Home » Posts tagged 'Jean-Claude Trichet'
Tag Archives: Jean-Claude Trichet
When the IMF Meets: Here’s What Happened At the Global Plutocracy’s Pow Wow in Peru
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
26 October 2015
Originally posted at Occupy.com
On October 6, the finance ministers, central bankers and development ministers from 188 countries convened for the Annual Meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Lima, Peru. The yearly gathering is one of the top scheduled events on the calendar of economic diplomats, bringing them together for private discussions, seminars and press conferences with journalists. And of course it’s a big deal for the thousands of private bankers and financiers who are there to cut deals with the chief financial policymakers in those 188 IMF-member nations.
It was ironic that this year’s meeting took place in Peru at a time when emerging market economies are experiencing increased economic problems: the result of a combined slow-down in economic growth in China, a collapse in commodity prices, and threats by the U.S. Federal Reserve to hike interest rates in the near future. Indeed, talk of China, interest rate hikes and emerging market crisis was plentiful in Peru. Central bankers, unsurprisingly, came out generally in favor of raising rates, with top monetary officials from emerging markets saying they more feared the uncertainty about when rates would rise than the rise itself, and urged the Fed to simply get on with it.
Global Pow Wow
The annual meetings bring together the Board of Governors of the IMF, made up of the central bankers or finance ministers from the Fund’s 188 member nations. But the Governors are given their marching orders from the 24-member International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), made up of ministers and central bank governors from the 24 major constituencies represented on the IMF’s Executive Board, and whose membership largely reflects that of the Group of Twenty (G20).
The IMFC held their meeting in Lima on Oct. 9, presided over by the committee’s chairman, Agustin Carstens, the Governor of the Central Bank of Mexico, and the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. In attendance were the finance ministers of Japan (Taro Aso), India (Arun Jaitley), Argentina (Axel Kicillof), Brazil (Joaquim Levy), France (Michel Sapin), Italy (Pier Carlo Padoan), Germany (Wolfgang Schauble), Singapore (Tharman Shanmugaratnam), Great Britain (George Osborne) and the United States (Jack Lew), along with top-level central bankers from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Norway, Algeria, Colombia, Belgium and China.
Also participating in the IMFC meeting were Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and Chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB); Jaime Caruana, General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS); Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice President of the European Commission; Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and other top representatives from OPEC, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
These various financial diplomats met and made prepared statements, but the real work and decision-making took place in the IMFC’s off-the-record discussions. These discussions also included, as usual, a joint meeting between the IMFC and the G20, after which the G20 held a press conference discussing recent agreements made by the world’s top economic diplomats collectively representing roughly 85% of global GDP.
The meetings followed the consistent hierarchy of operations among the world’s most powerful economies, starting with a private gathering of the finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven (G7) nations, including the U.S., Germany, Japan, UK, France, Italy and Canada. This was followed by a gathering of ministers and monetary chiefs from the G20 nations (consisting of the G7 plus China, Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Korea, Indonesia and the European Union). The heads of the world’s major international organizations also attended these meetings, functioning effectively as a steering committee for the global economy. The G20 then held a joint session with the IMFC, which functions as the steering committee of the IMF.
The IMFC’s communiqué following its meeting warned that global economic growth was “modest and uneven” with increased “uncertainty and financial market volatility.” Risks to the global economy “have increased,” it noted, in particular for emerging markets.
Apart from the IMFC and G20, a number of other important meetings took place on the sidelines of the annual gathering, many of which prominently featured bankers. One of the most important gatherings of global financiers was the Annual Membership Meeting of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a consortium of roughly 500 global financial institutions including banks, asset managers, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, central banks, credit ratings agencies and development banks.
From Oct. 9-10, the world’s top bankers and financiers then held luncheons and private meetings with the world’s top economic policy-makers, who were also invited to attend or speak at the conference proceedings. The IIF’s opening ceremony was addressed by Peru’s President Ollanta Humala Tasso, and included guest speakers like the finance minister of Indonesia and central bankers from Thailand and Malaysia, as well as the top Swedish central banker, Stefan Ingves, who serves as chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) which is responsible for shaping and implementing global banking regulations known as Basel III.
On the second day of the IIF’s meeting, guest speakers included top officials from Brazil’s finance ministry, the World Bank, and a keynote address was delivered by the governor of Canada’s central bank, Stephen S. Poloz. The rest of the day included talks by finance ministers and central bankers from Colombia, Chile and Peru; a top official from the central bank of France; and an official from the Financial Stability Board (FSB), which is a group of global central banks, finance ministries and regulators responsible for managing stability of financial markets.
Another important gathering in Lima was the Group of Thirty (G30), presided over by its Chairman Jean-Claude Trichet, the former President of the European Central Bank. The G30 was established in 1978 as a nonprofit group of roughly 30 sitting and former central bankers, finance ministers, economists and private bankers, with the aim “to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues” and “to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”
Among the G30’s current members are former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker; Mark Carney of the Bank of England and Financial Stability Board; Jaime Caruana of the BIS; Mario Draghi of the ECB; William C. Dudley of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King; economist Paul Krugman; Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda; Bank of France Governor and BIS Chairman Christian Noyer; Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan; Tharman Shanmugaratnam of Singapore; former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; Chinese central banker Zhou Xiaochuan; and top bankers from UBS, JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and Goldman Sachs.
This year, the G30 held its annual International Banking Seminar in Peru, “an invitation-only, off-the-record forum that allows for frank discussion and debate of the thorniest issues confronting the central banking community,” bringing together “over fifty percent of the world’s central bank governors, the Chairmen and CEOs of the financial sector, and a select few academics to debate financial and systemic issues of global import.”
