Consider the (economic) Oscars for 2011

In a few short months, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be handing out Oscars to movie stars and directors for their work on the big screen. But what if the Academy had special awards for economic news makers? Who would top the nominee list, and who would walk away with the hardware? The Economic Oscar Awards 2011 might go something like this: Best Comedy Performance of the year. The nominees are Greek President George Papandreou in Let’s Hold a Referendum on It!; Robert Redford in Trust Me, I’m an Expert on the Oil sands and U.S. Republican candidate Herman Cain in 9-9-9-: From Pizza to President.

And the Oscar goes to . . . George Papandreou. Better known for his work in dramatic films, this is Papandreou’s first Oscar for a comedy. His innovative form of humour had initially sent investors panicking when he announced Greece would hold its own referendum on the conditions of (yet another) financial bailout. But when the leaders of Germany and France hauled him onto the carpet (and not the Red Carpet, either) and told him how it was going to be, the world had a good laugh at Papandreou’s expense. Then he resigned as President of Greece.

Best Male Actor. The nominees are Barack Obama in Debt Ceiling Disaster; Mark Carney in How Canada Got it’s Groove Back and Chinese President Hu Jintao in You Want to Borrow How Much Money?

And the Oscar goes to . . . Mark Carney. Last year, Canadians were completely shut out of the economic Oscars, but Carney has put the country on the A-list of economic celebrities. Highly regarded for his ability to connect with audiences, he has a style that works with both bankers and academics, and looks great on TV. As Governor of the Bank of Canada, he was one of the first central bankers to foresee problems brewing in 2008, and has guided Canada through much of the global economic storm. His recent appointment to the G-20’s Financial Stability Board has given Canada a much-needed boost in global profile.

Best Female Actor. The nominees are Sarah Palin in Ms. Palin Almost Goes to Washington; Angela Merkel in German Women and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in It’s Not Easy Being Green.

And the Oscar goes to Angela Merkel. This is Merkel’s second Oscar in as many years, following her highly regarded work in the film Now Listen to Me, Sarkozy. The German Chancellor is a new female role model, proving that strong leading ladies need not take a back seat to anyone – particularly in Europe. She’s the head of the largest and most stable economy in the EU, has built an improbable consensus. among her EU partners, and receives much of the credit for keeping Europe economically unified – at least for now.

Worst Performance of the Year. The nominees are Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Men Behaving Badly; U.S. Republican candidate Michelle Bachman in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Girls Gone Wild: the Bunga-Bunga Sessions.

And the award goes to Silvio Berlusconi. For the last several years, the now-disgraced former leader of Italy put on a show that only he thought was funny or entertaining. But his acting not only lacked believability, it insulted Italians and shook the core of Europe’s economy. His social indiscretions (e.g., womanizing and partying with prostitutes) were bad enough. However, it was his complete inability to manage Italy’s finances that finally won him the Worst Performance award.

Best Picture of the Year. The nominees are The Rise and Fall of the European Empire; Debt Ceiling Disaster and Broke Bank Mountain.

And the Oscar goes to Broke Bank Mountain. This was a real upset! Heavy odds were on the fan favourites European Empire and Debt Ceiling Disaster, both of which did much better at the box office. But the Academy picked a small, somewhat obscure independent film about the near-collapse of the U.S. banking system a few years ago, and how hundreds of small banks are still only barely managing to hold on. Part documentary and part political commentary, the film won accolades for its hard-edge exploration of a formally taboo subject: bank insolvency.

(The film starred Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who also starred in Print, Baby, Print – a confusing film about quantitative easing that movie-goers couldn’t understand.) And there they are, the Economic Oscars for 2011!

Todd Hirsch is senior economist with ATB Financial

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