt at around 78 percent of GDP is on the low side, if that number, too, can be believed. And you will remember there is a previous Hungarian government that basically said that it lied on the economic front to get re-elected.

Not surprisingly the forint took the full whack of distress against it, now at a one-year low against the euro. The cost of insuring Hungarian debt also jumped on international markets.

Is Hungary going to need a bail out? Possibly not. It has already been the recipient of $24 billion from the IMF and the EU. That is designed, of course, to have been for the balance of payments and to help sort things out. But whether or not this would have an effect on other currencies, well, the euro certainly felt the full whack and effect of this. The euro is now down at levels not seen for four years. And even though Hungary is not part of the euro zone, it is part of the EU and a possibility of a new debt crisis at the heart of the Continent, under $1.20.

Also the French prime minister commented that the euro trading below $1.20, the French prime minister commented that parity on the euro might actually assist-a euro/dollar rate that is-might actually assist, bearing in mind the need of exporters. None of which was helpful and none of which was very good for European stock markets, which took an absolute blistering, hammering. This was because of not only debt, but also stock worries.

The Paris CAC currant is the one that always seems to get hit most when these things happen. You are getting the scenario of what was a very difficult day, with Hungary, the euro, the stock market and the weekend upon us. Earlier I spoke to Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission. And we started with Hungary. Was he worried?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, PRESIDNET, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: First of all, Hungary is not a member of the euro area. And yesterday I was with the prime minister, the new prime minister of Hungary. And it was clear that Hungary will be ready to take all the necessary measures to correct fiscal position. Not only that, but also that they are ready not only to accelerate fiscal consolidation but also to accelerate structural reform. And the new government has a very strong two-thirds majority in the parliament. I have no doubts that they are able to do it. We fully have-fully confidence in Hungary and they will be able to face this challenge.

QUEST: And would you be in favor of European institutions, the stabilization fund, any form of assistance, even though they are not in the euro, if necessary?

BARROSO: No, there is already a situation for Hungary, of balance of payment support and they have already used some of that support. So, before this crisis, we had already created this mechanism for Hungary. What we have done afterwards was a new mechanism, first for Greece and then for any case that might happen in the euro area. In fact, we were able to mobilize 110 billion euros for Greece, with part of the contribution of the IMF, and 750 billion euros for euro area, so it is almost $1 trillion, if you consider the contribution also of the IMF. So I believe we have now the mechanisms in place to face any crisis that may happen in terms of debt.

QUEST: I know you don't like to comment specifically on individual exchange rates, on any given day. But the French prime minister says that parity, or reducing the euro exchange rate would be a good thing. I presume he's talking about exports and tonight the euro is extremely weak on the foreign exchanges.

BARROSO: Look, the euro has already been in a much lower level, when it was created, if you compare it to the dollar. And the same way I did not comment when it was considered too high. I'm not going to comment now that it is considered lower. Because the important thing to note there is that the euro is fundamentally a very credible currency. It is the second currency in the world and in fact, the credibility of the euro lies in the monetary policy of the European Central Bank, that has as a very credible policy to target against inflation. And it has been extremely successful and the fundamentals of the euro area are good. Not only the euro area, the European Union, if you compare the overall levels of deficit and debt in the euro area to the main partners. They are lower. They are lower than our American partners, or Japanese partners. So we believe we have specific problems in the euro area, yes. We are addressing them. And the governments are addressing those problems. But fundamentally the situation of the euro is a credible and strong one.

QUEST: Mr. President, let's talk generally about the measures being taken by European countries. We know there is fiscal consolidation. We know because people like you have told us the importance of growth policies to go along with it. Do you fear that too many countries are cutting now too far and too fast?

BARROSO: The problem is that for those countries there is not alternative. Because if they don't correct the fiscal imbalances there will be no conditions for growth, because the credibility lies on that as well. Not all the countries are in the same position. But let me tell you that I think that very often the so-called deflationary effect of fiscal consolidation is really overestimated. If you look at the measures taken by some of those countries they are reducing expenditure, yes. But they are reducing it in a way that they increase their competitiveness. And so it can be, in fact, a driver for future growth, because they are reducing the costs and that can help, also, those countries be more competitive in the global-global market.

