Sunday, 13 November 2011

Blair-faced Cheek

"Nobody who has wealth to distribute ever omits himself" - Trotsky

 Tony Blair's financial dealings since leaving office are already coming under increasing scrutiny, but surely his bid for a piece of the DfID's grants schemes to provide governance in rebuilding countries like Iraq & Afghanistan is a bit close to the bone?

Admittedly, his organisation currently only operates in Africa*, but it's a foot up to being considered for other bids as they arise.  Pointedly, the application was made by the 'Tony Blair Governance Initiative' and not the 'Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative' and therefore strikes me as a sly reverse manoeuvre that will engage him with the DfID whilst leaving him free to expand his operational base to become eligible for future bids in other countries.

Can you imagine a scenario where our smug ex-Premier is allowed to play a role in making sure that aid given to reconstruct the very countries he had a hand in destroying is applied fairly?  Did you know, for example, that over a third of the £45 mill in aid provided to Sierra Leone in 2009/10 was spent on 'governance'?

So, to align this story with a previous post (see "End the Greed" - "Looters in Suits"), it seems that money that previously disappeared in bribes to corrupt officials in war or poverty-stricken countries might now end up lining the pockets of those vested with the responsibility of ensuring that they are applied properly.

Add to the mix that the role also brings him closer to the companies bidding for the rebuilding contracts, and Our Tony's got it pretty well covered from all angles.

I don't imagine I'll be offered work by JP Morgan any time soon ….

Update Oct '14: £52K unexplained hole found in Faith Foundation's books. Nice governance. And we let Blair loose on millions?

* So far as I was aware at time of writing, in respect of governance interests only

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Making Poverty - A History (ack. Tom Lines)

On 'Newsnight' the other week, about how the "Regulators are always behind the curve ... and they always will be" (Nick Leeson), no-one had a viable answer to "How do we stop this?".

I had one, which I posted on my Facebook group. Tell the traders "You can only do business like THIS at this point in time - if you want to use new vehicles/methodology/structures/models, run them past us FIRST so that we can evaluate them, dictate the parameters and monitor from the outset."  Otherwise we'll be forever fire-fighting and not actually capping the well.  We are over-regulated, which just ties everyone in knots - it's a sad indictment of modern banking when we have to enforce caution and insist that customers are treated fairly.  These qualities should be givens and certainly more closely reflect the banking system I was part of as regional manger for an Australian bank back in the early 80's before the Gordon Gekko factor took hold.

I was delighted to have my views endorsed by author Tom Lines ('Making Poverty - A History').  He directed me to his article 'The Dog that Didn't Bark', which looks at at the 28 years following WW2 when there were no such crises.  It's a thought-provoking walk through financial history and concludes with some credible recommendations to restore order - I commend it to you as essential reading in the current economic climate.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Don't take our Infrastructure down with 'The 1%'

A couple of months ago, before the Occupy Wall Street movement took hold, my wife and I were discussing what the series of events might be if someone hit the "Technology Bomb" button and you needed access to your money.

Having wondered why the travelcard reader hadn't worked on the bus on your way to work, you might pop in somewhere for your morning latte and croissant only to find that the payment terminal was down to accept your debit card.  So you'd head off down to the bank to withdraw cash, only to then discover that the ATM was down too.  You'd probably get by on what's in the fridge or larder for a day or two - until you had to do your weekly shop.  By which time panic buying would have set in and the food you couldn't pay for anyway was gone.

Fast-forwarding events, how would goods be replenished?  Presumably no-one could get paid to produce anything.  I'll leave any further implications to your imagination.

The point is, if the rising tide of civic rebellion ruins the banking system entirely, we're looking at pretty much the same scenario.

What's the answer?  Nationalise the banks to become non-profit organisations and give our distrusted Governments the power?

The 99% should be entitled to make their point, but I urge calm and caution.  Indeed, we may well be playing into the hands of the very people who seek to control us. This is not about anti-capitalism, but anti-greed/corruption. (See earlier post)