The meeting included a short speech by Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, who told the audience that the Fed’s interest rate rise was “an expectation, not a commitment.” Fischer acknowledged that “shifting expectations concerning U.S. interest rates could lead to more volatility in financial markets and the value of the dollar, intensifying spillovers to other economies, including emerging market economies.” He reassured his audience, however, that the Fed will “remain committed to communicating our intentions as clearly as possible… to assist market participants, be they in the private or the public sector, in understanding our intentions as they make their investment decisions.”
Behind Closed Doors
But the true importance of the annual IMF meetings is not what happens in formal proceedings and seminars, but the various secret meetings of finance ministers, central bankers and private financiers that take place on the sidelines of the official conference. In these closed-door events, a select group of government and monetary officials, primarily those from the G7 and G20 nations, were invited to wine and dine with bankers at decadent dinners and lavish parties, and speak to private gatherings of the world’s top investors and money managers. It’s here, in these various meetings, where the world’s chief financial diplomats were able to meet, greet and receive praise or criticism from their true constituents: the global financial elite.
As usual, the annual pow wow of the global plutocracy came and went with little comment outside the financial press. But as always, the annual IMF meetings – and the more secretive, simultaneous gatherings of global economic diplomats and financiers on the sidelines – represented the core of global economic governance, manifest in the various ad-hoc committees that in essence rule the world.
These individuals’ main interactions were not with the populations in their home nations – the people who suffer under austerity, who have to “adjust” to the restructuring of their societies into “market economies” – but rather with those from whom they have the most to gain: bankers, billionaires and financiers. And rest assured, when the officials retire from their central bank and finance ministry positions, they will be stepping out of their membership in the G7, G20 and IMFC, and into the boardrooms of JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, Barclays and Deutsche Bank. They will be well rewarded, with large salaries and bonuses for a job well done while in public office. And the revolving door of global economic governance will keep turning.
Who Rules Europe?
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
22 July 2015
If you like this video, please consider making a donation to support my work.
Between Berlin and a Hard Place: Greece and the German Strategy to Dominate Europe
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
7 July 2015
“They just wanted to take a bat to them,” said former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, referring to the attitude of European leaders towards debt-laden Greece in February of 2010, three months before the country’s first bailout. Mr. Geithner, Treasury Secretary from 2009 until 2013, was attending a meeting of the finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of Seven (G7) nations: the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.
It was the first occasion he had to meet Germany’s new Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, presenting an opportunity to pressure the Europeans to end the crisis. The Europeans, specifically Germany and the European Central Bank (ECB), always had the ability to end the crisis. Putting up enough money in a regional bailout fund or allowing the ECB to fund governments (acting as a ‘lender of last resort’) would provide enough reassurance to the markets that no country would go bankrupt and therefore the crisis would end. It was referred to as the ‘big bazooka’ option, but Mr. Geithner had no such luck in convincing the Europeans to act quickly, largely due to German resistance.
The Europeans arrived at the G7 meeting in the remote Arctic Canadian city of Iqaluit wanting “to teach the Greeks a lesson” and “crush them,” explained Mr. Geithner. The Treasury Secretary warned them, “You can put your foot on the neck of those guys if that’s what you want to do,” but they still had to take action to reassure markets that the crisis would not spread to other countries, or threaten the euro itself. “I thought it was just inconceivable to me they would let it get as bad as they ultimately did,” said Mr. Geithner.
As the United States and the rest of the world would learn, the European strategy for the debt crisis that began in Greece and spread across the eurozone would be dictated by Germany, “the undisputed dominant power in Europe.” More than five years later, the Americans are still pressuring the Europeans to resolve their debt crisis problems, but to little effect. The stakes are now even higher as the U.S. fears the possibility of losing Greece to Russia, a conflict in which Germany is increasingly involved.
The Americans would attempt to influence Europe’s crisis through extensive contact between Mr. Geithner and Mr. Schauble at the German Finance Ministry, Mario Draghi at the ECB, and Christine Lagarde at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Americans knew that for anything to get done in Europe, you needed the Germans and the central bankers on board. The U.S. spy agency, the NSA, was even wiretapping the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, top officials of the Finance Ministry and the ECB, with a particular interest in economic issues and Greece.
Germany’s political strategy was to allow the debt crisis to spread, creating the pressure required to force eurozone nations to accept German demands of restructuring their economies in return for financial aid from the EU. The German magazine Der Spiegel described Frau Merkel’s overall European strategy: “the aim was to solve the debt crisis in a step-by-step fashion.”
“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” said the Chancellor in May of 2010, shortly after the first Greek bailout program was agreed. “The euro is in danger. If we do not avert this danger, then the consequences for Europe are incalculable and then the consequences beyond Europe are incalculable.” Merkel worked closely with Mr. Schauble at the Finance Ministry and her Minister of Economics, Rainer Brüderle, to write a draft proposal outlining the changes Germany wanted in the European Union.
The German publication Der Spiegel was leaked a copy of the draft, and concluded: “Berlin is serious about taking the lead as the euro zone struggles with a suddenly weak currency.” Germany wanted a Europe where the European Commission had the power to suspend the voting rights of nations for violating the eurozone’s debt and spending laws, including plans for managing the bankruptcy of a member nation. “Europe,” said Angela Merkel, “needs a new culture of stability.” But that culture would be enforced through the destabilizing power of financial market crises.
The German bet was that the EU could outrun financial markets, using the crisis as an opportunity to advance fiscal and political integration and impose their demands upon the rest of Europe, while simultaneously preventing markets from creating a crisis so severe that it threatened the euro or the economies of the more powerful nations. Without the pressure of financial markets, the EU could not force its member nations to restructure their economies and societies. Chancellor Merkel would frequently describe the European debt crisis to her colleagues as a “poker game” between financial markets and politicians. The first to flinch would lose.
