Last week I gave a talk in Brussels at a debate moderated by Pierre Defraigne, Executive Director of the Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation. It was ACitizen’s Controversy with Lars Feld, Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Freiburg and Member of the German Council of Economic Experts.
George Osborne was presumably aiming at himself and his friends, when he vowed “to speak truth to power and wealth” at the Tory party conference this week, but dare he speak economic truth to the rest of us? – simultaneously published on Left Foot Forward >
On the narrowest of bases, he might still claim he spoke “truth” to the weak and powerless when in the House of Commons debate on the economy on August 11th he made this challenge:
“Those who spent the whole of the past year telling us to follow the American example, with yet more fiscal stimulus, need to answer this simple question: why has the US economy grown more slowly than the UK economy so far this year?”
It was a ‘brave’ claim when he made it, and it’s looking even ‘braver’ – and more disingenuous – now.
As mayhem breaks out on stock markets; as Eurozone banks freeze up; and as the global financial system approaches a frightening ‘danger zone,’ the champions of the globalised ‘free market’ and of the Euro are in search of a scapegoat.
Instead of accepting that it is the broken banking system; the de-regulated financial Eurozone, and the deflationary monetarist policies of the Maastricht Treaty that are the roots of the crisis, the Troika (the IMF/EU/ECB) want to identify a convenient whipping boy.
Instead of going after the real culprits — un-regulated bankers that lent recklessly, confident they would always be bailed out by taxpayers — the approach of the Troika is to scapegoat Greece. The implication is that the whole fabric of the Euro, and with it the global economy, is torn apart because one poor country, Greece, will not enforce ever-deeper austerity on her people.
It was wonderful to be, first of all at such a professionally and well organised event (congrats to Mark Letcher and his team). It was also fantastic to be amongst such an interesting array of speakers including John Gapper ‘the secret gardener’ who has spent the last 35 years propagating wild flowers in Brighton and Hove (watch his talk here) and Alice Ferguson and Amy Rose – two mothers with a simple but brilliant idea to get children playing outside (watch their talk here).
My talk was on how we can afford to finance the Green Transition – watch below:
Aviva has brought together a collection of prominent thinkers to provoke renewed debate and fresh ideas about future prosperity and creating a culture of sustainable savings. The group, names the ‘Future Prosperity Panel‘, published their report ‘Big picture thinking – Towards sustainable savings’.
I was on Newsnight last week, to comment on the Budget. (You can watch it with the BBC’s iPlayer..our slot is about 35 minutes into the show.)
Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman posed a question to the panel, which included Lord Lamont, ex-Chancellor, and Irwin Steltzer. He asked: is George Osborne a radical Chancellor?”
Radical, according to the dictionary definition means: “desiring or advocating fundamental or drastic reforms”.
I argued that George Osborne is not a radical. Far from it. His imposition of austerity, in my view, punishes the weak and rewards the strong. No change or reform in that. Instead the government’s central economic strategy is aimed at appeasing the financial markets, in particular the international bond markets and ratings agencies, irrespective of the implications for an already severe unemployment situation, or for the wishes of the British people. In doing so, George Osborne follows a long line of predecessors in putting the interests of finance before the interests of society as a whole. In this respect, he is no radical.
The disaster in Japan is almost beyond comprehension. Without minimizing the scale of the humanitarian tragedy, it is already possible to discern the emerging economic debate.
Stock markets immediately anticipated the potential benefits to Japan’s construction industries and their suppliers. Policy makers in the U.K. and Europe, who are busy implementing austerity measures to curb budget deficits, should take note.
The valuable argument coming from the ashes of this crisis is simple: Japan can afford to rebuild.
The Bank of Japan is clear about this. In asserting this point, and calming markets with massive liquidity injections, the central bank is basing its Keynesian policy on a wholly different analysis from that of economists and politicians promoting austerity measures in Europe and the U.S.
The economic possibilities of nations don’t depend on financial resources, but rather on human, technological and organizational power. The banking industry relies on these productive resources. The stability of banks hinges on lending for projects that will generate revenue streams for their own repayment.
Power of Banking
Japan is replete with all the human ingenuity and dedication that reconstruction and rebirth demands. The power of modern banking can enable Japanese society to deploy all of these resources, irrespective of the condition of Japanese public finances. The domestic banking system can circumvent the naysayers of international finance in a manner that should be understood by all financial authorities and economists.
Japan can address this natural and man-made disaster without handing a begging bowl around to other nations.
“We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend. London is one of the richest cities in the history of civilization, but it cannot “afford” the highest standards of achievement of which its own living citizens are capable, because they do not “pay.”
If I had the power to-day, I should most deliberately set out to endow our capital cities with all the appurtenances of art and civilization on the highest standards of which the citizens of each were individually capable, convinced that what I could create, I could afford….
John Maynard Keynes. “National Self-Sufficiency,” The Yale Review, Vol. 22, no. 4 (June 1933), pp. 755-769.
UNEP’s latest publication, Towards a Green Economytackles the vexed question of financing the Green Transition andestimates that
“to halve CO2 emissions by 2050, requires investments of approximately US$ 750 billion per year from 2010 to 2030 and US$1.6 trillion per year from 2030 to 2050. The World Economic Forum and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, on the other hand, calculate that clean energy investment needs to rise to US$ 500 billion per year by 2020 to restrict global warming to less than 2ºC, while HSBC estimates that transition to a low-carbon energy market will require US$ 10 trillion between 2010 and 2020.” (Towards a Green Economy, page 33.)
My conversation earlier this week with Elena Sisti – of Italy’s Altreconomia on macro-economics, reform of the finance sector, money, and yes, how we women have left the all-important matter of finance to the boys. Big mistake. It’s time to get in there, and exercise influence. Too much is at stake. Continue reading… ›