QUEST: Right.

BARROSO: So, I think, anyway it is unavoidable, and overall, the overall situation of the euro area and the European Union gives me confidence that growth-that remains our first objective-will be sustainable and we will have that growth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: That is the president of the European Commission, President Barroso. "Fundamentally credible and strong," is the euro, is how he described it on this program.

Now the market, the New York market, had job numbers to digest.

(DESK BELL CHIMES)

And they didn't like what they saw. Down 275, at the moment, on the Dow, a fall of nearly-more than 2.5 points. We're under 10,000. This is all because we have kissed goodbye to the idea of jobs for life. In the United States now most new jobs won't even last to the end of the year. The markets and the job numbers, when we come back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: So, it wasn't just Hungary, and it wasn't just the euro, U.S. job numbers gave a sharp reminder of the fragility of the economic recovery. Well, look, on the surface, they didn't look so bad. New jobs, 431,000 jobs added in the United States, in May. But nearly all of that 431,000 were had by one employer, the U.S. government. And worse, they are temporary jobs, people taken on for the purposes of conducting the census for 2010. When the census is over they will be gone.

The private sector created just 41,000 jobs. Look, at the trend and you see-this is what you-the trend is right. Payrolls are no longer still falling. And there has been steady, incremental climb in this. But the experts will tell us that with interest rates at this low point, we should be seeing a higher rate of job growth and not dependent on government; which is why the New York market has been so down on the numbers, down 271 points, down nearly 2.6 percent. We are under 10,000 at the moment.

If we are going to put some perspective on this let's talk to an expert who deals with the job market everyday. Tig Gilliam is the regional head of global recruitment at Adecco, in North America. Tig joins me now.

Good evening to you from London. Tig, the number-there's no good way of dressing this number to be pleasurable and pleasing.

TIG GILLIAM, REGIONAL HEAD OF NO. AMERICA, ADECCO: Well, I think your breakdown of it was right on. I think there are two good underlying trends that we continue to see in the labor report. First we saw the average workweek increase again. And remember that is very important to show that people with part-time jobs are getting more hours. And we also saw temporary employment climb again, 31,000 jobs in the month of May.

Both of those indicators still show that we are moving in the right direction, even though the 41,000 private sector jobs was less than most people expected.

QUEST: What do we-the point that I was making, of course, is that companies will do anything they have to before they take on a full time worker. That has always been the traditional way, extra working, part- time working, job sharing, you name it. You are well familiar with this. But interest rates are at historic lows. Now one of two things happens here, Tig, either we bumble along as it is, or suddenly there is a rush of economic activity. Which do you believe it is going to be?

GILLIAM: Well, I think the economic activity is moving in the right direction and the fundamentals of the job market are moving in the right direction, but it is going to take quite a bit of time. Remember we lost 8 million jobs in this recession. And even it we are adding back several 100,000 a month, which are going to have to come from the private sector it is going to take several years just to bring those jobs back.

QUEST: Right.

GILLIAM: Remember, not only are the census workers going to come out of this employment number in the next few months but the state and local governments are under tremendous pressure and they're going to be reducing payrolls as well.

QUEST: You raise a very good point. Because the numbers-during the worst point of the crisis, the only job growth was a bit of health care and in government jobs; now as fiscal consolidation bites, as it has in Europe, and it will at state, federal, and local level, what are you expecting?

GILLIAM: Well, I think we're going to see those jobs decline. But still, we're seeing, although there is cautious optimism remaining among private sector employers, they are bringing in additional resources on temporary and contract basis. And we're seeing more of them convert those to permanent jobs than when they go out and look for permanent jobs directly.