In 2011, Bloomberg noted that Merkel was “turning Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis into an opportunity to reshape the euro region in Germany’s image,” concluding that she had “pulled ahead for now in her battle to restore policy makers’ mastery over the market.” A biographer of Merkel explained, “It’s policy by trial and error.”
Merkel’s powerful Finance Minister, Mr. Schauble, was one of the chief architects of the German strategy for Europe’s crisis. In March of 2010, he wrote in the Financial Times that, “from Germany’s perspective, European integration, monetary union and the euro are the only choice.” But aid comes with strings attached and harsh penalties for violations. “It must, on principle, still be possible for a state to go bankrupt,” wrote Mr. Schauble. “Facing an unpleasant reality could be the better option in certain conditions.”
The German minister believed “the financial crisis in the eurozone is not just a threat, but an opportunity,” as markets would “force the most debt-laden members of the 17-nation currency union to curb their budget deficits and increase their competitiveness.” This would pressure governments to accept further integration into a “fiscal union” defined and shaped by Germany. “We need to take big steps to get that done,” Mr. Schauble said in 2011. “That is why crises are also opportunities. We can get things done that we could not do without the crisis.”
Financial markets were happy to oblige the German-EU strategy, as the crisis would force the reforms long demanded by banks as a solution to the irresponsible spending of governments: austerity and structural reform. From 2002 to 2012, Josef Ackermann led Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank. In 2011, the New York Times described Ackermann as “the most powerful banker in Europe” and “possibly the most dangerous one, too,” standing “at the center of more concentric circles of power than any other banker on the Continent.”
When the financial crisis struck in 2008, Angela Merkel and Josef Ackermann established a close working relationship, though not without its ups and downs. “We have a cordial and professional relationship,” said Mr. Ackermann in 2011. The banker would advise Frau Merkel on her strategy through the financial and debt crises, also working closely with Jean-Claude Trichet, then-president of the ECB. From his “seat at the nexus of money and politics,” Ackermann was “helping to shape Europe’s economic and financial future.”
After he left Deutsche Bank in 2012, Ackermann delivered a speech to the U.S.-based think tank, the Atlantic Council, where he outlined Germany’s overall strategy for Europe’s crisis. When asked why Germany simply didn’t say that it would do whatever it took to protect the euro and eurozone nations from bankruptcy (thus ending the financial crisis), Ackermann explained that it was largely due to a “political tactical consideration.” While such an option would surely end the market panic and save the euro, it would be unacceptable to the German public, let alone the German parliament.
But another major problem, noted Mr. Ackermann, was that if Germany made such an announcement, other eurozone nations “would then say, well, why then go on with our austerity programs? Why go on with our reforms? We have what we need.” Thus, he said, “I think to keep the pressure up until the last minute is probably a – not a bad political solution.” However, “if it comes to the worst,” with the potential of a eurozone collapse, the banker had “no doubt” that Germany would come to the rescue.
If the eurozone collapsed, not only would an economic and financial contagion spread with drastic consequences for all its members and the world economy as a whole, but there was also a strong political element. “A fragmented Europe has no way for self-determination,” said Mr. Ackermann. “We will have to accept what the United States, China, India, Brazil and other countries will finally define for us.” But Germany was to define the future of Europe.
“My vision is political union,” said Chancellor Merkel in January of 2012. “Europe has to follow its own path. We need to get closer step by step, in all policy areas.” In the Chancellor’s Europe, Brussels (home of the European Commission) was to be given immense new powers over member nations. “In the course a long process,” she said, “we will transfer more powers to the Commission, which will then work as a European government.” Outlining the EU’s path to a federation of nations functioning like individual states within the U.S., Merkel said, “This could be the future shape of the European political union.” Further integration among eurozone nations was a major objective, she explained, “we need to give institutions more control rights and give them more teeth.”
As Chancellor Merkel and other German leaders would frequently remind the rest of Europe and the world, with 7% of the world population, 25% of global GDP and 50% of world social spending, Europe’s economic system was unsustainable and uncompetitive in a globalized economy. Germany’s vision for Europe was aimed at introducing “rules to force Europe’s economies to become more competitive.” But competitiveness was defined by Germany, and thus, “the rest of Europe needs to become more like Germany.”
Germany wanted Greece and the rest of Europe to impose ‘budgetary discipline’ through austerity measures: cutting public spending in order to reduce the debt. But these are painful and highly destructive policies that depress the economy, impoverish the population, destabilize the political system, undermine democracy and devastate the wider society. If you live in a country where the government funds healthcare, education, social services, welfare, pensions and anything that benefits the general population, under austerity measures, now you don’t! Not surprisingly, austerity is always unpopular with the people who are forced to live through it.
Only in times of crisis can austerity be pushed through. When financial markets threaten to cut a country off from its sources of funding, it must to turn to larger nations and international organizations for financial aid. “The current strategy of the EU,” wrote Wolfgang Münchau in a November 2009 article for the Financial Times, “is to raise the political pressure – perhaps even provoke a political crisis – with the strategic objective that the Greek government might eventually relent.” And the government would have to relent to the diktats of Germany and “the Troika”: the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who collectively managed Europe’s bailout programs.
In early 2010, European banks held more than 141 billion euros of Greek debt, with the largest share being held by French and German banks. The first bailout largely went to bailout these very banks. Karl Otto Pohl, the former President of the German Bundesbank noted back in 2010 that the Greek bailout was about “rescuing the banks and the rich Greeks,” especially German and French banks. As the Troika bailed out the banks, these institutions took on the Greek debt.
