Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The credit crunch

In this Sunday's Observer Will Hutton claimed that "the global system is paralysed on a scale that surpasses 1929". The paper predicts unemployment to hit the two million mark by the end of December. We will see big increases in house repossessions, pension losses and in the numbers of people unable to pay back credit card debts and mortgages. Last week we found out that Welsh councils and police forces have millions tied up in Icelandic banks.

The problem has been caused by greed. The financiers have been gambling with our money, lending to uncreditworthy borrowers and covering their risk with derivatives called credit default swaps (CDS). These are intended as a form of insurance for investors, but the desire to make a quick buck has seen them bought and sold as bets on banks failing. This caused the market crash of last week, including the Icelandic turmoil - a few greedy investors are winning because they bet on banks collapsing, while most people will lose from the ensuing economic collapse. The banks have now lost trust in each other and have stopped inter-lending. As Will Hutton says "The problem is that the markets no longer have any faith that the world financial system they helped create has any future. The model is bust." This should be the end of casino capitalism.

Alistair Darling last week announced a £500bn package to try to get things moving again. Adam Price gives a good analysis of this, as does Rhydian over at Bontnewydd. Darling has "re-capitalised" the system.

As this and this article point out, public ownership of the banks as a way out of this crisis is no longer thought of as socialist pipe-dreaming. While my recent calls for bringing the energy companies into public ownership have been rubbished in some quarters, it now seems that even former New Labour ministers are thinking the unthinkable.

This is big politics, where the decisions are made in the "big" place. Can we do anything about all of this in Wales?

Ieuan Wyn Jones has called an economic summit for this coming Thursday, where business leaders and trade unions will meet with Welsh ministers, to see what the government can do. The priority will be saving jobs, but there'll be no room for manoeuvre if the Secretary of State has his way and refuses to accept Westminster responsibility for local authority and police losses in Icelandic banks. With credit unobtainable if not extortionate, PFI, PPP and housing stock transfer contracts will be put under pressure, potentially having a big knock on public spending. All of this could seriously damage the public services which are under the remit of the assembly. I've no doubt that ministers are doing and will do whatever they can, but what about the rest of the assembly? We need to pull all available heads together to find solutions to these problems. We know they are coming, so we need to consider how we can work together to pool ideas that may put protections in place to stave off the worst effects.

This is an interesting idea backed up by the man who refused a job in Gordon Brown's re-capitalising team. In Plaid's 2007 Assembly election manifesto we pledged to “maintain and strengthen the Post Office Development Fund and work with the Post Offices to develop a full range of over-the-counter banking services geared to people who otherwise would be excluded from financial services, effectively creating a ‘people’s bank’.” Adam Price has argued the case for local authorities to offer mortgages. There could be avenues for helping people to access affordable food and fuel. Tomorrow I will call for all parties in the assembly to work together to investigate some of these ideas and to be prepared to act on issues as they arise. There's no doubt that bad times face us. We have to utilise all talent to find a way for the assembly to cushion people from the worst of the blows.


vicky moller said...

Great to have the cause of the crisis honestly addressed and a call to work together in Wales to deal with the difficulties ahead.

We so lacked a party willing to do this, I am glad Plaid is offering the leadership we need.

Vicky Moller

Draig said...

It won't be the first time the GB has bailed out bankers. Two years into Labour's first term Broon sold off half of Britain's gold reserves - the rumour was that the move was designed to bail out Goldman Sachs.

Nearly 10 years on and the price of Gold has trebled. Robert Peston of the BBC estimates the loss of profit to the government to be around the £9 billion mark.

It pays to bear in mind that originally most currencies were pegged to Gold as it is a hard asset (unlike the worthless digits financiers play around with today).

So much for Gordo's mythical financial judgement and prudence eh?

Ddraig Goch said...

Thank you Leanne, at last the monopoly game has been exposed by the hypocritical act of this right leaning government who have bailed out the private institutions with public money.
They have proved by their action that cash is available that should rightfully be spent on a massive programme of public works to repair the crumbling infrastructure of the country.
When is Gordon Brown going to name and shame these self seeking parasites who have caused the current economic crisis?

plaidcasnewydd said...

Hi- I have just started a blog in the 'traditional labour heartland' of Newport.


I would be only to pleased if you would consider linking back.