QUEST: So, I loose my job, what sectors should I be looking into. If I need to get a job, and I need a job quickly, obviously a bit of retraining is desirable, but what should I retrain to do?

GILLIAM: Well, you're retraining point is right on. Remember, 45 percent of the people unemployed at this point have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. And we really need to focus, not on unemployment benefits, but on training and skill building. The professional skill sets, IT, engineering, healthcare, finance and accounting, that is where the job growth is going to occur from a percentage basis over the course of the next few years. We will see large numbers of jobs as the retail sector recovers, that of course requires consumer spending. And in the customer service and food preparation areas, which are where we see large volumes of jobs, but remember, those are lower paying jobs.

QUEST: Right. Tig, just help me understand one final point. When we see this volatility in the market, and I'm not referring to "flash crash", which was a one-off. I'm talking about the sustainable 200 up, 300 down, 100 up, and so forth. That has a corrosive effect on confidence in employment as well.

GILLIAM: It does, but I tell you, we're overreacting, from my opinion, in the stock market. And we're setting unrealistic expectations for what the job market is going to do in the recovery. This-the job market is a lagging indicator, overall. It is only going to follow strong economic recovery. And it is going to take quite a bit of time given the depth of the recession that we're in. So we need to set our expectations correctly, otherwise we're going to have a monthly bad reaction to what even, at some level, is an improving underlying jobs environment.

QUEST: I think, set our expectations, we shall do that and we will hopefully talk to you next month when we get another raft of numbers, with more modest expectations. Tig Gilliam, many thanks, indeed.

In South Korea the G20 finance ministers are meeting. It is all ahead of the G20, which will be a final summit later the year. When we come back in just a moment we'll talk to one of the most influential members of the IMF.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: All this week we have been looking at Europe's new age of austerity. And so today were the G20 finance ministers at their meeting in South Korea. The ministers remained largely united in supporting Europe's handling of its debt crisis. Youssef Boutros-Ghali is the head of the policy steering committee-of the IMF. He was there. Earlier I spoke to him via broadband and I asked minister if Europe's economies, bearing in mind austerity, are they cutting their spending too quickly?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YOUSSEF BOUTROS-GHALI, HEAD, IMF POLICY STEERING CMTE.: Obviously, a statement like this needs to be said on a country-by- country basis. And the best judge of these programs are the countries themselves. But it is true we are faced with two contradicting goals. One fiscal consolidation and making sure that our fiscal position recovers its sustainability, and the other is growth.

QUEST: Right, but are you satisfied with what you are seeing from European and other countries in the measures they are now taking?

BOUTROS-GHALI: I think they will produce results. All of which are positive. Of course, it is very difficult to generalize. Each country has its own specific circumstances. Each country has its own specific problems, and structural impediments. So, but on the whole I think we are moving in the right direction. The concern with fiscal consolidation is the right concern and the accompanying worry about growth is also the right thing to worry about.

QUEST: Finally, as we look now, tonight, on our program, at austerity and the questions of austerity do you believe that we can avoid the worst effects of an austere age in the next few months?

BOUTROS-GHALI: There are two ways of consolidating your fiscal situation. One by cutting spending and raising taxes. This is the traditional way and many countries have not adopted that, too. The other is by introducing structural changes in your economy that make your commodity markets more flexible, more labor markets more flexible, that channel better resources for research and development; all the things that are done structurally to increase you capacity to grow and your capacity to generate jobs. So, I don't think, by any means, we are looking at an age of austerity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: The head of the power IMF Monetary and Finance Committee, Doctor Youssef Boutros-Ghali talking to me via broadband. Not looking for a new age of austerity, but the leaders of the G20, when they meet in Canada will obviously have to focus on reforming the financial system. Now, my second part of the interview commission president Manuel Barroso, I put it to President Barroso, when they come to that meeting, in Canada, Europe comes as the weakest player at the table.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARROSO: I would not agree with that. Europe, of course, has specific problems as other have had problems. By the way, this crisis did not originate in Europe, as you know, it was to some extent a response to the financial crisis that the so-called automatic stabilizers had to operate and so we were in fact-some countries that previously were in a relatively comfortable situation faced very quickly in a more difficult point (ph). But we are, of course, we have some problems but we are addressing those problems and we are ready to give a contribution to the overall discussion of these problems in G20.