The second bailout organized by the Troika largely went to paying interest on Greek debt owed to the Troika. Thomas Mayer, a senior adviser to Deutsche Bank, said, “the troika is paying themselves.” Between May 2010 and May 2012, Greece had received roughly $177 billion in bailouts from the Troika. A total of two-thirds of that amount went to payoff bondholders (banks and rich Greeks), while the remaining third was left to finance government operations.
In 2015, a study by the Jubilee Debt Campaign noted that of the total 252 billion euros in bailouts for Greece over the previous five years, over 90% ultimately went “to bail out European financial institutions,” leaving less than 10% for anything else. At the time of the first bailout in 2010, Greece had a debt-to-GDP ratio of roughly 130%. As a result of the bailouts and austerity, the debt ratio has risen to 177% of GDP at the beginning of 2015. Thus, after more than five years of supposed efforts to reduce its debt, that debt has grown substantially.
But the banks are no longer the largest holders of Greek debt. Today, the Troika owns 78% of the 317 billion euro Greek debt. Greece now owes the IMF, ECB, and eurozone governments a total of 242.8 billion euros, with the largest single holder being Germany with more than 57 billion euros in Greek debt. And now the Troika wants to be paid back. “In short,” wrote Simon Wren-Lewis in the New Statesman, “it needs money from the Troika to repay the Troika.”
The effects on Greece of more than five years of living under the domination of Germany and the Troika have been palpable. Greece is a ruined economic colony of the European Union. Austerity in Greece led to the creation of “a new class of urban poor” with more than 20,000 people being made homeless over the course of 2011, and dozens of soup kitchens and charities opening up to attempt to address the growing social and human crisis.
As austerity continued to collapse the economy, unemployment and poverty soared. By 2013, more than 27% of Greeks were unemployed and 10% of school-age children were going hungry. Between 2008 and 2013, the Greek government cut 40% of its budget, healthcare costs soared, tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers were fired, drug costs rose, as did drug use with HIV infections doubling and a malaria outbreak was reported for the first time since the 1970s, while suicide rates increased by 60%.
By early 2014, more than a million Greeks were left without access to healthcare, accompanied by rising infant mortality rates. A charity director in Athens noted that, “Alcoholism, drug abuse and psychiatric problems are on the rise and more and more children are being abandoned on the streets.” By 2015, roughly 40% of children in Greece lived under the poverty line while the richest Greeks, responsible for roughly 80% of the tax debt owed to the government, were hiding tens of billions of euros in offshore accounts.
Unemployment has grown to 26% (and over 50% for youth), wages dropped by 33%, pensions were cut by 45%, and 40% of retired Greeks now live below the poverty line. Just prior to the Greek elections that brought his party to power in January of 2015, Alexis Tsipras wrote in the Financial Times that, “This is a humanitarian crisis.” Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning former chief economist of the World Bank, wrote in late June of 2015 that, “I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences.”
Thus, the German-Troika strategy of prolonging the debt crisis to reshape Europe has resulted in a human, social and political crisis that threatens the future of democracy in Europe itself. Germany has, in effect, established an economic empire over Europe, largely operating through the Troika institutions, all of which are unaccountable technocratic tyrannies.
The first pillar of the Troika is the International Monetary Fund (IMF), based in Washington, D.C., just a few short blocks down the road from the White House and U.S. Treasury Department. The United States is the largest single shareholder in the IMF, and the only one of its 188 member nations with veto power over major Fund decisions. The Financial Times referred to the IMF as “a tool of US global financial power.”
In 1977, U.S. Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal described the IMF as “a kind of whipping boy” in a memo to President Carter. In return for a loan to a country in crisis, the Fund would demand harsh austerity measures and other ‘structural reforms’ designed to restructure the economy along the lines desired by Washington. “If we didn’t have the IMF,” wrote Blumenthal, “we would have to invent another institution to perform this function.”
In the early 1990s, the IMF was managing ‘programs’ in over 50 countries around the world, and was “long been demonized as an all-powerful, behind-the-scenes puppeteer for the third world,” noted the New York Times. In 1992, the Financial Times noted that the fall of the Soviet Union “left the IMF and G7 to rule the world and create a new imperial age.” Operating through the Troika, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde took a “tough love” approach to Greece, with the Fund being referred to as “the toughest” of the three institutions.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is another pillar of the Troika, run by unelected central bankers responsible for managing the monetary union, with its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, home to the German central bank (the Bundesbank) and Germany’s large financial sector. Throughout the crisis, Brussels has pushed to give the ECB more powers, specifically to oversee the formation and management of a single ‘banking union’ for the EU. The ECB has, in turn, advocated for more power to be given to Brussels.
The ECB played a central role in the debt crisis, pushing Greece into a deep crisis in late 2009, making “an example” of the country for the rest of Europe, blackmailing Ireland into accepting a Troika bailout program, then blackmailing Portugal into doing the same, and putting political pressure on Italy and Spain to implement austerity measures.
In late 2014, ECB President Mario Draghi rebooted efforts to advance integration of the economic and monetary union. When the anti-austerity Syriza government came to power in Greece in early 2015, the ECB was placed to be “the ultimate power broker” in negotiations between the country and its creditors. A member of the central bank’s executive board welcomed the democratic victory in Greece by warning, “Greece has to pay, those are the rules of the European game.”
The ECB took a hardline approach to dealing with Greece, increasing the pressure on Athens to reach a deal with its creditors, with The Economist referring to the central bank as “the enforcer.” This unelected and democratically unaccountable institution holds immense, undeniable power in Europe.
The European Commission is the third pillar of the Troika based in Brussels, functioning as the executive branch of the European Union overseeing a vast bureaucracy of unelected officials with responsibility for managing the union. Throughout the crisis, the Commission has been given sweeping new powers over economic and spending policies and priorities of member nations.
