Thursday, August 05, 2010

Time To Bank The Banks


Taxpayers could use some of that

The banks are back in the serious money. Hurrah!

Well, hurrah if you're not a saver being ripped off on your bank deposit account, with near-zero interest rates in the face of 5% inflation. Or a borrower paying through the nose for a meagre sliver of credit. As long as you're a banker, you can afford a very loud hurrah indeed.

But bank shareholders, surely they ought to be cheering as well. And that includes us taxpayers, because we're still sitting on all those bank shares.

Just as a reminder - in case you'd somehow forgotten - we currently own not just the Crock, but also 27.6 billion (yes, I did say BILLION) shares in Lloyds, and an astonishing 90.6 billion shares in RBS.

Hurrah!

The question is why aren't we selling them yet?

We've blogged this before. Not only does the government have no business owning commercial banks, but the price of these things has moved right back up again. Indeed, Lloyds is now back above our 72.2 pence average purchase price - we're actually in profit!



Tyler's fag packet says that at current prices our stakes in Lloyds and RBS are worth £68bn. Money we could use immediately to reduce our gigantic national debt.

What's that?

Hold on because bank share prices are bound to head even higher?

My friend, if you feel that way, my strong advice is to remortgage your house and family and snap up some RBS shares while stocks last.

The truth is that nobody has the faintest idea where bank shares are heading. And governments should not be in the business of punting around in the equity market with our money.

********

Tyler is now taking a few days break.

But as a parting shot, let's just note the public appeal to help victims of the catastrophic floods in Pakistan (you can donate here).

Obviously we all want to help. But most of all we want our government to get emergency relief out there fast.

Is DfID up to that?

Why does it always seem that serious help takes so long to organise and arrive on site? Disaster zones seem to be crawling with western TV reporters long before the official relief effort finally gets into gear.

As we've blogged several times, the vast bulk of DfID's £7bn budget goes not on humanitarian relief of the kind they're dying for right now in Pakistan, but on economic development where the evidence of success is virtually non-existent (eg see this blog). The priorities seem entirely wrong.

It makes Tyler angry.

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