Over an early-morning coffee with the chief executive of a FTSE 100 business last week, talk turned to the outlook for 2013. Where I had expected some guarded optimism, instead I heard a chilling analysis. The CEO said he had been reading a new paper from Boston Consulting Group headed “Ending the era of Ponzi finance”. The lessons he had taken from it were miserable.

The West was not going to find its way to the right economic path with a little tweaking at the edges, the CEO said. What is needed is a wholesale overhaul of the economic system to tackle record levels of public and private debt. Was anyone brave enough to do it, he wondered aloud.

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