QUEST: What will be your number one priority for G20, baring mind, if we take the bank issue, for example, there are disagreements within the G20 about the formula and the levy and the rate. But what will be your number one issue from the European Union's side?

BARROSO: My number one priority would be to keep the momentum at the global effort in the G20 for coordination of the response to the crisis. Understanding that there are different situations, so some countries have to do more in terms of stimulating growth, others they're contribution is, of course, to increase their competitiveness, their productivity, to speed their structural reforms and also fiscal consolidation.

And the important thing is to have this cooperative action at the global level and pursue the financial regulations and financial supervision efforts. In that matter there are some complete proposals. One of them is the bank levies. We believe it is a fair proposal. And I think it is a good proposal, but I would not put all the success of the G20 on one specific measure for me. The most important thing is the way the leaders are able to address, collectively, these issues of the global imbalances and the responses, to cooperative responses, at the global level.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: President Barroso on the G20 agenda as seen from the European Union.

BP's chief exec has briefed the company's shareholders on the affects of the oil spill. Live pictures, now, on the well head. On top of the blow out preventer, I should say. The oil is still coming out of there, but they say within 48 hours we should see a difference. In a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, this is CNN where the news always comes first.

(NEWSBREAK)

So to BP, while the oil company has told investors not to worry, however bad things get. The oil giant says it will spend whatever it takes to clean up the oil spill, it will still have plenty of cash leftover. BP's direct cost for the disaster passed $1 billion this week. The company says it doesn't really know how much will eventually have to be spent to put an end to scenes like this. The estimates are starting around $3 billion go as high as $40 billion. BP won't put a figure on it, although it does say that the costs will be serious and severe and will be arriving for years to come.

Stemming the flow of oil is the first step toward stopping the outflow of cash. The company reined in shareholders today -- or reminded shareholders today its operations generated $30 billion in cash over the past few months. The chief executive, Tony Hayward, says BP is capable of shouldering this mighty burden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: The financial consequences of this will undoubtedly be severe. But BP faces its financial responsibilities as a strong company. Outside this tragic incident, the company is performing well, as we saw with our first quarter results and our asset base and balance sheet remain amongst the very best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Mark Gilman is an oil and gas analyst at The Benchmark Company.

Mark joins me now from New York.

We heard Tony Hayward -- I listened to most of that briefing serious, severe, but, frankly, Mark, when you look at the weight of cash generation, this is really manageable, isn't it?

It is manageable.

MARK GILMAN, THE BENCHMARK COMPANY: Well, Richard, in our view, it's certainly manageable. And, you know, we -- we've said on numerous occasions up to this point that BP's balance sheet could readily afford an additional $20 billion of debt. And, you know, keep in mind, that's their share of the liabilities and exactly how that sharing is going to work out remains to be determined and probably won't be determined for a number of years from now.

Without really missing a beat, certainly operationally or in terms of, you know, its -- its ability to continue to fund its growth budget and fund, for the most part, its dividend.

QUEST: Now, let's talk about that dividend. Look, Mark, even though it is strategically important to small investors -- pension funds, one pound in six in the U.K. goes from BP dividend money -- politically, Mark, it's bad to be paying a dividend now, surely?

GILMAN: Well, Richard, I -- I'm not going to get into the -- the moral judgment issues on -- on this. But from a financial standpoint, we've -- we've said a couple of things recently about the dividend. And I guess I should point out, first and foremost, you know, we're in print as having characterized the dividend in a somewhat lower oil price environment, you know, as being fairly aggressive and perhaps a little bit high.

