The news that Mr Osborne intends to make the bank levy more stringent than originally planned. Needless to say, the apologists from the financial economy are crying ‘foul’ and warning of a mass exodus from these shores. The trouble is that they did exactly the same last year – with the introduction of the one off tax on bank bonuses – and here they are again, still trading in London.
Two aspects of the proposals need highlighting. First, there is a view prevalent in the country at the moment that whilst the banks caused the mess that all of the taxpayers are having to clear up, the banks are not enduring a fair share of the pain. At a time when libraries are closing, essential social services are being cut back, and education spending is being reduced, we are also seeing the prospect of record profits in the banking sector and a return to stellar bank bonuses. The banks will gain little sympathy beyond the circle of sycophants over these proposals. Many will feel that they may not go far enough.
Second, there is the question of how the economy should be balanced in the future. Many question the wisdom of returning to an economy that is top heavy in the financial economy. A reduction in the reliance upon the banking sector would actually make the economy a bit more resilient to the shocks within the global economy. Those of that view point to Germany as an example of a balanced economy that has weathered the recession quite well. This addresses the issue of bank exile. If the risky, toxic, bank operations were to be driven away from the UK – say to New York or Hong Kong – would it be such a bad thing?
To me, this seems like something of a turning point. Until now, Mr Osborne had appeared to have been a captive of the banking fraternity and the financial economy. Only recently did he say that the ‘Banker Bashing’ had gone too far. Now he is bashing banks himself. Does this represent a major change in policy? Does he realise that for his gamble to pay off, he needs to rebalance the economy away from financial services and towards manufacturing exports? Let’s hope so!
© The European Futures Observatory 2011