Darling’s poverty of aspiration might beat the audacity of hope at the G20

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The next focus for cooperation in the attack on worldwide recession is the G20 meeting in London to be held on 2 April. This is an occasion when Gordon Brown will want to shine as the world leader able to guide the world out of its current mess.

It was therefore somewhat disappointing to learn just what the UK's objectives for the meeting are (and I believe my source on this reliable). Those objectives, stated in a latter that looks as if Alistair Darling is its author are said to be to:

1. Return trust and confidence to the financial markets
2. Build on the benefits that open financial markets bring to the world economy
3. Reduce likelihood of systemic failure in the financial services industry
4. Prepare better for failure within financial.markets ensuring we have the mechanisms in place to protect depositors; to ensure the orderly wind up of failed institutions and to make sure there are appropriate international mechanisms to coordinate the management of failed institutions
5. Increase efficiency in the operation of financial markets so that they perform the task of capital allocation, risk management and facilitating transactions more efficiently.

I am staggered by the implausibility of this agenda. Let's be clear about the state of the world's financial system. Like Humpty Dumpty it has fallen off the wall. And do what they will, all HM Treasury's horses and all of their men cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

But I assure you, that's what they're trying to do. A senior Treasury civil servant told me during the autumn that the Treasury's objective was to rebuild Anglo Saxon capitalism as 'that's all we've got'.

That's not true. Worse than that, as a policy that's as bankrupt as Citigroup looks right now.

I admit I'm almost as worried now as I was last October when the banks were about to fall apart precisely because the Treasury remains committed to what it calls 'open' financial markets. And yet what we have is not transparent or accountable and so if far from open, especially to a great many countries of the world.

What this phrase actually represents is a commitment to the current unregulated model of finance: one that amongst other things includes a commitment to the use of secrecy jurisdictions that provides the banks with their 'get out of regulation free card' - providing them with an option to at any moment say they refuse to be regulated because they have the right of moving elsewhere.

This has to end. This has to end now.

Look at what we committed to at the Task Force meeting on Financial Integrity and Transparency last week:

• That systems be put in place to curtail the practice of mispricing trade;

• That country-by-country reporting of sales profits and tax paid by multinational corporations be required in audited annual reports and tax returns;

• That the beneficial ownership, control and accounts of companies, trusts and foundations be readily available on public record to facilitate due diligence;

• That automatic exchange of information between tax and governmental authorities on income, gains and property received by non-resident individuals, corporations, and trusts, be made mandatory;

• That predicate offenses for a money laundering charge be harmonized and codified.

That's a real five point agenda for the G20. OK - maybe not a sufficient agenda - but a good starting point. In the meantime Alastair Darling can only blow the process off track if his poverty of aspiration defeats the audacity of hope.

And that really troubles me.