Verdict on the G20


Oh, what a circus! Oh what a show! But after diverting London's traffic, 85,000 police hours and a lot of our cash from more useful destinations, what good has come of the G20?

Not a lot. For a start, they obviously couldn't agree on a financial stimulus package. Thank goodness there is someone out there who figures, unlike Gordon Brown, that you can't borrow your way out of debt. Or tax you way out, for that matter. A reassuringly large round figure – $1trn – is to be spent, but largely on poor countries, and on trade. That's welcome, inasmuch as poor countries (and many developed ones, like Japan) have seen their exports plummet as we Westerners have all tightened our belts and stopped buying new cars and clothes. Even so, the money has to come from somewhere, and it will come from higher taxes or higher government borrowing, which will actually depress economic enterprise among the wealthier countries. Ho hum.

Regulating the hedge funds was long expected, but the customers of hedge funds are financially-savvy people who frankly ought to be able to look out for themselves. Regulating them will do little, apart from encouraging all sorts of non-savvy customers to go into rather risky investments in the belief that the regulator will save them from their own imprudence. And regulating bank bonuses? That's a pure greed policy. Bonuses aren't to blame for the crisis – governments are to blame. They're the ones who spread money and credit around like confetti in order to save us from busts and create a rather long and enjoyable boom. It was a great party, they poured the drink until we could hold no more, and no we're suffering the hangover.

And we're going to have a new quango, the Financial Stability Board, to save us from future international crises. Sounds like the old International Monetary Fund again (the one which had to invent a new international-development role for itself when floating currencies made its old currency-stability role disappeared). But markets move fast, and the numbers are huge. New quango-crats have no hope of keeping up with them, any more than the Financial Services Authority did.

In two years from now, this circus will be largely forgotten. It will be business as usual, except that we'll all be in even greater debt. Frankly, they could have all stayed at home and Skyped each other rather than disrupt life for the rest of us. It would have been a lot cheaper, and they would probably have come up with something a lot less dull.

Dr Eamonn Butler's new book The Rotten State of Britain is published this month. Click here to find out more.