Review: Singapore on the Thames

John starting his talk

Our monthly meeting in February was a presentation by John Christensen: Singapore on Thames: who benefits from Britain’s development strategy? Thank you to Barbara Chandler for the review.

Those of you who weren’t present at this stimulating and challenging evening missed a treat. Do look at the presentation slides (at the bottom of this post) to get the flavour. John shared his conviction that…

Steadily, stealthily, the British tax system and broader economy have been reconfigured since the fifties, to serve the interest of an unaccountable, untouchable, offshore – diving super – rich…swathes of the British political class are deeply embedded in offshore secrecy…

He then took us through his evidence for such devastatingly important claims.

I was more than satisfied that he had made the case. It was disturbing to leave thinking how little there is of political or public impetus to clean up the huge system of offshore tax havens we the British are maintaining – when we have absolute powers to close them – holes through which politicians and their friends and plutocrats and organised crime alike filter their money to get richer at the expense of the rest of us.

John answering questions after his presentation

I was particularly struck by the consequences of the present dangerous and exploitative situation of total dependence on the financial sector to keep our economy apparently ok; when in fact this sector has not improved it, and data suggesting that it has he described as being packed with misleading use of irrelevant info.

Despite the trillions flowing into and through the City of London, for instance, Britain performs worse on major human development indicators – inequality, infant mortality, poverty, and more – than Germany, Sweden, Canada and most of its other rich-country peers.  Each ailment has many explanations, but oversized finance appears to be a major contributor.

We thought of low wages, the death of industry, inflated London house prices and rentals, the export of untaxed wealth through the city which itself launders money for nefarious worldwide clients – and is well – known for it.  Depressing stuff. What are we going to do about it?

Do explore further if you didn’t get to the evening: Paying billions in tax revenues, the City would surely be an asset to any country. Wouldn’t it? A new book, The Finance Curse, argues that far from being a “golden goose”, having an oversized financial sector is seriously damaging to an economy.

Slides from the evening are (with permission) here: John Christensen – SE London Humanists – FEB-2018