Brussels was to be given the centralized power to approve and reject national budgets of eurozone nations, establishing a technocrat-run ‘fiscal union’ to match the ECB’s role in managing the monetary union. EU institutions would have “more powers to serve like a finance ministry” for all the nations of the eurozone, potentially with its own finance minister, “who would have a veto against national budgets and would have to approve levels of new borrowing,” said Mr. Schauble, the German Finance Minister.
In 2007, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso mused aloud during a press conference. “Sometimes I like to compare the E.U. as a creation to the organisation of empires,” he said. “We have the dimension of Empire but there is a great difference. Empires were usually made with force with a centre imposing diktat, a will on the others. Now what we have is the first non-Imperial empire.” Eight years later, it is clear that the EU is officially an imperial empire, using bailouts not bombs, choosing the Troika over tanks, Brussels over bullets, austerity instead of armies, advocating for consolidation instead of colonization.
Philippe Legrain, a British political economist, author, and adviser to President Barroso from 2011 to 2013 wrote that the debt crisis “divided the euro zone into creditor nations and debtor ones,” and the EU’s institutions “have become instruments for creditors to impose their will on debtors, subordinating Europe’s southern ‘periphery’ to the northern ‘core’ in a quasi-colonial relationship. Berlin and Brussels now have a vested interest to entrench this system rather than cede power and admit to mistakes.”
“In general,” wrote Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times in 2007, “the [European] Union has progressed fastest when far-reaching deals have been agreed by technocrats and politicians – and then pushed through without direct reference to the voters. International governance tends to be effective,” he concluded, “only when it is anti-democratic.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson of the past five years of crisis is that in a Europe under the rule of Germany and the Troika, the people and democracy suffer most. For democracy to survive in Europe, the technocratic tyranny of the Troika and debt-based domination of Germany must be challenged. Democracy is too important to be sacrificed at the altar of austerity. It is any wonder why Greeks voted ‘no’ to the status quo?
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a freelance researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada.
Please consider making a donation to help support my research and writing.
Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty, Architects of Austerity
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Originally posted at Occupy.com
The Group of Thirty, a preeminent think tank that brings together dozens of the world’s most influential policy makers, central bankers, financiers and academics, has been the focus of two recent reports for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project. In studying this group, I compiled CVs of the G30’s current and senior members: a total of 34 individuals. The first report looked at the origins of the G30, while the second examined some of the current projects and reports emanating from the group. In this installment, I take a look at some specific members of the G30 and their roles in justifying and implementing austerity measures.
Central Bankers, Markets and Austerity
For the current members of the Group of Thirty who are sitting or recently-sitting central bankers, their roles in the financial and economic turmoil of recent years is well-known and, most especially, their role in bailing out banks, providing long-term subsidies and support mechanisms for financial markets, and forcing governments to implement austerity and “structural reform” policies, notably in the European Union. With both the former European Central Bank (ECB) President Jean-Claude Trichet and current ECB President Mario Draghi serving as members of the G30, austerity measures have become a clearly favored policy of the G30.
In a January 2010 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Jean-Claude Trichet explained that he had been “involved personally in numerous financial crises since the beginning of the 1980s,” in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Soviet Union, having been previously the president of the Paris Club – an “informal” grouping that handles debt crisis and restructuring issues on behalf the world’s major creditor nations. In this capacity, Trichet “had to deal with around 55 countries that were in bankruptcy.”
In July of 2010, Trichet wrote in the Financial Times that “now is the time to restore fiscal sustainability,” noting that “consolidation is a must,” which is a different way of saying austerity. In each of E.U. government bailouts – of which the ECB acted as one of the three central institutions responsible for negotiating and providing the deal, alongside the European Commission and the IMF, forming the so-called Troika – austerity measures were always a required ingredient, which subsequently plunged those countries into even deeper economic, social and political crises (Spain and Greece come to mind).
The same was true under the subsequent ECB president and G30 member, Draghi, who has continued to demand austerity measures, structural reforms (notably in dismantling the protections for labor), and extended support to the banking system, even to a greater degree than his predecessor. In a February 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Draghi stated that “the European social model has already gone,” noting that countries of the Eurozone would have “to make labour markets more flexible.” He meant, of course, that they must have worker protections and benefits dismantled to make them more “flexible” to the demands of corporate and financial interests who can more easily and cheaply exploit that labor.
In a 2012 interview with Der Spiegel, Draghi noted that European governments will have to “transfer part of their sovereignty to the European level” and recommended that the European Commission be given the supranational authority to have a direct say in the budgets of E.U. nations, adding that “a lot of governments have yet to realize that they lost their national sovereignty a long time ago.” He further explained, incredibly, that since those governments let their debts pile up they must now rely on “the goodwill of the financial markets.”
Another notable member of the Group of Thirty who has been a powerful figure among the world’s oligarchs of austerity is Jaime Caruana, the General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which serves as the bank for the central banks of the world. Caruana was previously Governor of the Bank of Spain, from 2000 to 2006, during which time Spain experienced its massive housing bubble that led directly to the country’s debt crisis amid the global recession. In 2006, a team of inspectors within the Bank of Spain sent a letter to the Spanish government criticizing then-Governor Caruana for his “passive attitude” toward the massive bubble he was helping to facilitate.
As head of the BIS, Caruana delivered a speech in June of 2011 to the assembled central bankers at an annual general meeting in Basel, Switzerland, in which he gave his full endorsement of the austerity agenda across Europe, noting that “the need for fiscal consolidation [austerity] is even more urgent” than during the previous year. He added, “There is no easy way out, no shortcut, no painless solution – that is, no alternative to the rigorous implementation of comprehensive country packages including strict fiscal consolidation and structural reforms.”
