Monday, 4 October 2010

Are the banks about to fail again?

Last month the Irish government bailed out the banks again, forcing their budget deficit to balloon to an astonishing 32%. It was all too familiar, the banks have once again been bailed out with public money, yet remain in private control and with very little regulation or oversight. There was even the Irish Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, popping up to say the biggest bank, Anglo Irish, was too big to fail.

People of course said that about Lehman Brothers, but it failed and the world did not implode. What has vanished though is many Irish jobs, welfare rights and public services - all apparently necessary to avoid a crisis. Instead the collapsing demand in the economy caused credit rating agencies to downgrade Ireland back in July.

And so to the UK, and today the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has published a report Where did our money go? Building a banking system fit for purpose, which warns "[UK] Banks set to demand fresh bail-out in 2011" and cites increased borrowing by them.

It also highlights the a "shocking" lack of information on how banks had used the bail-out money. Like Ireland a lack of ownership and control accompanied the bailout - criticised with great foresight by LEAP Chair John McDonnell at the time - and now we may be on the brink of further collapse.

Referring to the NEF report, LEAP's Graham Turner, from GFC Economics, said "the Bank of England also warned in its June Financial Stability Review that there will be a huge increase in refinancing requirements for UK banks in 2011. This remains a systemic threat."

Like Ireland again, the UK is about to embark on unprecedented mass public spending cuts - which would sap demand from the economy, and could possibly simply be the precursor to funding another bailout for the bankers.

If the UK banks do suffer a second round of collapse, then it is time to nationalise the assets as well as the losses and control the sector for public good not shareholder and speculator gain.

There's an excellent piece in today's Morning Star on this, Banks on the brink yet again - well worth a read.

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