Another weekend, another last chance Euro summit. As the great and the good of the continent bicker – and Nicolas Sarkozy’s rubbishing of feeble Cameron was a highlight – a rescue plan begins to emerge. The European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), established last year purportedly to provide bailout funding to stricken economies, is to be inflated to monstrous proportions, acquiring new powers to intervene against financial meltdown. Remaining disagreements centre on what, precisely, those new powers should be.
The Good Banking Forum includes a unique range of leading figures from academia, finance, politics, the law, trade unions, consumer and civil society groups that are demanding real reform of the banking sector.
The Forum emerged from the Good Banking Summit, organised by nef (the new economics foundation) and Compass in May 2011. The Forum challenges the limited scope of the Independent Commission on Banking, will mobilise public pressure for ‘Good Banking,’ and is campaigning to break-up the banks as a necessary first step.
Archive for October, 2011
Originally published at Comment is free.
The only surprise about Saturday’s occupation of the London Stock Exchange is that it took so long to happen. No doubt the government and banking lobby was hoping that the final report of the Vickers commission last month would draw a line under so-called banker bashing in the UK. As Basil Fawlty might have put it: “I crashed the global economy once, but I think I got away with it.”
“We need a government that genuinely believes it is bigger than Goldman Sachs,” said the London Evening Standard’s excellent financial columnist Anthony Hilton last week.
As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power.” (Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, Hansard Citation, 31 March 2011, c1359)
With last week’s announcement that the Bank of England were to embark on another round of Quantitative Easing I thought I would highlight an idea that has been dong the rounds in America.
Democrat Dennis Kucinich suggests a new proposal to create the money interest-free for urgent infrastructure projects. The National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED) Act of 2011 would allow the federal government to directly fund badly-needed infrastructure repairs and fund education systems nationwide by spending money into circulation. Kucinich claims it would have the added bonus of not increasing the national debt or causing inflation.
It’s claimed that this would Act would create 7 million jobs, food for thought.
Last week the Bank of England again surprised the City by announcing a further £75bn’s worth of Quantitative Easing (QE), buying up government debt from the banks over the next four months. The hope is that QE will lower long term interest rates. The interest rate on the government debt being bought from banks now (mainly 3%) is higher than the new debt being issued by the government (0.5%). With lower long term interest rates, banks should start lending again.
We’ve heard a lot in recent years about ‘financial innovation’. Much of it has been ‘socially useless’ or, indeed, catastrophic for our economies and wellbeing. But last week in Brixton, London a new financial instrument was launched, using the latest mobile phone and internet technology, designed to do social and economic good.
One of the key criticisms we at nef made of the final ICB report was that there was no good reason for such a long implementation timetable other than to allow plenty of time for the banking lobby to set to work on watering down the reforms.
At the heart of our dysfunctional financial system is a remarkably poorly understood fact. Private banks create the vast majority of the money supply – 97% according to most estimates. Not the Bank of England, nor the Government, nor any institution which could be viewed as democratically accountable or representing the public interest, but private banks.
An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows the proportion of donations to the Conservatives from the entire financial services sector has now reached 51.4% – up 0.6% from last year. According to the Bureau this means that the City’s financial influence over the Tories has deepened in the past 12 months. The implications for those that want radical reform of the financial system are obvious.