At the 2013 annual general meeting of the BIS, Caruana again warned that attempts by governments “at fiscal consolidation need to be more ambitious,” and warned that if financial markets view a government’s debt as unsustainable, “bond investors can and do punish governments hard and fast.” If governments continue to delay austerity, he said, the markets will have to use “market discipline” to force governments to act, “and then the pain will be large indeed.” In further recommending “structural reforms” to labor and service markets, Caruana noted that “the reforms are critical to attaining and preserving confidence,” by which, of course, he meant the confidence of markets.
The ‘Academic’ of Austerity: Kenneth Rogoff
Kenneth Rogoff is an influential academic economist and a member of the Group of Thirty. Rogoff currently hold a position as professor at Harvard University and as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He sits on the Economic Advisory Panel to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and previously Rogoff spent time as the chief economist of the IMF as well serving as an adviser to the executive board of the Central Bank of Sweden. Rogoff is these days most famous – or infamous – for co-authoring (with Carmen Reinhart) a study published in 2010 that made the case for austerity measures to become the favored policy of nations around the world.
The study, entitled, “Growth in a Time of Debt,” appeared in the American Economic Review in 2010 to great acclaim within high-level circles. One of the main conclusions of the paper held that when a country’s debt-to-GDP ratio hits 90%, “they reach a tipping point after which they’ll start experiencing serious growth slowdowns.” The paper was cited by the U.S. Congress as well as by Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and one of Europe’s stalwart defenders of austerity, who has demanded the measures be instituted on multiple countries in the E.U. in return for bailout funds.
A Google Scholar search for the terms “Growth in a Time of Debt” and “Rogoff” turned up approximately 828 results. In 2013, Forbes referred to the paper as “perhaps the most quoted but least read economic publication of recent years.” The paper was also cited in dozens of media outlets around the world, multiple times, especially by influential players in the financial press.
In 2012, Gideon Rachman, writing in the Financial Times, said Rogoff was “much in demand to advise world leaders on how to counter the financial crisis,” and noted that while the economist had been attending the World Economic Forum meetings for a decade, he had become “more in demand than ever” after having “written the definitive history of financial crises over the centuries” alongside Carmen Reinhart. Rogoff was consulted by Barack Obama, “and is known to have spent many hours with George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor,” wrote Rachman, noting that Rogoff advised government’s “to get serious about cutting their deficits, [which] strongly influenced the British government’s decision to make controlling spending its priority.”
The praise became all the more noteworthy in April of 2013 when researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, published a paper accusing Rogoff and Reinhart of “sloppy statistical analysis” while documenting several key mistakes that undermined the conclusions of the original 2010 paper. The report from Amherst exploded across global media, immediately forcing Rogoff and Reinhart on the defensive. The New Yorker noted that “the attack from Amherst has done enormous damage to Reinhart and Rogoff’s credibility, and to the intellectual underpinnings of the austerity policies with which they are associated.”
As New York Times columnist and fellow G30 member Paul Krugman noted, the original 2010 paper by Reinhart and Rogoff “may have had more immediate influence on public debate than any previous paper in the history of economics.” After the Amherst paper, he added, “The revelation that the supposed 90 percent threshold was an artifact of programming mistakes, data omissions, and peculiar statistical techniques suddenly made a remarkable number of prominent people look foolish.” Krugman, who had firmly opposed austerity policies long before Rogoff’s paper, suggested that “the case for austerity was and is one that many powerful people want to believe, leading them to seize on anything that looks like a justification.”
Indeed, many of those “powerful people” happen to be members of the Group of Thirty who are, with the notable exception of Krugman, largely in favor of austerity measures. Krugman himself tends to represent the limits of acceptable dissent within the G30, criticizing policies and policy makers while accepting the fundamental concepts of the global financial and economic system. He commented that he had been a member of the G30 since 1988 and referred to it as a “talk shop” where he gets “a chance to hear what people like Trichet and Draghi have to say in an informal setting,” adding, “while I’ve heard some smart things from people with a role in real-world decisions, I’ve also heard a lot of very foolish things said by alleged wise men.”
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and World of Resistance (WOR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty and Its Methods of Financial Governance
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Originally posted at Occupy.com
In the first part of this exposé, I examined the origins and recent history of the Group of Thirty as a highly influential institution in the arena of global financial governance, bringing together top central bankers, financiers, policymakers and academics in the world of economic and monetary affairs.
More than three decades since it was founded in 1978, the Group of Thirty has maintained its reputation as a prominent institution in the financial world, continuing to produce influential reports and advocate for policies which are largely accepted and implemented across the globe.
The G30, as it is often referred to, describes itself as “a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia” which “aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”
In her dissertation on global financial governance, Eleni Tsingou, Assistant Professor at the Department of Business and Politics at the Copenhagen Business School, focused on the role of the Group of Thirty in shaping the global financial system, noting that the G-30 “has had an important impact on financial regulatory and supervisory practices both at the national and global levels…in a way that was consistent with private sector interests.”
She noted, “the G-30 has contributed to the emergence of a mix of public and private authority in global finance and has considerably strengthened the role of private interests in the functions of regulation and supervision.”
By the late 1990s, the G30 had played a central role in the governance of the global financial system – with a very direct role in managing the clearance and settlement of securities and over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives – ultimately directing the course of the debate and the resulting policies of regulation (or lack thereof). The Group of Thirty had thus “found itself in a privileged position at the centre of the financial policy arena.”
The Group went on to have a significant influence on the type of banking regulation set forth through the Basel II process of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, run out of the Bank for International Settlements. More specifically, the G-30 was a strong promoter of “self-regulation” and “self-supervision” of the financial markets, or, in other words, granting the banks the authority to “regulate” themselves, which obviously led to disastrous consequences.
