2009 – a year in prospect

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I’ve already reflected on 2008. What of 2009?

Let’s get the gloom out of the way. It will be tougher than the government is saying, indeed tougher than any government is saying. Banks will still fail – and will be nationalised. Private equity is going to be a bloodbath as corporate debt covenants fail and businesses with them. Hedge funds will, in many cases, head for extinction. The High Street will see large acreages of empty shops. Unemployment will rise. Pensions will fall in value, again. The FTSE will end the year down. It remains over-valued. The pound though might recover a little – sentiment may have already sent it as far as it need go, at least as far as the Euro is concerned. Europe is not that much stronger than the UK right now.

I guess all that has to be said: it sets the scene for seeing what glimmers of hope there might be.

What do I expect in that area? Let’s try:

1) There will be a Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act in the USA – and international cooperation to replicate it will begin

2) The EU STD reform will move faster than expected

3) OECD initiatives against tax havens will proceed apace and will attack fundamental issues, not just demands for form filling and information exchange on demand. Fundamental questions about what really happens in secrecy jurisdictions will be on the agenda – and a demand for information on public record will appear

4) The UK will demand that its tax havens restrict their banking activity to a ratio of their own GDP. That ratio will be small, and their banking activities will be severely curtailed as a result

5) There will be calls for Financial Transparency Act in the UK to demand greater disclosure of corporate activity, country by country reporting and of tax haven activity

6) Labour will realise it has to promise tax increases for the well off, cuts for middle earners, targeted relief for the poorest and increases in taxes on corporate profits and wealth if it is to have any credibility at the next election

7) At least one major tax haven will go bust. Cayman is possible.

8 ) The CDO market will face collapse.

9) Moves to re-regulate banks will proceed apace.

10) A ‘People’s bank’ based on the Post Office will be created

11) New forms of pension will be promoted, invested in local infrastructure projects

12) The Green New Deal will take off around the world, even in the UK

13) Singapore will become subject to increasing pressure to cooperate on information exchange as more money moves there

14) Reform of small business taxation in the UK will be announced – based around the idea of the LLP

15) National insurance will be introduced on investment income in the UK

OK, so some of that is a wish list: not all will happen. And of course any forecast is wrong. But I’m hoping my luck as a forecaster holds: it would be good if it did.