But looking at it in a very narrow financial perspective, you know, this dividend is affordable in the context of BP absorbing some very, very large sums in terms of the ultimate cost of this. And one must kind that the lion's share of whatever this liability is won't be paid out for quite some time.

QUEST: You see, that's the core, isn't it, this $20 billion or $30 billion that we hear about, it doesn't happen in fiscal '10 or fiscal '11. We saw that from Valdez. We've seen that elsewhere.

It dribbles out over many years, doesn't it?

GILMAN: Well, I think that's a -- that's a very important element of it. I mean, technically speaking, one would want to talk about this whole thing and present value terms. You know, and I don't think, given the multiple litigation that is going to arise from this, that it's at all unreasonable to think in terms of final settlement of this not occurring within the next 10 years.

And certainly present value is a very meaningful factor over a time period such as that.

QUEST: If that -- taking together all of what the -- the common sense and good common sense from the investors' point of view of what you say, a 25 to 30 percent fall in the share price seems overdone, then, and panicky.

GILMAN: Well, I mean, you know, Richard, in our view, we said last Thursday that, you know, we thought that the share -- the fall in the share price, as of that point, was exceedingly over done and exceeded what we felt to be an almost unreasonably high estimate, you know, of -- of the ultimate cost, again, once again, net to BP's involvement here. For that reason, we changed our position from the standpoint of the stock, placed a buy rating on it, in contrast to our more neutral posture previously. And at this point, we're looking at an opportunity, you know, what we believe is, perhaps, somewhat enhanced from that level, just as a result of a 13 percent additional decline on a relative basis...

QUEST: Right.

GILMAN: -- from that point.

QUEST: Mark, just to be clear, do you, your company, your family, do you have stock in BP, so that we can just be clear and fully transparent on this?

Anything we should -- anything we should know?

GILMAN: No, we have absolutely no conflict of interest in any regard personally or...

QUEST: Right.

GILMAN: -- with respect to my professional affiliation, Richard.

QUEST: Thank you.

Finally, then, what do you see as the biggest single investor or, if you like, financial risk going forward for BP in this, then?

GILMAN: Well, I -- I think investors, at this point, are most concerned about the dividend. You know, but in that regard, you know, I would have to point out that at the current valuation level, at least in -- in our view, a significant dividend cut is already being discounted so that the share price consequences should such an action occur, which, once again, I would believe, from a significant standpoint, is relatively unlikely, it -- and it's already something that's kind of built into the current valuation and therefore not something that cause -- should cause any additional down side pressure, you know, on the valuation.

QUEST: Right.

GILMAN: I think if there's one other issue, too, it has to do with the Gulf -- the company's deepwater Gulf of Mexico interests...

QUEST: Right.

GILMAN: -- which are an important part of the portfolio, but not necessarily an absolutely critical one.

QUEST: Mark, many thanks, indeed.

Have a good weekend.

Hopefully, we'll talk to you again on this subject.

When we come back, it might be in the ranks of the low cost carriers. EasyJet isn't scrimping when it comes to defeating volcanic disruption. EasyJet might be about to deploy a secret weapon. We'll tell you, in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: The British budget airline, EasyJet, is hoping to reduce disruption from volcanic ash by installing ash detectors on its plane. It's new technology.

Ayesha Durgahee is with me.

Explain.

AYESHA DURGAHEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, EasyJet has teamed up with the Norwegian Institute of Air Research and they are calling this development a technological breakthrough that could revolutionize the way the aviation industry responds to volcanic ash in the future using infrared cameras.

So the idea is to fix the infrared cameras on the tail fin of aircraft that can detect volcanic ash -- traces of volcanic ash up to 100 kilometers away and between 5,000 and 50,000 feet and measure its concentration.

QUEST: All right. So have they tried this already or are they thinking of trying it or might they try it?

DURGAHEE: They're going to be trying it. They're going to be trialing it...

QUEST: Right.

DURGAHEE: -- with EasyJet. That's where they -- they come in. And the first test flight will be with Airbus using the A340.

QUEST: So -- so this is still a theory, let's be clear about this. It's not been done.

DURGAHEE: It hasn't been done. It hasn't been proven. But in the next two weeks, then the test flights with the Airbus A340 will be underway. And the scientist, Dr. Fred Prate, has been developing this technology for 20 years. And he explained to me just how the infrared technology will work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED PRATE, NORWEGIAN INSTITUTE FOR AIR RESEARCH: The trick that we do is that we -- we divide up the infrared spectrum into different parts. So just like the ordinary visible spectrum, where we can divide it into red, orange, yellow and green, the colors of the rainbow, we can do that in the infrared, as well. But, of course, you can't see it.

So what we do is we have two cameras side by side, one measuring the red, one measuring the blue. And we know that when there's volcanic ash in the atmosphere, silicate particles, we get more radiation from the red than from the blue. And so we have a very easy way of detecting the ash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DURGAHEE: And, Richard, this is what they're looking for, the fine ash particles of -- from -- from the volcano. And Dr. Prate actually gave me this -- this ash, which is from the volcano in Iceland. So the -- the ash is -- is a new challenge for European aviation and...

QUEST: Right.

DURGAHEE: -- aviation and...

QUEST: And when do they, in a word, when do they hope to actually put a plane in the sky to see if it works?

DURGAHEE: In about eight weeks.

QUEST: Eight weeks?

You'll be there to find out more.

DURGAHEE: I will. I will, indeed.

QUEST: Many thanks, indeed.

Ayesha Durgahee with the volcanic ash.

Now, we are taking a look back at what we have learned over the past week from our guests, as we have been talking all week on the question of austerity.

We know what the word means. It means hard times. Things are going to get difficult. The main point is that growth is needed after two years of the first recession and then stabilization that it must not be stifled.

So come over here and you'll see.

On Wednesday, I spoke to the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick. He told me Asia had to learn and look forward from its past - - learn -- had learned to look forward from its past mistakes. Europe needed to do the same.

This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT ZOELLICK, PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK: All regulation isn't the same. And you don't want to make regulation into strangulation. So there's definitely a need to be able to reform the financial regulation.

But does that mean you should have lack of competition in logistics services, transportation services, make it harder for people to create and start a business, tax those that are trying to create wealth and generating society?

The two don't have to be in contradiction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Now, on Thursday, it was the same theme -- the same theme of growth versus fiscal consolidation.

I spoke to Britain's new business secretary, Vince Cable. He's got a tough job to do. He knows the road ahead is difficult. And he has the same problem of tackling the deficit, but, crucially, once again, reminding us stimulating growth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VINCE CABLE, U.K. BUSINESS SECRETARY: Well, it's not going to be easy to cut this enormous deficit. We're talking 12 to 13 percent of GDP, of which half is probably structural. And we know now we've got to get on with this, because of the crisis of confidence around sovereign risk in Europe.

So it's not going to be easy. But the -- the task I have, working with the chancellor, is to make sure that while we're tackling this massive deficit problem, we're simultaneously trying to stimulate growth and, of course, deregulation, getting back credit running up, things that don't involve government money but may help to mitigate some of the impacts of fiscal consolidation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: All this fiscal consolidation without growth will lead to higher unemployment, certainly in the most recession bound countries.

On Tuesday, I spoke to the director general of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavia, who had a stark message. He agreed in cutting budget deficits. But he sounded the warning bell about cutting too quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUAN SOMAVIA, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION: The objective is a -- is necessary and a good one. We need to reduce debts and deficits. But the timing is wrong. We have to be able to -- this will -- to combine growth and job creation with reducing the -- the excessive spending.

This essentially means that if you continue on this track, growth will come down and unemployment will grow and social tensions will become higher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: The question of austerity -- it will be one of the key themes that we will be following in the weeks and months ahead.

And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Friday.

I'm Richard Quest.

Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.

I'll be in Berlin at ARTA on Monday.

"MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST" is next.

END