Recovery towards what?

Last week I attended the “Recovery Towards What?” conference in central London, organised by a group of trade unions and development organisations. The conference was about the role that global finance has in developed and developing countries, and the interplay between the current measures being taken to overcome the economic crisis and other major issues the world faces, from world poverty to climate change. 

It was a very well organised conference and I found it extremely informative, although perhaps there could have been more on the environmental and “green economics” aspect of the debate – which we found a bit lacking.

One of the most interesting sessions was a breakout group that discussed proposed EU and UK measures for re-regulation of the financial sector in the wake of the near-collapse of the global banking system last year. Speakers included Nicolas Veron of the think tank Bruegel and Myriam Vander Stichele of the Centre for Research on Multilateral Corporations (SOMO).

Vander Stichele in particular highlighted a variety of problems with the current financial sector re-regulation proposals that are being floated at EU level, including the virtually non-existant mention of climate change and the important role the financial sector is supposed to play in helping us fight this crisis. This was interesting to hear, and generally this issue of EU financial re-regulation is only covered in some detail in the Financial Times – which does a great job (as generally is the case on its EU policy coverage) but which tends to focus mostly on the concerns that the financial industry itself has about these proposals.

It was refreshing to hear that the public interest is being represented by people of high calibre from SOMO – but it was also worrying to hear that public interest lobbyists are vastly outnumbered by big bank representatives. It’s hard to imagine that this is not having on influence on the final outcome – as it’s pretty clear to any reasonable person that the financial industry has proven that it is not capably of self-regulation and needs far more oversight.

This problem of big banks effectively dictating to EU policy makers what the solutions to the current crisis are, is also highlighted in a new report, “A captive Commission”. The report was supported by key Members of the European Parliament. Euractiv published a good article about it.

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