Thursday, 12 March 2009

The incredible shrinking billionaires and other stories

This story has made all the papers, but the Guardian probably has the most succinct account: apparently the number of billionaires on the planet has contracted from 1,125 to 793, while the amount of money they control has plummeted from $4.4 trillion to a mere $2.4 trillion. So one club is shrinking - but in Monday’s Irish Times, Colm Keena offered a fascinating insight into another club, showing how the finance industry has been able to influence policy-making at the very highest levels. His story concerns the Revenue’s decision to tax contracts for difference back in 2006 … and the speedy reversal of that decision within a matter of weeks, following contacts between the sector and the then Assistant-Secretary of the Department.

Following the Government’s reversal of its decision the “market responded positively”, and the then chief executive of the Irish Stock Exchange contacted the then Assistant Secretary of the Department to thank him and suggest doing lunch.

A portrait of business as usual in boomtime Ireland ...

Meanwhile, in the States it’s good to see that a number of economists – including Jagdish Bhagwati, otherwise well-known for his opposition to fair trade proposals – have come out in favour of passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, draft legislation that would strengthen the trade union rights of US workers.

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