Monday, 12 October 2009

A tale of two conferences

My carbon footprint has taken a bit of a battering over the past fortnight. Last week, in the middle of Conservative Party conference I left Manchester at 5am to hop back to Brussels for a debate on alternative investments. The week before I flew from Brussels to join a conference in Gothenburg (Sweeden).

In Gothenburg the masters of the European finance universe mustered. Central bankers, finance minisers, economists, regulators, "wise" men. We were locked in a complex outside the city from 8am 'til 11pm. So what did they debate? At no point did I hear employment or indeed unemployment mentioned, there was a (very) occasional cursory glance to Europe's ageing demographic and the pensions deficit, a few voices flickered on the public sector finances burden. BUT The weight of debating time surounded the proposed "Supervisory Architecture" of the EU banking system - committees of European central bankers and regulators that will meet to (perhaps) help pinpoint financial risks in the future. I returned home frustrated that so much energy had been spent on bureaucracy of the future rather than addressing the problems of today.

What a contrast then to Conservative Party conference where employment and debt was the key focus. George Osborne's speech was described by some comentators as brave - but no one doubts it was full of reality. Over the weekend I have had the chance to discuss with doctors and teachers George's policies on the public sector pay freeze and increasing the retirement age. Even the most left leaning doctor told me she thought these were acceptable suggestions if they help maintain jobs.

Back to Brussels today - by train this time - so at least I will feel a little less guilty for the planet.

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