It just won’t work, some ‘experts’ say, while other ‘experts’ line up to chorus ‘oh yes, it will’. €70 billion so far to ‘fix’ the banks, with, we can be quite certain, more to come at great cost to every citizen. Well, not quite every citizen – there are of course those tax exiles and tax avoiders and evaders who never ever pay their share of taxes, facilitated all of the time by politicians, senior civil servants, lawyers, accountants, bankers and the rest.
The current estimate is that every tax compliant man, woman and child in the Republic of Ireland will each have to stump up over €16,000 as their individual contribution to rescuing the banks, with no alternative to this other than to set out for distant shores, and forced exile.
The new government has decided on its ‘solution’ to the banking crisis. The Bank of Ireland will be scaled back, divesting €30 billion of assets by 2013 and will provide the first ‘pillar’, while the Allied Irish Bank will merge with the Educational Building Society, shed €23 billion of assets by 2013 and form the second ‘pillar’. Irish Life and Permanent TSB will be taken into State ownership, also entailing shedding many assets.
What we will end up with is fewer banks competing for customers, the end result of crazy, criminal banking policies pursued without hindrance by the State, without adherence to sound business practices, without compliance with the law, without ethical consideration of their actions by the bankers, cheered on by politicians. The citizen will foot the bill for the losses in the banks and for the ‘solution’, and will be at the mercy of a duopoly – effectively forced to deal with just two competing banks, with little prospect of foreign banks wishing to provide any level of competition.
That is the sort of ‘progress’ that comes about as a result of consolidation, synergies, amalgamations – all, we are sternly warned, necessary to compete in the ‘real’ world. It wasn’t always thus.
Up to the 1960s Irish customers had a choice in banking between the Bank of Ireland, Hibernian Bank, Munster & Leinster Bank, National Bank, Provincial Bank, Ulster Bank and Royal Bank. All of these were run on serious lines, operated to sober business standards by men (not in those days women) who knew their duty was to protect the assets of the bank and its customers, to deliver a profit to the shareholders, and to hand on a sound business when the time came for them to move on.
There were also the Agricultural Credit Corporation to finance agriculture, set up by the State in 1927 but sold to the Dutch Rabobank in 2002, and the Industrial Credit Corporation, set up in 1933 but sold to Bank of Scotland/Halifax in 2001 and closed down with the Halifax operation in 2010. Two good effective State banks, gone.
In the 1960s Ireland had about 40 building societies providing mortgages for house buyers. These were merged over time into the Irish Nationwide, Educational Building Society, First Active and ICS. Even with the mergers there was choice for consumers.
In 40 years we have gone from seven good general banks and two specialist strategic banks, and four solid building societies, to two ‘pillars’ with another, Permanent TSB, in some sort of half-life. No real choice anymore for customers, and a huge bill to pay for the privilege. That is ‘progress’, that is the ‘real’ world – progress for crooks and gamblers and a world of real misery for the citizens.
The people spoke in the General Election, just five weeks ago, and voted, we were subsequently told, for parties that promised change for the better and rational solutions to our financial crisis. It is patently clear that the new crowd in government is as incapable of bursting out of the bubble in which politicians, economists and other ‘experts’ live and think and talk to one another, as was the old crowd. We cannot rely on them to see the world as we see it, and to take on the neo-liberal Euro-imperialists who will quite happily do this country down to protect their banks and their half-baked Eurozone.
It is time to take off the gloves and take to the streets. No-one is riding to the rescue. No solution but by ourselves. That is how it has always been. The Greeks know that, and so, by now, should we.