The DNA Household Finances Strategy

Today, Canadians continue to rack up debt at an alarming rate. Canadians are proud that we rode out the recession with minimal damage. We forget that it left us unscathed, mainly because we borrowed and spent our way through it. Most countries reduced household spending and increased savings.

Canada’s household debt at an astounding 153 percent of disposable income is headed for the tipping point of 160 percent that the United States personal disposable income hit before its crisis, over three years ago. Interestingly, these days, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are hoisting red flags about household debt, signaling that it is a huge risk to the financial system. However, they are part of the problem, and so consumers are not listening to them. Why should they? It is Canada’s record low-interest rate policy that is driving consumers to spend recklessly.

Sixty percent of Canadians polled recently by RateSupermarket.ca indicate that they are uncomfortable with their current debt level. A majority of the 2,929 respondents cited everyday expenses for their debt. Canadians continue to deflect responsibility for their decisions to credit, financial institutions, everywhere.

Mortgage rates are low and fueling excessive spending on residential homes. Average housing prices at twelve-times disposable income concerns me. In the previous housing crisis in the late 1980s, it was ten-times. What’s more, at the end of 2011, residential housing investment as a percentage of GDP was 7%, the same level as in the 1980s crisis; the 50 year average is 5.8%. In the U.S., in the mid 2000s, this ratio peaked about 6 percent, and housing crashed shortly after. As well, Japan’s housing market collapsed just after that ratio peaked in the 1980s. Will things be different here? I do not think so.

Many households are at risk, but few are doing anything about it. Still, they buy homes and consumer items with cheap credit. I suggest households embrace this DNA Household Strategy as the first step in behavior adjustment, before Canada’s impending personal financial crisis wallops many individuals.

Individuals in each household needs to declare detente, withdraw to the neutral zone, and then start to attack their debts.

Detente

Detente is the easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries. How does this apply to households? With whom do they have hostilities or strained relations? Individuals in households confront personal lifestyle choices daily. Cheap credit, seductive finances, fancy grown-up toys, tempt us continually. How can we resist unless we recognize this, and plan to deal with it?

That’s why I suggest each person should stand in front of a mirror to declare detente with him, her…you! You the spendthrift, you the impulsive buyer, you who like grown-up toys decide to stop hostilities against your credit. Stop it now! Agree to end the pulling and tugging, which credit wins every time.

Formalize this decision by signing a covenant indicating that for at least one year, you will refrain from using credit cards, credit lines; all credit forms. As well, agree not to buy consumer items unless you need them to fulfill a legal, moral, ethical, or health reason. Get a trusted friend to witness this agreement, and to hold you accountable to stay with it. This is the start of detente.

Neutral Zone

After signing this covenant, withdraw to the neutral zone to develop a new approach to lifestyle choices. First, cut up all credit cards and decide to start working with a spending plan. Next, resolve to use cash or checks only, and then, exclusively for items in your budget. In the neutral zone, you do not go shopping, respond to sales, deals, or tempting financing. When the urge to spend impulsively comes, read your detente statement, which you should have with you always. Remain in the neutral zone until you repay all consumer debts, and lower your mortgage to a comfortable level.

Attack

The third plank of the DNA strategy is the attack phase: start attacking your debts. First, prepare a debt repayment schedule, next, a material worth statement, and then, a plan to use to talk with your creditors.

A debt repayment schedule, as the name implies, lists your debts and shows this information: Amounts owing, creditors, interest rates, monthly, twice weekly, or other payment period, and expected dates when at current repayment, you will repay each debt.

Your material worth statement, akin to a balance sheet, lists all items you own at values someone would pay for each (market value), less your debts, to yield your net equity. Review this statement to see whether you could sell items to lower debts. You might conclude that you should sell your house to lower your debts and ongoing expenses and rent until your circumstances improved. These are major decisions. Discuss them with a trusted independent advisor; pray about them. Remember, you got in debt over an extended period, and so it is likely that you will get out over a long stretch. That’s why you must forget the home run, be patient, and stay with the program.

After doing these statements and your budget, you will know your financial health and will be ready to talk with your creditors about relief. Be humble, polite, and realistic. Financial institutions prefer dealing with you instead of debt collection agencies. If you are sincere, truthful, and have a well-thought-out plan washed in prayer, they are likely to give some relief on interest rates or amounts outstanding; most likely, interest rates.

Conclusion

No longer is the question, will we have a household debt crisis? It is, when will this happen? The answer is, probably in one to two years at the latest.

