- 29 Jan 09, 10:21 AM
1) Prime Minister Putin was conciliatory towards the West in a speech devoid of specific commitments on anything of substance. There was an audible "phew" from the global uber-elite.
2) The Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, both reassured and humiliated the western bankers. He reassured them with his account of how the supply of credit is rising again in China, which gives him confidence that the Chinese economy will grow by a more-than-respectable 8% in 2009. He embarrassed them with this manifestation of the strength of Chinese banks compared with their US, UK and eurozone peers (a strength that is the direct consequence of Chinese government policy).
It's very irksome for the Americans in particular that the Chinese version of what they see as their business model is holding up so well. And as if to rub their noses in it, the Chinese premier confided that he re-read Adam Smith over the summer (note "re-read") to reassure himself that the founder of modern economics wasn't the dogmatic opponent of government intervention that liberal market ideologues contend.
3) As I write, the chief executives of many of the world's big banks are meeting in top-secret, private session - to discuss what to say in their also top-secret meeting with finance ministers on Saturday morning. Here's the scoop on what the bankers will say: "Help!!!!!" (roughly translated as "only the further generosity of taxpayers can prevent us falling over as a consequence of the big losses we're incurring on our imprudent lending").
4) The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had the depressed plutocrats in stitches at Barclays' swanky dinner last night. They loved Boris's refusal to acknowledge that the City is in something of a pickle. Meanwhile, at Standard Chartered's restrained celebration of the Chinese new year, hardened bankers were moist-eyed as the legendary Welsh bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel, led a sing-a-long of "You take the high road, and I'll take the low road". I guess for the first time in their careers the star bankers can empathise with the soon-to-be-executed tragic hero of Loch Lomond.
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