Monday, October 27, 2008

UK resists global governance

It's getting almost boring how often we have to take the UK to task over its resistance to any kind of international governance in the field of global finance. It's not just us saying it, though. Here's Willem Buiter, a highly respected economist and columnist in the Financial Times, delivering his latest (very welcome) broadside:

"The UK under Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown continued the tradition established by the Conservative Party since Margaret Thatcher of opposing any strenthening of the global coordination of national financial regulatory regimes. Brown, like the Conservative Chancellors before him, opposed with special vehemence, and and all initiative for common regulation, let alone supranational regulation in the one arena where it could have been delivered most easily: the EU."

In case you didn't see it, a recent blog of ours, written by John Christensen after a meeting of the UN Tax Committee in Geneva, gave a specific example of the UK's truly shameful stance:

"In light of the appalling growth of inequality, the steady decline of the ability of governments in poorer countries to fund essential services, and the social damage caused by tax evasion, the case for strengthening cooperation on tax matters is stronger than ever. Sadly, however, in Geneva on Tuesday I witnessed the sordid spectacle of three major tax haven countries, Belgium, Ireland and the United Kingdom, voting against a proposal to strengthen the role of the UN Tax Committee, flying in the face of the wishes of the developing countries, who voted en masse in favour. It is fair to say that the majority of the expert members, observer countries and civil society participants at the Geneva meeting seethed with anger at the naked power play by these tax haven economies."

Let's not forget, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the United Nations General Assembly in September that "we must now build a new global financial order founded on transparency not opacity." Yet Britain remains committed to obstructing progress in this important area.

Back to Willem Buiter:

"The UK, under Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown became a lead player in the regulatory race to the bottom through which nations tried to poach financial service industry activity from competing national centres or to stop their own financial enterprises from relocating abroad.

It is surprising that someone who was such a compulsive micro-tinkerer in the domestic labour market, in the domestic tax, transfer and subsidy structures and in the regulation of industries producing mainly non-traded goods and services, would when it came to financial markets and institutions, become such a devoted disciple of Alan Greenspan - the guru of self-regulation by financial institutions and of deregulation of financial markets and activity across the board. Indeed, Chancellor Brown even appointed Greenspan a special Adviser when Greenspan retired from the Chairmanship of the Fed early in 2006."

Adding this:

"the UK, under Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer, became the leading protagonist, often even ahead of the USA, of self-regulation wherever conceivable for banks and other highly leveraged institutions, and at most light-touch regulation (i.e. soft-touch regulation) where self-regulation blatantly made no sense."

And, goodness, even more bile:

"Given Gordon Brown’s ruinous fiscal and financial stability legacy, Paul Krugman’s question in his October 12 New York Times column, “Has Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, saved the world financial system?”, can only be answered one way: no he has not. He has left a ruinous legacy of financial instability and lack of fiscal restraint at home. He has been one of the principal cheerleaders for the competitive international deregulation of international financial markets and of border-crossing financial institutions. He is one of the fathers of the crisis."

Phew! Here is a man who doesn't mince words.


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