Canadians cannot continue the current rate of spending on consumer items with cheap credit. Housing activities cannot keep going at the present pace. Something must give. Interest rates must start creeping up. Are you ready for the storm?

The DNA strategy is a great defense, but only if you start now!

Union Finance Budget for Financial Year 2007-2008, Government of India… (India is Shining)

Today we hear much talk about the USA’s economy approaching the so-called “fiscal cliff.” What about your personal financial affairs? Are you at the fiscal cliff as we inch toward 2013? Canadians are swamped in debt. Monthly, we read about the rising debt-to-disposable income ratio that stands now at around the precarious 164% level.

Although the world and many at home commend our government for its brilliant fiscal management, few warn about the unsustainable personal debt levels. Indeed, our central bank chief, Mark Carney, accepted an appointment to a similar role at the prestigious Bank of England. Will his legacy here be that of hero or villain? Will history show that he held interest rates low for too long, encouraging many folks to take on debt they cannot afford?

To his credit, he, our finance minister, and prime minister have been warning Canadians about these dangerously high personal debt levels. However, Carney could curtail the rise by raising interest rates. Sure, higher rates will dampen current slow economic growth. Even so, I think short-term pain is better than the likely personal finances’ crash that might happen if debt remains at present levels, or grows.

What can Canadians do to avoid their fiscal cliff? Let us examine three vital steps.

Accept you are dangerously leveraged.
Set a mechanism in place to live with declining debt
Develop a new vocabulary to guide your behavior

Accept You Are Dangerously Leveraged

You can’t solve a problem unless you recognize it. Do you think you are carrying too much debt? Your banker might tell you no; however, you alone can answer this. Take a helicopter view. What are you and your family’s emotional responses to your debt? Are you worried? Can’t sleep? If yes, you have too much debt. Certainly, look at ratios, but this is the key barometer.

The emotional cost of debt is the first and the most significant cost. If debt is 10% of income, and is causing problems for you or at least one in your family, it is too much. Still, you must accept reality and decide to live with it, take on no more, and start a debt free lifestyle.

If you are a Christian, give this emotional stress to Jesus (Matthew 11:28).

Set A Mechanism In Place To Live With Declining Debt

People are impatient. We live in a now society. Sadly, probably you got into debt over a long period, and it is likely you will get out over an extended time. Accept this fact and learn to live with it.

Develop a strategy to live in your debt. Look at how you got there; draft principles to prevent a recurrence; and then write a financial plan – alone or with help. The plan should show concisely how, by following your principles, you might be debt free in a specific time.

If you got into debt by impulsive spending, you might develop a principle never to buy without a list and a budget. As well, when you feel you need to spend, you might want to wait 24-48 hours during which time you would talk with your spouse or accountability partner.

You will have to find what might work for you, decide if you need help, and try to get it.

Prepare a debt-meter and place on your fridge. Monthly, as you repay debt, adjust the debt-meter.

Develop a new vocabulary to guide your behavior

This sounds easy, is simple, and when you get it, will be your most effective debt control “tool.” What you believe will decide how you behave. If you believe emergencies happen and cause you to spend erratically, you won’t change your behavior. However, if you believe that apart from the timing, most “budget emergencies” can be planned and should be planned by setting aside funds regularly to meet them, you will plan accordingly.

Your car will need repairs. It will need new tires. Your furnace will go, and so on. The issue here is timing. You don’t know when these potential budget busters will happen. Even so, you know they will occur, so create a capital fund, a rainy-day fund, emergency fund, or some other means to save for these predictable events. If you accept this fact about emergencies, and understand that to get there you must sacrifice today’s consumption, this is the start of your major victory over debt.

Another key vocabulary change is to accept that you can’t mange money, you can manage only your behavior – change from money management to lifestyle management.

Summary

As we enter 2013, look at your finances. You will know if you are at the fiscal cliff. Rest assured, you do not need more money to get you through, first, you need to accept where you are. Next, set a mechanism to live where you are as you work off your debt. Then examine your vocabulary, your beliefs, and adjust them to reality.

I pray you will turn away from easy seductive credit and start moving away from debt.

Who Will Be The Next Prime Minister Of Singapore?

The reality is that we have little to no idea who will be the next prime minister of Singapore.

During the 2016 national day rally, PM Lee put across to Singaporeans that by the next election, he would be passing the baton to his successor.

The problem here is that there is no clear front-runner as to who would be the next PM.

Before PM Lee became PM in 2004, he was DPM for 14 long years. Meaning he had a very long “warm up” period before he took the hot seat.

