Business economics can have some pretty funky expressions - we talk about things like a dead-cat-bounce, moonies, funny-money and boiled frogs - this piece is about boiled frogs. And when I say boiled frogs, I mean you and me and anybody else who happens to live in the United Kingdom. The most important story of the year didn't make the headlines. All we seem to get is Brexit, Brexit, and more Brexit. The media is obsessed! And because they are all obsessed with anything and everything Brexit, fretting over turning every motorway in Kent into a lorry-park, the effect on cheese production, doggy passports and air-traffic, far more important stories are getting lost in the noise. But when Brexit fails to happen, this story will still be with us. And the national media will continue to ignore it. They will ignore it because it doesn't involve orange people from Essex, Royals, or Twitter. Worse still, the government will continue to ignore it - and they will do so, because it is a problem that they and the various governments before them have created. It is a problem so great, that the IMF issued a special warning about the UK economy and this time, it has little to do with Brexit. It goes far deeper than that. The International Monetary Fund studied the net worth of 31 advanced economies and some emerging economies, to provide a "comprehensive picture of public wealth". The report concluded that Britain's finances are the worst of any major economy and are deteriorating faster than any other. And by implication, the report accuses the UK government of cooking the books, of lying to the people. The IMF did what any good company accountant does for his or her employer. It drew up a balance sheet. It ignored the cooked books, i.e. the debt-to-GDP figure that countries like to hide behind and looked at the real figures - assets against liabilities. Assets included land and energy resources, liabilities included public sector pensions and of course our old friend, the national dept, which, after ten years of austerity, has gone from c.a. £800bn to c.a. £1.8 trillion. Using these new figures, the IMF team found that only Portugal has a lower net worth, but that the UK's net worth is deteriorating faster. Most countries they looked at had a positive balance sheet. They own more than they owe. The UK has a negative balance sheet. Like a company trading at a loss, the UK government has been shedding assets to cover the shortfall. It has sold the family silver, reduced the quality of public services and damaged the infrastructure of the nation and debt is spiralling out of control. The risk, says the IMF, of an inflation-fuelled recession is increasing rapidly. Inflation is when I pay £15 for the £10 haircut I used to get for five shillings, back in the days when I had hair. Inflation is when you just earn enough today to make the down-payment on a house twenty years ago. Inflation is when money loses its value. Inflation is when the government prints money to pay for its debts. Quantitative easing is accelerated inflation at some time in the future - the question is just when! The study found that the UK is severely exposed to inflationary pressures, because most government debt is either directly index-linked (e.g. pensions) or is indirectly index linked, such as public sector pay settlements. Quantitative easing has shortened debt maturity, leading to a far great susceptibility to rises in interest rates. So what will happen? I don't know! I don't even know when what it is that I don't know will happen! As an economist (of sorts!) I tell people I can predict anything, absolutely anything - except of course the future. Nobody can predict the future and only a fool would try! But economists can point to dangers. A recession could be triggered by a sudden Brexit, or a downturn in World trade, or a rise in interest rates or it could be triggered by something we haven't even thought about, like diseases, storms, war, or just an unlucky combination of things. Either that, or the UK gets a sweet deal from the EU, Trump comes to his senses, the Middle East calms down, Saudi Arabia says sorry and "I won't do it again!" Putin retires, the DUP drops its blood-red lines, the US does something about its colossal public sector deficit, interest rates stay low and the present government actually starts tackling poverty and our crumbling infrastructure. And Whistler's Mother wins the two-thirty at Newmarket. One thing I can predict with certainty - I won't need a haircut, so that's five shillings saved!