Friday 29 June 2012

Unite against culture of greed (PO)

M D Nalapat
Regulatory authorities in the UK have imposed a fine totaling nearly $500 million on Barclays Bank, for “manipulating the LIBOR market”. Other large NATO-based banks such as HSBC are also under investigation. In line with the tradition within NATO of allowing financial wrongdoers to escape prosecution, unless of course they happen to be of South Asian ethnicity, no charges have been brought against any senior manager of Barclays. The fine, although seemingly large, is actually quite small in relation to the huge profits being made by uncontrolled speculation indulged in by NATO-based entities.

Over the past two decades, since President Clinton de-criminalised speculative activity in the US and permitted banks to gamble their deposits on making bets on the direction of commodity prices, uncontrolled greed and speculation has led to a huge rise in commodity prices. This inflation in price has been of zero benefit to ordinary persons, having almost entirely been cornered by a handful of individuals with close connections to the top within NATO capitals There is, in fact, very little of a gamble in the overwhelming majority of such transactions. The NATO-based financial institutions use the immense deposits trusted to them by gullible personages in the GCC, South Asia, Russia and elsewhere to rig markets in such a way that commodity prices keep moving up, no matter what the economic fundamentals. Is it coincidence that NATO has consistently followed policies that ensure that oil prices remain at elevated levels? After Iraqi and Libyan oil deliveries were affected by sanctions and by war, it is now the turn of Iran to have its oil cut off from international markets. Each time action gets taken that has the effect of prompting a speculative surge in commodity prices, different justifications get used.

The GCC countries are the most affected by the misdemeanors of financial agencies located within NATO. Having lost $1.3 trillion during the 2008 meltdown, GCC investors are on track to lose a further $2 trillion, once the Euro zone collapses, as is almost certain to happen by March 2013. However, so deep is their faith in NATO that GCC investors even at this eleventh hour continue to trust their savings to institutions within NATO, the same way as Russian oligarchs do.These oligarchs made money with ease, assisted by Boris Yeltsin and the mafia that surrounded the then President of Russia, and they are losing that money with equal speed, because of their faith in NATO-located institutions.

What is unfortunate is the fact that the populations within the NATO countries are innocent of any complicity in the deeds of a few acting in their name. Despite the presence of a few fringe elements, even in countries with a strong ethnic bias such as Germany, EU populations are tolerant and welcoming of diversity. If they had a media which told the truth about the market manipulations of the speculators ,they would themselves move to ensure that their governments stop backing the greedy cheats who are engaged in enriching themselves at the expense of Humanity.

The Holy Quran warns against usury, and against greed, pointing to the immense destruction of universal happiness that such behaviour brings. Sadly, many investors who claim to follow the tenets of the Holy Quran continue to trust their savings to institutions that are a byword for usury andspeculation. These people will have to account for their faith in speculators when the time comes for a reckoning. What needs to be done is for the GCC countries to join hands with others who wish to criminalize speculation, especially in commodities. There needs to be a clear international firewall between banking and speculation, as well as severe penalties on those indulging in speculation. Several European and North American opinion builders support such a move, realizing that unless NATO ceases to be a shield for the greedy and the rapacious, the alliance is doomed to fail. Soft power lasts, while hard power brings with it costs that are unbearable, such as what we have seen in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A dollar kept in institutions that promote usury and speculation is a dollar invested in a way that flouts the Code of Humanity revealed fifteen centuries ago. The Barclays example is the tip of a vast iceberg of similar transactions, all designed to increase the bonus packages of executives at the cost of values and even a few laws. Those who are opposed to usury need to come forward and support others similarly inclined. Commodity speculationhas severely affected the global economy, and the UN General Assembly needs to call a Special Session to discuss this menace, and how to put a end to it.

The GCC states ought to join with China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia in asking the UN to impose sanctions on the greedy few who are draining global prosperity simply in order to make mega-millions. NATO has to listen to the voices of its own citizens, and quit backing the greedy few against the rest of its own populations.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

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