The Banking Euro-millionaires, the Foodbanks and the Pope

Marlyn Glen

In this season of goodwill that has just begun , the European Banking Authority (EBA) has published information that will kindle the flame within those in this country who never tire of speaking up for the cause of social justice .

The EBA has published its list of High Earners in each country and the number of bankers earning over 1 million Euros a year.

Initially the list may read like a bad night for some countries at Eurovision, but the final figure in the list is remarkable.

Austria has 19 High Earners earning over 1 million euros a year.

Belgium 15

Bulgaria 0

Cyprus 3

Czech Republic 0

Denmark 48

Estonia 0

Finland 6

France 177

Germany 212

Greece 1

Hungary 9

Iceland 0

Ireland 19

Italy 109

Latvia 0

Leichtenstein 0

Lithunia 0

Luxembourg 15

Malta 0

Netherlands 27

Norway 23

Poland 7

Portugal 6

Romania 1

Slovakia 1

Slovenia 0

Spain 100

Sweden 20

United Kingdom 2,714

London's Square Mile is the epicentre of European high finance.

The average renumeration  amongst the UK 's top bankers last year was 1.9 million Euros a year. ( approximately £1.6 million )

Next year the EU intends to introduce a bonus cap on bankers, but the Chancellor, George Osborne , is standing four square behind the protesting UK bankers , and has begun legal moves to defend their right to remain mega-rich.

There are hints that the bonus cap will be circumvented by lowering next year's bonuses, but increasing salaries instead.

In a different kind of Britain, a different kind of bank in the UK with an entirely different ethos, will be working during the Advent period to help the penniless.

Times are so grim that the British Red Cross is involved in the collection and distribution of food for the needy in this country for the first time since the Second World War.

They are working with the Tressell Trust foodbank network and some 60,000 people are expected to receive emergency food in the weeks up to Christmas, a figure that includes 20,000 children.

These people and the very many others who face a choice between fuel and food have a world leader who is their unapologetic spokesperson.

Presented in the form of an apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis sets out his own unsparing indictment of unrestrained capitalism as a “new tyranny”, denouncing “the idolatry of money”, and calling on the other world leaders to combat poverty and rising inequality.

This is a manifesto for the international poor which takes sides – an active state intervening to regulate the economy.

He declares :

“Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly home­less person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points ….

“We are scandalized because we know that there is enough food for everyone and that hunger is the result of a poor distribution of goods and income….

“ As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any prob­lems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

“While the earnings of a minority are grow­ing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ide­ologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Con­sequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. …

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

“A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case.

“Money must serve, not rule!

"The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor."

The Pope rejects the “freedom” of the free market and the austerity that has ruined the lives of millions.

His condemnation is of the unfettered market that has produced both banks that provide massive financial rewards in bonuses for a few individuals and banks that provide donated food for the needy.

His is not the language of Inside The Bubble politics where the manicured presentation of politics counts for as much as its content.

It is not the language that has been tested beforehand in focus groups, nor is it synthesised soundbites, nor from the political culture where style before substance and where tweets by personalities on political matters are judged to be media priorities.

His language comes from the experiences of , as he describes them, “the left overs”.

He puts forward a passionate case for fundamental change – “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the centre."

His international status ensures that he will be listened to - politely - and then dismissed in some quarters, but warmly embraced by others as a significant secular influence beyond his religious role.

On the basis of his recent pronouncements, we can speculate what will be the subject of his Christmas message to the world in a few weeks' time.


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