Bankers must be made to serve the economy.....

21 February, 2010

Once again apologies for a longish absence. This is down in part, to smashing (literally) building works, to a little grandchild-minding, and to other writing commitments. But have been itching to comment on a) Greece and the EU b) Iceland (it seems the UK is easing up on the pressure); c) the progress of the global recession; and d) China-US relations…..so posts on a, b, c and d are on their way….promise.

In the meantime this is the text of a letter I signed and helped draft, published in today’s Observer, and yesterday (20 Feb 2010) in the Times. It is a response to the letter written to the Sunday Times last week by 20 conservative economists, including Ken Rogoff of Harvard, Lord Megnad Desai, previously a Labour peer, and Bridget Rosewell, who was Mayor Ken Livingstone’s economic adviser.

Our letter has a number of distinguished economists as signatories, as well as my pals in the Green New Deal group – all of whom I am proud to be associated with.    See below.

Sir,

We urge the UK government not to heed the siren song of the 20 economists who, having failed to predict the crisis, now seek to advise on its resolution. The world economy is in the deepest recession since the Great Depression. In the UK, output has collapsed by £70bn on an annual basis. Under such conditions, common sense tells us that the government must compensate for the collapse in private investment and address the high level of unemployment.

The only way to restore the public finances to health is to restore the economy to health.

And that means public investment (not cuts) to create jobs and income in the private and the public sector. Government should oblige the banks that have been effectively nationalised to lend to the public sector at low rates of interest. Consequent tax revenues raised and savings on benefit expenditure will reduce the public debt. As Keynes observed: “Look after the unemployment and the budget will look after itself.”

There is already a credible plan on the table. It is called the Green New Deal. Invest now and we could kick-start the transformation of the UK’s energy supply while creating thousands of new green-collar jobs, restoring the UK’s skills-base and building the recovery on the manufacture of necessary goods. We urge the government to act now and implement the Green New Deal without delay.

Andrew Simms

Policy director, new economics foundation, London SE11

David Blanchflower

Professor of economics, Dartmouth College

Dr Anastasia Nesvetailova

Assistant professor, international political economy, City University

Victoria Chick, emeritus professor of economics, University College London

Andy Denis, senior lecturer in political economy, City University London

Ann Pettifor, director, Advocacy International

Christine Cooper, professor of accounting, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

Colin Hines, convenor, Green New Deal Group

George Irvin, professorial research fellow, University of London, SOAS

Ismail Erturk, senior lecturer in Banking, Manchester Business School

Prem Sikka, professor of accounting, Centre for Global Accountability, Essex Business School

Richard Murphy, Tax Research LLP

Dr Stephanie Blankenburg, Department of Economics, SOAS

Stephen Spratt, chief economist, nef and six others

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