There's Silly, And Then There's Silly . . .
Jeremy Hetherington-Gore Unleashed
06 September, 2009
The silly season is supposed to be over at the end of August, and we journalists should get back to writing about real things like how Gordon Brown is saving the world instead of the colour of Carla Bruni's swimsuit and Mr Berlusconi's hair transplants. But nobody told Austrian Finance Minister Josef Pröll, who last week came out in favour of a Tobin tax (on financial transactions), not realising that the UK's Lord Turner had only been joking when he suggested it in August. Perhaps the noble lord had been put up to it by a friend on the Guardian, desperate for something to write about.
Anyway, now that this broken-down old nag, which everyone (except Mr Pröll) imagined had finally been put out to grass for good, has been paraded again, with bandaged knees, limping and snuffling, let's take it seriously. I won't weary you with an explanation of why proponents of the Tobin tax are economically illiterate (even Lord Turner knows that phrase) but I'm sure you can find out about it in Wikipedia if you have nothing better to do for half an hour.
No, I am going to recommend that the offshore jurisdictions support the Tobin tax for all they are worth, try to get it on the G20 agenda, encourage the OECD to produce a set of Tobin Guidelines, wind up the United Nations to explain again how it will solve all of Africa's problems - and then, at the last moment, fail to sign up to it, so that the whole world except for the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and a few other specks of sand and rock crowds onto the ludicrous band-waggon.
Imagine. Before the ink is dry on the G20 communique, every foreign exchange department in every bank in every city across the planet will immediately treble the size of their Hong Kong and Cayman Islands subsidiaries. The price of apartments on the Peak and in George Town will reach stratospheric heights; and Denis O'Brian, Digicel's founder, will buy himself another yacht. Over the first five years of the new regime, the coupons on Eurobonds will go up by 600 basis points as a massive new debt issuance industry develops offshore, the UK's national debt will reach 135% instead of the expected 95%, President Obama will have apoplexy as Ugland House adds three floors and another 18,000 brass plates; and Lord Turner will be given the Freedom of Hong Kong.
Oh well, time to wake up and stop dreaming. It's September, after all, and I have to go to Pittsburgh.
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