G30 Report: Long-Term Finance and Economic Growth
In 2012, the G30 published a report compiled by the Working Group on Long-term Finance, which was composed of nearly two-thirds of the membership of the G30 and which set out their concerns about “the efficient provision of a level of long-term finance sufficient to support expected sustainable economic growth in advanced and emerging economies.” The report aimed to estimate “future financing needs” and to “identify the barriers” which would get in the way of supporting “long-term growth” for the economy.
The report noted directly that it was not an “abstract exercise,” but was “operational,” complete with “practical recommendations for global and national actors and policy makers that would…help create a system of long-term finance.” In other words, for the Group of Thirty, they don’t produce mere “recommendations,” but rather “instructions” which they expect to be followed. It is of significance that many of those who produced the report and who are members of the G30 conveniently hold an official position so as to be able to dutifully implement those instructions.
The report noted some “ideal candidates” to manage long-term financing, such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, endowments and foundations. By the end of 2010, these institutions had roughly $57 trillion in assets, a number which the G30 predicted would increase by $3 trillion per year until 2020.
Noting that the world’s major economies would be continuing to undergo austerity measures – or “fiscal consolidation” programs – over the “medium-term,” the ability of governments to make investments would be heavily restrained. Thus, “the private sector will need to be mobilized to fill the gap.” In other words, so-called “public-private partnerships” become the route to go, to ensure that corporations and banks reap massive profits, subsidized by governments.
The G30 report made the claim that “open markets help support sustainable economic growth,” and then recommended that emerging market economies follow the major industrial nations down the same path that helped create the global financial crisis by suggesting that they “gradually move toward liberalization of capital accounts,” to allow money to flow in (and out) of countries with more ease and less regulation (if any).
What makes the G30, and its recommendations, so important is not only the fact that they are taken seriously by policymakers and market “participants” – but that the very individuals making the recommendations are in positions of power to directly implement or support those same recommendations. Here are a few of those individuals worth noting:
Mark Carney is a member of the Group of Thirty, while also sitting as the Governor of the Bank of England (a position he took up in 2013), prior to which he was the Governor of the Bank of Canada from 2008 to 2013. Since 2011, Carney is Chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), run out of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). He is the former Chairman of the Committee on the Global Financial System at the BIS from 2010 to 2012; the first Vice Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board; a member of the board of directors for the BIS; a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, and a participant at Bilderberg Meetings. Previously Carney was a former Deputy Finance Minister in Canada from 2004 to 2008, and a deputy governor of the Bank of Canada from 2003 to 2004, prior to which he worked for Goldman Sachs as an executive for several years.
Jaime Caruana is also a member of the Group of Thirty while sitting as the General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) from 2009 to the present. A member of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) from 2009 to the present, Caruana is also a member of the Group of Trustees of the Principles for the international banking lobby group, the Institute of International Finance (IIF). Previously, Caurana served as the Financial Counselor to the Managing Director of the IMF and as the Governor of the Bank of Spain from 2000 to 2006, where he helped create the Spanish housing bubble that led to Spain’s current crisis. He also sat on the Governing Council of the European Central bank from 2000 to 2006 and was a member of the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) from 2003 to 2009 (at which time it was formed into the FSB), in addition to being former Chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision from 2003 to 2006.
Mario Draghi is a member of the Group of Thirty while acting as current President of the European Central Bank from 2011 to the present, as well as being on the board of the BIS from 2006 to the present and serving as Chairman of the Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision (GHOS) at the BIS from 2013 to the present. Draghi was formerly the Governor of the Bank of Italy, from 2006 to 2011, where he helped put in place the conditions that led to Italy’s current economic and financial crisis. He was a former chairman of the Financial Stability Board from 2009 to 2011; former chairman of the Financial Stability Forum from 2006 to 2009; and a former member of the board of governors of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Draghi was additionally a former Honorary Trustee at the Brookings Institution from 2003 to 2013; a former Director General at the Italian Treasury from 1991 to 2001; chairman of the Italian Committee for Privatizations from 1993 to 2001; former Executive Director at the World Bank from 1984 to 1990; and he served as Vice Chairman and Managing Director for Goldman Sachs International from 2002 to 2005.
A European non-profit organization that documents – and opposes – the influence of corporations on E.U. policy, the Corporate Europe Observatory had filed a complaint with the E.U. that Mario Draghi’s membership in the Group of Thirty represented a conflict of interest as it brought him into an institutional relationship with several representatives of large banks, many of which received financial support from the ECB. In early 2013, the E.U. stated that Draghi’s membership in the G30 did not undermine his “independence” as head of the European Central Bank, since the G30 “should be characterized as a discussion forum, rather than an interest group or lobby seeking to promote private interests.”
Paul Krugman of the New York Times came to the defense of Draghi, while noting that he himself was a member of the Group of Thirty. Krugman wrote on his blog, “It’s a talk shop; I value it because I get a chance to hear what people like Trichet and Draghi have to say in an informal setting.”
These are, of course, not the only major officials who are members of the Group of Thirty within the central banking world, but three among several members. The next part in this series will examine some of the other members of the Group of Thirty and the contributions they have made in the past to creating the global economic and financial crisis, and the current roles they play as members of the G30.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty and the “Good Discussion” They’re Still Having
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Originally posted at Occupy.com
The Group of Thirty (or G-30) describes itself as “a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia,” which “aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”
Its membership consists of roughly thirty major figures in the global financial world, from central banks, academia, international institutions and major private financial institutions. These figures hold regular meetings, conduct research and produce highly-influential reports through various “working groups,” providing a forum for top policy makers and private sector market “actors” to meet and hold discussions, while helping shape consensus and give recommendations to policy makers on issues of finance and governance.