In 1988, way before Goh Chok Tong became prime minister in 1991, he was already in charge of the day-to-day operations of the government.

Today, in 2016, there is no clear front runner to the PM hot seat.

Initially, with his heavy responsibilities in government, Heng Swee Keat seemed to be the most likely candidate. But when he was struck with stroke early this year, it seemed that his chances diminished drastically.

Which brings us to Chan Chun Sing, who this author thinks will most likely become PM. One reasoning is that he often represents the government on televised forums for events like the National Day Rally, a task normally left for senior members of the cabinet. This year, Chan also delivered the chinese version of the PM’s National Day Message, instead of the usual Lim Swee Say.

Also, Chan is often referred to as “Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office,” much more than NTUC secretary-general, which is his full time day job. This author believes that the reason why he is often referred to in this manner is to get the electorate accustomed to hearing Chan Chun Sing and “Prime Minister’s Office” in the same sentence.

One more key element of one being PM also is a strong experience with the defence portfolio. Chan previously served the majority of his career as a professional soldier and ended his stint as Chief of Army, and prior to NTUC served also as second minister of defence. (Both PM Lee and ESM Goh also had much experience with the defence portfolio, with PM Lee also an ex-career soldier and ESM Goh an ex-minister of defence.)

In addition, in PM Lee’s recent major overseas trips (like to China or USA), Chan Chun Sing is an unmissable part of the PM’s ministerial entourage. Perhaps the government is subtly using these overseas trips as a means to introduce to the world our next leader.

Chan is no slouch at elections either, with his Tanjong Pagar GRC team taking the baton from Mr Lee Kuan Yew and winning with a resounding 77.71% during the 2015 elections, higher than the national average of 69.9%.

As Heng Swee Keat took ill early this year, Chan also took over the co-chairmanship of the Committee on the Future Economy – Singapore, a task only for the brightest in government.

It seems like the government has very high hopes for Chan.

Some commentators have observed that when Chan was posted at the NTUC, it was seen as a sign that the government had little faith in him. This author disagrees with this sentiment. Rather than seen as a step down to Chan, this author believes that the government slotted Chan in the challenging role of NTUC Sec-Gen to test his political mettle and give him a more rounded and elaborate CV. With his helming of the NTUC, Chan is now a man who has Chief Of Army, Labour Chief, Minister MSF, Future Economy Committee Co-Chair, and PAP HQ Exco Chairman on his CV.

Does this sound like a résumé of a potential Prime Minister? This author believes so.

Although he does not have a luxury of a long “runway” to power like PM Lee or ESM Goh, Chan does have the privilege of a very well-rounded and successful career, which puts him in good slate to take over as PM during the next election.

On the contrary, Heng, who was education minister and currently finance minister and has much lesser experience with the defence portfolio, seems more slated to become a DPM. (Think Teo Chee Hean and Tharman’s ex-portfolios).

Union Finance Budget for Financial Year 2007-2008, Government of India… (India is Shining)

Union Finance Minister (Govt. of India) P Chidambaram presented the Union Budget for 2007-08 in Parliament on Wednesday, 28th Feb. 2007.

The Following are the Highlights:

While Chidambaram kept income tax limit unchanged, he increased the threshold limit by Rs 10,000 giving every assessee a relief of Rs 1,000.

Deduction in respect of medical insurance under Section 80 (D) increased to Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 for senior citizens.

Exemption limit for women was increased to Rs 145,000 and for senior citizens to Rs 195,000.

Dividend distribution tax raised from 12.5 to 15 per cent.

ESOPs to be brought under FBT.

Expenditure on samples and free distribution items to be exempted from fringe benefit tax.

Additional revenue from direct taxes to yield Rs 3000 crore and indirect taxes revenue neutral.

Tax exemption on aviation turbine fuel sold to turbo prop aircraft extended to all small aircraft less than 40,000 kg.

Withdrawals by central and state governments exempted from Banking Cash Transaction Tax. The limit for individuals and HUF raised from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000.

Two lakh people to benefit out of service tax exemption. Govt to lose Rs 800 crore as a result.

Service tax on Residents Welfare Associations whose members contribute more than Rs 3,000.

Surcharge on Corporate income tax on companies below Rs one crore removed.

Tax free bonds to be issued by state-owned urban local bodies.

Five year tax holiday for two, three, four star hotels and convention centres with a seating capacity of 3,000 in NCT of Delhi, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Gautam

Minimum Alternate Tax being extended.

Benefits of investment in venture capital funds confined to IT, bio-technology, nano-technology, seed research, dairy among some others.

Excise duty on cement reduced from Rs.400 per tonne to Rs.350 per tonne for cement bags sold at Rs.190 per bag at retail market. Those sold above Rs.190 will attract excise duty of Rs.600 per tonne.

Corporate tax: No surcharge for firms with a taxable income of Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) or less.

E-governance allocation to be increased from Rs.395 to Rs.719 crore.

Indian investors to be allowed investment in overseas capital markets through mutual funds. Mutual funds to set up Infrastructure Fund schemes.

Any requirement for security of the nation to be provided.

Backward Regions Grant Fund to be raised to Rs 5800 crore.

A high-powered committee report aimed at making Mumbai a world class financial centre submitted.

Public suggestions will be invited.

Rs 50 crore provided to begin work on vocational education mission for which Task Force in Planning Commission is chalking out a strategy.

1,396 Indian Technical Institutes to be upgraded to achieve technical excellence.

An autonomous Debt Management Office in government to be set up.

Government to create one lakh jobs for physically challenged. Government will reimburse the EPF contributions of employers in the case of physically challenged people taken on rolls of the company and included in the PF scheme. A fund of Rs 150 crore to be started which will go up to Rs 450 crore.

An Expert Committee to be set up to study the impact of climate change in India.

Rs 150 crore to be given to Ministry of Youth and Sports for Commonwealth Games and Rs 350 crore to the Delhi Government for the purpose. Rs 50 crore to be provided for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune.

Rs 100 crore for recognising excellence in the field of agricultural research.

VAT revenues increased by 24.3 per cent in the first nine months of 2006-07.

A national level goods and services tax to be introduced from next fiscal.

Fiscal deficit to be 3.7 per cent in the current year and revenue deficit two per cent.

Fiscal management enabled States consolidate debt to the tune of Rs.1,10,268 crore and 20 states availed of debt waiver to the tune of Rs.8575 crores. The share of States from the revenue expected to touch Rs.1,42,450 crore during 2007-08 as against Rs.1,20,377 crore during 2006-07.

Total expenditure estimated at Rs 6,81,521 crore.

Increase in gross tax revenue by 19.9 per cent, 20 per cent and 27.8 per cent in first three years of UPA government. Intend to keep tax rates moderate.

Peak customs duty rate on non-agricultural items reduced from 12.5 to ten per cent.

All coking coal fully exempted from duty.

Duties on seconds and defective reduced from 20 to ten per cent.

Customs duty on polyster to be reduced from ten per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Fiscal deficit for 2007-08 pegged at 3.3 per cent of GDP at Rs.1,50,948 crore. Revenue deficit at Rs.72,478 crore which will be 1.5 per cent.

Total expenditure during 2006-07 estimated at Rs.6,80,521 crore including Rs.40,000 crore for SBI shares.

Duty on pet food reduced from 30 per cent to 20 per cent.

Duty on sunflower oil to be reduced by 15 per cent.

Duty reduced on watch dials and movements and umbrella parts from 12.5 to five per cent.

Import duty of 15 specified machinery to be reduced from 7.5 per cent to five per cent.

Economy grows 8.6 per cent in third quarter of this fiscal compared to 9.3 per cent in the year-ago period

Three per cent import duty to be levied on private importers of aircraft including helicopters.

No change in general CENVAT rate.

Ad valorem duty on petrol and diesel to be brought down from eight to six per cent.

Export duty on iron ore and concentrate at the rate of Rs.300 per tonne. Export duty on Cromium proposed at Rs 2000 tonne.

Small-scale industries excise duty exemption raised from Rs one crore to Rs 1.5 crore.

Manufacturing sector grows at 10.7 per cent, agriculture at 1.5 per cent during October-December 2006-07.

Excise duty for plywood reduced from 16 per cent to eight per cent.

Food mixes to be fully exempted from excise duty.

Excise duty for plywood reduced from 16 per cent to eight per cent.

Bio-diesel to be fully exempted from excise duty.

Water purification devices, small and big, fully exempted from excise. Specific rates of excise duty on cigarettes increased.

Excise duty on Pan Masala without tobacco as mouth freshners reduced from 66 per cent to 45 per cent.

PAN to be made single identity card for all securities/stocks/MFs related transactions.

Insurance companies to launch a senior citizens scheme in 2007-08.

Defence budget increased to Rs 96,000 crore

Tourism infrastructure to get an allocation of Rs.520 crore as against Rs.423 crore last year.

The ceiling of loans for weaker sections under deferential rate of interest scheme will be raised from Rs 6500 to Rs 15,000 and in housing loan from Rs 5000 to Rs 20,000.

Regulations would be put in place for mortgage guarantee company for housing loans.

Regional Rural Banks, which are willing to take up greater responsibilities, to undertake aggressive branch expansion programme. One RRB branch for each of 80 districts so far uncovered. RRBs to accept NRE and FCNR deposits.

FDI inflows between April and January this fiscal touched $12.5 bn while portfolio investment reached $6.8 billion

Technology Upgration Fund in textiles to continue during the 11th Plan. Rs 911 crore to be provided for this.

Allocation for National Highway Development programme to be stepped up from Rs 9,955 crore to Rs 12,600 crore.

Work on Golden Quadrilateral road project nearly complete. Considerable progress made on North-South, East-West corridor and likely to be completed by 2009.

Northeastern region will get Rs 405 crore for highway development. Road-cum-rail project over Brahmaputra in Bogibil, Assam.

Health insurance cover for weavers to be enlarged to ancillary industries. Allocation increased from Rs 241 crore to Rs 321 crore.

A scheme for modernisation and technological upgradation of choir industry for which Rs 23.55 crore has been earmarked.

Manufacturing growth rate estimated at 11.3 per cent.

9.2 per cent GDP growth rate estimated in 2006-07.

Average growth for last three years is 8.6 per cent.

Saving rate of 32.4 per cent, investment rate of 33.8 per cent will continue.

A number of proposals to perk up agriculture to be announced.

Average inflation in FY’07 to be 5.2-5.4 per cent; govt confident of managing inflation

Bank credit rate grew by 29 per cent during first ten months of 2006-07

Inflation during 2006-07 estimated at between 5.2 and 5.4 per cent against 4.4 per cent during the previous year.

Abhijit Sen report on forward trading to be submitted in two months’ time.

Additional irrigation potential of 24 lakh hectares to be implemented, including nine lakh hectares under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme.

Economy in a stronger position than ever before.

15,054 villages have been covered under rural telephony and efforts to be made to complete the target of covering 20,000 villages by 2006-07.

Allocation on Healthcare to increase by 21.9 per cent.

Allocattion for education to be enhanced by 34.2 per cent.

Two lakh more teachers to be employed and five lakh more classrooms to be constructed.

Secondary education allowance to be increased from Rs.1,837 crore to Rs.3,794 crore.

Government committed to fiscal reforms.

Foreign exchange reserves stand at 180 billion dollars.

Allocation under Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Mission stepped up from Rs 4680 crore to Rs 5850 crore.

Government concerned over inflation and would take all steps for moderating it.

Already a number of steps on fiscal, monetary and supply management side have been taken.

Annual target of 15 lakh houses under Bharat Nirmal Programme to be exceeded.

Allocation for National Rural Health Mission stepped up from Rs 8207 crore to Rs 9947 crore.

Gross budgetary support in 2007-08 raised to Rs 2,05,100 crore from 1,72,728 crore in 2006-07. Of this, budgetary support to the Central plan will go up to 1,54,939 crore against 1,72,728 crore.

School dropout rates high. To prevent dropout, a National Means-cum-Merit scholarship to be implemented, with an allocation of Rs 6,000 per child.

Rs 1290 crore to be provided for elimination of polio. Intensive coverage will be undertaken in 20 districts in UP and 10 districts in Bihar. This will be integrated into NRHM.

National AIDS Control Programme to achieve zero level disease.

Measures for significant improvement of health care in rural area.

Allocation for ICDS programme to be increased from Rs 4087 crore to Rs 4761 crore.

30 more districts under NREGA. Additional allocation of Rs.12,000 crore for it.

Rs 800 crore for Sampoorna Gram Rozgar Yojana in districts not covered by NREGA. Swarna Jayanti Swarozgar Yojana allocation increased from Rs 250 crore to Rs 344 crore.

Computerisation of PDS and integrated computerization programme for FCI.

Allocation for schemes only for SCs and STs to be increased to Rs 3271 crore.

Rs 63 crore for share capital for National Minorities Development Finance Corporation following Sachar Committee recommendations.

Allocation for SC/ST scholarships enhanced from Rs.440 crore to Rs.611 crore.

Scholarships programme for minorities students to be of the order of Rs 72 crore for pre-metric, Rs 48 crore for graduate and postgraduate.

Total Budget for the Northeastern region raised from Rs 12,041 crore to Rs 14,365 crore.

New Industrial Policy for the northeastern region to be in place before March 31.

Women’s development allocation will be Rs.22,282 crore.

Rs 7,000 crore allocation for better tax administration to be used for social schemes.

Rs 2,25,000 crore farm credit proposed in the new budget. A target of additional 50 lakh farmers to be brought under farm credit.

Farmers’ credit likely to reach Rs.1,90,000 crore as against the targeted Rs.1,75,000 crore during 2006-07.

Special Purpose Tea Fund to rejuvenate tea production.

Rs 100 crore allocated for National Rainfed Area Authority.

One hundred per cent subsidy for small farmers and 50 per cent for other farmers for water recharging scheme.

World Bank signed agreement for revival of 5,763 waterbodies in Tamil Nadu. Loan component Rs 2,182 crore. To have a command area of four lakh hectares. Similar agreement with Andhra Pradesh in March for recharge of 2,000 bodies. Command area 2.5 lakh hectares.

Bonds worth Rs 5,000 crore to augment NABARD to be issued.

UK Finance Minister Outlines Thinking on Bonuses

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling has been intimately involved in the creation of the modern British regulatory landscape, but all this may be about to change with a General Election due within 10 months. He also succeeds arguably one of the most successful Chancellor’s in the 21st Century – the current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown – just as Tony Blair has been a tough act to follow, Darling has had to step into Brown’s shoes at The Treasury. Darling has remained silent all week since the announcement of the opposition Tory party’s proposals for the abolition of the FSA; handing prudential financial oversight to the Bank of England, a general carve up of the FSA and probable delay on RDR commitment. Today, that changed with an interview published in a leading, left-wing publication, The Tribune.

Darling on Bonuses

Bonuses are going to be a sticky issue for regulators, politicians and employers – “Bonuses are Back!” may be the cry on the Square Mile, after all, if it’s being earned they’re going to be paid or risk losing competitiveness. Darling’s response is that many bank and financial sector employees only have a job today because of the taxpayer monies used to bail out the sector and shore up the banks. For banks now owned by the UK Government, there will be no bonuses this year;

First, we do have restrictions on the banks we own in terms of bonuses; they can’t get cash bonuses this year, it’s got to be deferred, it’s got to be capable of being clawed back, the people who failed can’t get rewards and they always have to be linked to long-term success.

The interim Walker report on working practices and pay structures including bonuses, published a couple of weeks ago, seems to simply state bankers should worry about doing the job they are already being paid to do. Darling disagrees in that Walker is going further; bankers did not do their jobs to begin with which is why we ended up in the global economic mess culminating in the near-miss, banking collapse. As Darling states,

One of the causes of the trouble is that they were not doing what they were supposed do be doing. Too many of them patently didn’t even understand what was going on in their own banks.

When pressed on disclosure of who actually is paid a bonus, Darling rightly concedes that naming the recipient poses issues outside of transparency and financial regulation; after all, I certainly would not like my name published anywhere with a big number printed after it – there is a dividing line between personal security and public disclosure, though directors at the Co-Operative Bank have been making personal identity disclosure without issue. With the FSA under political fire from the Conservatives, who announced they would dismantle the regulator if elected, Darling’s responses give some insight into why Labour wants the FSA to remain and enjoy enhanced power. For instance,

A lot of these people have got to realise they just would not be working today if they did not have the insurance policy provided by the British and American taxpayers and others. That’s why it is right that the Financial Standards Authority now has the power to say to a bank that they don’t like the pay structure of a bank, it’s too risky, you can’t do it.

Also when questioned on Walker’s proposal for a voluntary rather than statutory regime, Darling’s response was,

We have gone beyond that with the FSA and its new power to say we don’t like your pay structure, it’s too risky. That’s not voluntary, because ultimately the FSA can put you off the road.

This fundamentally underlines the difference between Labour and Conservative thinking on who will regulate the banks and financial sector – Labour clearly envisages an FSA with a very wide-ranging remit and the power to assert itself in virtually any aspect it sees fit. The Conservative focus beyond dismantling the FSA is yet to become clear, but it is reasonable to assume at this stage that they see a return of the Bank of England as the banking regulator and not as an “academic” body as Labour Minister Lord Myners recently put it. The Tribune article focused on pay structure and especially bonus payments, it’s to be expected from a socialist paper, but Darling fielded answers which did take the position that pay and bonuses are actually one commercial factor to be taken into account when dealing with banks who received bail-out monies. As he went on to say,