SP leader Agnes Kant: 'Culture of greed brought about this credit crisis'

30 September 2008

SP leader Agnes Kant: 'Culture of greed brought about this credit crisis'

In an emergency parliamentary debate held this evening on the attempt by the Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourg governments to rescue troubled finance house Fortis, SP leader Agnes Kant said: “A capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy money, the culture of greed, has brought this credit crisis about. And as always it's ordinary people who have to pay the bill.”

Agnes Kant “Everything must of course be done to limit the negative consequences of the credit crisis. In this I am not thinking in the first instance of the interests of executives and shareholders. Ordinary people, with a small savings account, are logically enough worried. They see banks tottering and fear for their pensions and savings. Assuaging such fears is, as far as the SP is concerned, the first priority.”


“But what lessons can we draw now that the neoliberal form of capitalism has fallen on its backside? It's not good enough simply to pick up the pieces, we must also ensure that in the future the public interest is better protected. There is, therefore, every reason to pause and ask ourselves how the world got itself into this crisis.

“The last century was a century in which restraints were put on capitalism. By means of social struggle, social achievements were won. Public interests were guaranteed. In this way economic progress was recorded and our civilisation strengthened.

“But since the 1980s, we have unfortunately seen the rise of neoliberalism. The restraints must be loosened. Short term interest came to prevail and long term interests were neglected. With all of the risks that brings.

“The SP has warned repeatedly against this. Against the growing power of the shareholders. Against speculation with destabilising instant capital movements. Against excessive bonuses for short term profit. And against the practice of holding shares and options in one's own company.

“Unfortunately our words often fell on deaf ears. Neoliberal free trade was the dominant ideology of our political opponents on centre-right and centre-left, the Christian Democrats, the PvdA (Labour Party) and the free market Liberals of the VVD. This time is now past. At least, we can hope so.”


“Of course something had to happen in the US, and quickly. But the new fund of 700 billion dollars by which the United States government wants to buy up bad debts is a bad idea. It's patching up capitalism with taxpayers' money, a dead end.

“These are embarrassing times for the supporters of the free market. In the United States banks have been nationalised in rapid tempo. In Europe it's no different.”


“Intervention in Fortis is unavoidable. Why only a partial nationalisation? Why an interest of 49%? And not a real controlling interest of at least 51%? Are the executives who have failed being rescued with taxpayers' money? Are you prepared, as the major shareholder, to rule that these executives put an end to their variable remuneration?

“And what do you think now when you look back on the discussions we held here last year on the ABN AMRO bank? Don't you now agree with the opinion then expressed by the SP, that it was irresponsible to give permission for the taking over and splitting of a major Dutch bank in the time of a credit crisis?”


“Our own Minister of Finance spoke some fine words. 'This is the end of the capitalism of greed.' The question is only one of how you are going to put an end to it. Every constructive proposal from the SP to put an end to the culture of greed were rejected by you and by your party. So what measures do you yourself now propose to present a renewed debacle in the future?

“I have the impression that you are primarily concerned with saving the existing form of capitalism, rather than working on a more civilised alternative.”

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