Tuesday 21 October 2014

Why is it so difficult?

Some months ago I had written a piece containing an element of fantasy.  How we could import solar energy from the sub-Sahara into Europe in exchange for water from Northern Europe. It seems that this fantasy could become a reality as there was a recent article that a potential project was underway to build a solar power energy plant in the Tunisian desert and that we could have cheap and sustainable energy passing through Europe by 2018 powering our homes. The only catch was that investors were seeking subsidy from the UK government.

What a great project this could be yet how is it that the tax payer always has to fork out money to pay? There is no secret that our differing governments are debt ridden and broke, chasing after everyone’s income, selling off assets of national interest to foreign buyers just to keep themselves, their promises and the system afloat. It appears that the governments are frankly no longer the institution where the money and even where the power lies.

Instead the influence is elsewhere staring right at us. It is with the banks which have so much liquidity including all that printed money from QE and just do not know what to do with it. Profit yes that’s the easy bit, but sadly they lack the imagination, creativity and remain stuck in a rut with no tangible purpose and no vision for the future. European banks are now unable to invest on overnight deposits due to negative interest rates. It was nice whilst it lasted! They are practically being ordered by the ECB to lend to small businesses and help the real economy which they refuse to rightly or wrongly, as the gulf of mistrust between the consumer and its lender are far too wide. They could work with each other yet this we already know ends up serving each other’s interests benefiting no one. They are left with the bond market eg the fixed income business where Goldman’s and JP Morgan have by and large made their profits and buying up the stock market, two areas that are proven to be unsustainable and deceptive in the long term and adds very little benefit to anyone.

So what are the alternatives? Well our business culture in the 21st Century could become the new battle of ideas as our economic war in Europe is starting to wear us down. The battle of idealism between those on one side who are purely focused on the bottom line and those on the other  who believe in becoming a force for good. A kind of battle between the sciences, the MBA’s, monetarists and economists, who often might call themselves 'the doers’ vs the philosophers, psychologists and social anthropologists we could call the ‘thinkers’ that can provide meaning in what we do.

Here is an idea where we should be able to blend the two schools of thought together to provide cheap sustainable energy into Europe although only backed by a handful of investors. Where are our European banks? HSBC on its mission statement follow where the growth is and the word sustainability often comes up on their website. The Tunisian government has already passed legislation to allow energy to be exported. Yes it may be risky but any large energy project finance deal or any investment for that matter carries risk. Imagine our future and our countless new opportunitites if something on this scale could work? It can even help our sub Saharan friends with their own well-being as we buy their energy that answers to so many of our own problems as we turn our mysterious charitable ways into a long term viable business venture.

In short the sentiment still remains very high against our banking system. Only the other day a politician that I was sitting with, forgive the expression he wanted to ‘bomb the banks’. Edelman the public relations firm earlier this year did a yearly survey of 27.000 people from 27 countries found that the banks and financial services continues to remain the least trusted sectors. In order to avoid our old business habits the question will always remain in how are we going to change to rebuild that trust?

I was reminded once of an ex-boss of whom had expressed a belief  that power is where the money is. Yes maybe albeit at a superficial level, yet sometimes we need to crab the bull by its horns into the 21st Century as with power, must carry new meaning, reason and purpose.

The lions roar is in all of us

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