Thursday, September 18, 2008

Don't Panic, Financial Frenzy Won't Last

Fear has gripped the financial markets in a selling frenzy, after years of been driven by greed and fat profits. But at least we won't have to suffer mountains of junk mail, tacky leaflets and TV ads. 

Cheap loans, dodgy insurance and ridiculously low-interest mortgages made us feel good for a couple of months, until the rot set in and we worried how to pay for it all. 

Calm down dear, it's only a commercial re-adjustment. Political Profits of Doom have a vested interest in talking up a crisis for political advantage. 

Borrowing on the global market, which got out of hand, will be reigned in. Debt, wrapped up in unfathomable packages, will be controlled. Regulation will be the new buzzword.

Reassuringly,  the financial markets have finally woken up to reality. For the first time, financial experts and analysts are saying what only a few years ago would never have been uttered. 

For years the banks been living off easy credit, borrowing ultimately from the Chinese banks to get out of debt and the bubble has burst. What we are going through is a period of adjustment. Painful for some but a necessary adjustment, nonetheless. 

Lloyds TSB and its £12 billion takeover/merger with HBOS is an example of the good and the bad. Here we have a conservative bank that's weathered the storm, because it didn't expose itself to the risks of dodgy borrowing and the sub prime housing market. Unlike HBOS that got too big for its boots. 

Lloyds TSB's prudence, shunning the get rich quick route, for a more traditional economic model has paid off. The bank has been given a once in a lifetime chance without competition rules kicking in, and they've taken it.

There will be huge casualties as the market adjusts. Bank staff will suffer as the axe falls on jobs. A big merger of this sort can only happen with thousands of job loses. 

Government has a responsibility to step in to help those jobless and protect the savers. But that should be as far as it goes. Taxpayers money should not be used to prop up the greedy directors and shareholders. 

And who's to blame for this mess? Well not the poor saps who were duped into taking out ridiculous unchecked loans. And not the thousands of bank workers who'll be out of a job. Greed fuelled the market and someone would always be on the look out to make a fast buck. But in the end, it's the government which just sat back and let it all happen.

The liberal economist and author, John Kenneth Galbraith, was in no doubt who was to blame for past economic mess - government deregulation and reckless bank lending:

"Careless deregulation of giant corporations and reckless lending by banks posed great risks as well ... because financial markets would overheat, then crash, even as self-interested managers – who in truth controlled the corporations – lined their own pockets while emptying those of others."

Like history, global economics has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

No comments: