Green Investment Bank…..the shape of things to come?
Rumours abound that Alistair Darling will announce in the Budget a ‘Green Investment Bank’ which is something of an eye-catching proposal. This follows Ed Miliband, who is doing himself no harm if he wants to ingratiate himself with the left, hinting strongly that a ‘Peoples Bank’ will feature heavily in the Labour manifesto. Obviously we have decided to eschew regulation of current banking practices with subtle attempts to bring down the system ‘from within’.
Firstly, it’s worth saying of both proposals that regardless of their merits this should not be the case; that the ‘light Labour touch’ when it comes to the markets following its acceptance of the Blair/Giddens ‘Third Way’ has been shown to be desperately wanting in the current crisis. It’s a great irony of history that precisely now is the time for a radical, Labour critique of how things are and now that is at its most lacking.
Secondly, I have to say I prefer the proposal of Miliband to Darling when it comes to assessing their relative ‘radical’ merits. Typically, what we have from Darling is glorified PFI;
The green bank, designed to help finance projects such as railways, offshore wind power generation and eco-friendly waste management, will be half-funded from government asset sales with the remaining one billion pounds coming from the private sector.
“The high risk profile of these investments, which are in new and unproven technologies means an initial government investment is needed to draw in investors,” the source said.
It’s shameful to have to reiterate the limitations of the market and private finance time-after-time in reply to proposals from Labour ministers. Rhetoric bemoaning public service ‘wasteage’ would be much better directed against the monumental waste of time and money that is directed towards making leopards change their spots and to change the private sector into this benign social force.
One of the things about the enviroment as an issue is that it is something that most keenly (in its own distorted way) highlights the structural deficiencies of the system as it is (which is why right-wingers habitually argue passionately against climate change, for example, it disrupts the idea that capitalism is a brilliantly functioning system). So, while Darling’s proposal is a welcome step in a promising direction it’s worth looking under the surface and seeing how once again, ‘New Labour’, is behind the times in the solutions to problems it puts forward….