Like a flea implausibly claiming ownership of a dog UK Prime Minister Brown is today reported as saying it's now been a decade that he has been calling for an "early warning system so that international financial flows are properly monitored". This, along with his frequent (ever more so as the UK tanks) call for "a truly international" approach (which sounds much like a get out clause) is part of the Labour case for its own economic competence.
Not that this might be morphed into an argument for the Tories. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is today, say the Telegraph, to make a "major economic speech at the Institute of Chartered Accountants" whose centerpiece, it appears, is the notion that senior civil servants be punished if they fritter away taxpayer funds.
Forget the purpose of the National Audit Office. Leave aside the existence of all those watchdog divisions in the Treasury monitoring spending departments. Just wonder why, in a week when the opposition were prepared to aid and abet (allegedly) the government by abstaining on legislation that would have revealed their own expenses, Mr Osborne chooses this moment to raise more questions as to his political nous.
But back to Mr Brown. According to the Times he has a number of ideas including:
- "ensuring national financial regulators stay in close touch with their counterparts in other countries;
- setting standards for all financial institutions around the world on transparency and corporate governance;and
- Reforming bankers' pay and rewards to encourage responsible, long-term risk-taking rather than quick profit.
Public hanging and quartering of financiers is a politically attractive, additional option. And anyone with a passing familiarity with financial crises will hear Mr Brown's calls echoing down through the ages. There is no need to trawl the archives to prove this. Just start in the recent past from, say, 1997 and the Asian crisis. Move through the corporate frauds at Enron, Tyco, Worldcom et al. End post tech wreck. Law codes around the world are subsequently all much, much heavier. Yet crises persist worse than ever. There are many views as to why. But key is that the cycle cannot be eliminated - only mitigated. So why not focus on that?
Avinash Persaud and Charles Goodhart published a piece in the Financial Times last June in this regard that does not appear to have found favour anywhere it might matter. That's a shame. Once again it looks as though the politically loud will prevail over the thoughtful and knowledgeable.