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By Philippe Legrain 1 COMMENT

Sky News are reporting that a secret study commissioned by some of Britain’s biggest banks warns that tighter banking regulation could provoke a  double-dip recession.

Yet again, the big banks are attempting to blackmail the rest of the country in order to protect their licence to gamble and make monopoly profits with government guarantees.

Of course, the risk of a double-dip recession is real – not least because banks are failing to lend to sound businesses at reasonable rates.

Banks can borrow from the Bank of England for almost nothing, but  instead of lending this on to small businesses, they are using the cash to buy government bonds or, in the case of investment banks, more speculative assets.

This easy money pumps up asset prices, but does little to benefit the rest of the economy.

Nor is it doing much to recapitalise the banks, since they are paying out big chunks of their profits on bonuses and dividends.

In these exceptional times when the government has a controlling stake in Northern Rock, RBS and Lloyds, it should direct them to lend more to creditworthy borrowers.

It should also ban all banks – all of which benefit from government guarantees  – from paying out bonuses and dividends until they have enough liquidity (cash reserves) and capital to provide an adequate cushion against future losses.

Last but not least, the next government must urgently direct competition watchdogs to look at how best to break up the cartel that dominates high-street banks and the complex monopoly riddled with conflicts of interest that banks with  investment-banking operations enjoy.

Don’t let the big banks hold a gun to our heads again. It is their failure to lend, not the prospect of tighter regulation, that threatens a double-dip recession.

Posted 30 Apr 2010 in Blog, Britain, Finance

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