Time to take a bullish market by the horns

By Pascale Palmer
September 24, 2010

So Business Secretary Vince Cable is "shining a harsh light into the murky world of corporate behaviour". Well it does seem an opportune moment, doesn't it? With a national economy on crutches and the reverberations knocking the most vulnerable deeper into poverty, it's about time someone in the coalition took the bullish market by the horns.

But isn't it astonishing that the business community, led vociferously by the CBI, appears to be throwing its toys out of the pram at the merest whiff of regulatory reform? You would have thought that private sector stakeholders would be embarrassed to publicly criticise a minister for trying to look for alternatives to short-termism and speculation - practices which benefit the few at the expense of the many. But I suppose these "few" have one heck of a set of pipes when compared to the voices of the "many" in Africa, Asia, Latin America and at home who are bearing the brunt of the financial downturn.

What is truly concerning about this near-deafening chorus of disapproval for Vince Cable's party conference take on certain areas of received economic wisdom is its apparent attempt to stifle discussion. Are companies really so sensitive to criticism that they would turn their backs on the UK because a government minister dared to call for reform?

One suspects that the sector doth protest too much.

The significant cuts which UK citizens now face are a direct result of failures within the financial markets. All of us have an interest in asking who sets the parameters for how businesses operate and where improvements are needed. Right now is exactly the time for a realistic, open debate about the incentives and limitations built into our current financial system and how it can be better shaped to support a more sustainable economy in which people and society can flourish.

If politicians such as Vince Cable are not able to be honest about the challenges of controlling the market without being condemned as "anti-business", we risk making the same mistakes again and again.


(c) Pascale Palmer is CAFOD's Advocacy Media Officer. www.cafod.org.uk

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