This institution, though not widely discussed, is enormously influential. And here’s why.
The history of the Group of Thirty goes back to the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided the organization’s initial funding. In its 1978 annual report, the Rockefeller Foundation – which represents the interests of highly centralized corporate and financial power – recalled that it was created in 1913 as a response to “the Populist assault on the massive concentration of wealth in the hands of few.” (Annual Report, 1978, Rockefeller Foundation.)
The 1978 report noted that a former managing director of the IMF, Johannes Witteveen, “agreed to assume the chairmanship of a Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs made up of leading bankers, officials, economists, and businessmen from the developed and developing world.” The objective of this group was, the report stated, was “to help analyze, through scholarly inquiry and international consultations, some of the vexing economic and monetary problems facing the world today, and to make their findings widely known.”
The Rockefeller Foundation expressed a keen interest in structuring the global economic and monetary issues of the day, noting that: “The international economic system is not functioning well – as evidenced by slow economic growth, persistent unemployment, and high inflation in many countries, growing skepticism about the capacity of floating exchange rates to correct imbalances of payments, increasing fears of protectionism, and relatively little progress in meeting the needs of developing countries and the quarter of the world’s population that is very poor.”
Thus, the Foundation laid the groundwork for what would come next, by continuing “to concentrate on international economic policy and made plans to bring together a group of experts who will explore the functioning of the international economic system. Beginning with the subject of international monetary problems, the group intends to clarify the issues, identify policy choices for governments, and assess the consequences of alternative policies and institutional arrangements.”
What emerged was the Group of Thirty, originally named the “Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs,” which was to function as a think tank, lobby/industry group and, ultimately, a consensus-building institution for the global elites – to ensure that they stayed that way.
The 1979 annual report of the Rockefeller Foundation noted that the Group of Thirty “began an ambitious program of research, study group analyses, and plenary meetings for the purpose of seeking ways to improve the functioning of the international monetary system.” (Annual Report, 1979, Rockefeller Foundation.)
Fast forward more than three decades and the Group of Thirty remains a highly influential organization in matters of global financial governance. Members of the G-30 have included notable figures such as Josef Ackermann, Pedro Aspe, Alan Greenspan, Andrew Crockett, and the newly-anointed Chair of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen.
The Association for Financial Professionals wrote in 2005 that, “over nearly the past three decades, one thing that has remained continuous in the hurly-burly changing landscape of international economics has been the influence of the Group of Thirty,” which it described as “something of a high-powered global economic think tank.”
Gerd Hausler, an official at the IMF and former Governor of the German Bundesbank, stated: “What makes the G30 unique is that it has very senior people there… It recruits members from the central banks and private companies [to get them] sitting together and mulling ideas at a high level.”
Geoffrey L Bell, who founded the organization at the invitation – and with the money – of the Rockefeller Foundation, commented, “The idea of ‘30’ was to have a good cross-section of people from around the world… but not so many that you couldn’t have a good discussion.”
In March of 2009, the Financial Times published a list of “the 50 people likely to be the most influential in shaping the world debate” on “tackling the many problems” of the global financial and economic crisis, “and charting a course through them to a new world order.”
The article noted that, “networks and institutions will matter as much as individuals,” and in particular it referenced the Group of Thirty as “one interesting connection between these players,” with 11 of the 50 individuals selected on the list being members of the G-30. Four years after the list was published, the number of its individuals who were also members of the G-30 increased to 14.
One of those is Jean-Claude Trichet, the former President of the European Central Bank and current Chairman of the Group of Thirty. Upon assuming his role as chairman in 2011, Trichet stated: “This is a time of exceptional challenges to the global economic and financial system, and the G30 will continue to make significant contributions to the policy debate and enhance understanding of the critical paths to stability and to economic growth.”
As Chairman of the G-30, Trichet also sits as the Honorary Governor of the Banque de France (the French central bank), which he used to direct from 1993 until 2003, when he became President of the European Central Bank (ECB), a position he held through 2011. Trichet was also previously a director of the French Treasury and the former chairman of the Paris Club, from 1985 to 1993. While he was President of the ECB, he also served as a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and as president of the Global Economy Meeting of Central Bank Governors at the BIS from 2002 to 2011.
Today, Trichet holds a number of other highly influential positions. Apart from being Chairman of the G-30, he sits on the board of directors of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, he is on the board of the European military contractor EADS, and he is chairman of the board for the influential European think tank BRUEGEL. Trichet is also, importantly, a member of the Group of Trustees in the global bank industry lobby known as the Institute of International Finance (IIF). He is additionally the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings.
Jacob A. Frenkel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Group of Thirty, is also a member of the Executive Committee of JPMorgan Chase, and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International, while also sitting as a member on the International Council of the bank. Frenkel was the Vice Chairman of American International Group (AIG) from 2004 to 2009, during which time it received its mega-bailout from the Federal Government. He is also a past Chairman of Merrill Lynch International from 2000 to 2004.
Prior, Frenkel was the Governor of the Bank of Israel from 1991 to 2000; Economic Counselor and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 1987 to 1991; David Rockefeller Professor of International Economics at the University of Chicago from 1973 to 1987; former editor of the Journal of Political Economy; and previously a member of the International Advisory Board for the Council on Foreign Relations.
Currently, Frenkel is a member of the board of directors on the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), as well as a member of the Trilateral Commission and the International Advisory Council of the China Development Bank. He too sits on the board of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, and is a member of the Economic Advisory Panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as well as the Investment Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of Turkey. Frenkel is also on the board of directors for Loews Corporation.
This is but a brief introduction to the Group of Thirty, its members, and its influence, which will be elaborated upon in future installments of the Global Power Project. Stay tuned for the second part in the series next week.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.