Showing posts from December, 2011


This year, for the first time in my life, I was faced with the prospect of being alone on Christmas Day. I have no doubt it will not be the last time. My children will fly to new nests in far-away places, my friends and family will gradually leave this world or become too frail to travel.  Being alone, often for extended periods of time, is characteristic of elderly life. I look forward twenty years and realise that much of my future will be spent alone. I choose my words carefully. I said "alone". I did not say "lonely". Being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely. At Christmas we assume that anyone who is alone must of course be lonely. There are campaigns to persuade people to visit elderly neighbours and take them to jolly Christmas parties at special centres for the elderly. Personally I can't think of anything worse than spending three hours in a hall full of total strangers being patronised by well-meaning youngsters determined to ensure that I

The ICB's fig leaf

It was announced on Monday 19th December that the Independent Commission on Banking's (ICB) proposals for reform of the UK banking system would be accepted in full . Or not quite, actually - HSBC managed to wring a concession from the Government that it would not have to meet higher capital requirements for business it conducts overseas.  As HSBC's overseas business dwarfs its UK business this is important for them, but the quid pro quo must surely be that problems in the overseas businesses cannot be bailed out by its UK operations. The ringfencing proposal should help to achieve this, although it remains to be seen how well this would hold in practice. Inevitably, there have been criticisms of both the proposals themselves and the Government's handling of them.  Tony Greenham of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) wrote this post describing why he believes the proposals are ineffectual. I think the Vickers reforms are indeed ineffectual, but not for the reasons Greenham

Nightfall in Euroland

On Friday 9th December, the leaders of the 27 European Union members held a summit to try to resolve the Euro crisis. In the few days before that summit meeting, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Sarkozy of France produced a proposal for closer fiscal union among the 17 Eurozone members.  Key elements of the proposal are: member states to balance their budgets and keep debt and deficits in line with existing provisions in the Stability and Growth pact.   there would be supervision from Brussels of member states' budgets and debt issuance plans, and sanctions such as fines for those who did not abide by the rules the European Stability Mechanism - a larger and better bailout fund, but still mainly dependent for financing on existing member states, although the proposal does invite external contributions - would be introduced in July 2012, running alongside the existing EFSF instead of replacing it as previously planned.  there would be no further haircuts for private