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Bankers Anonymous: Help banks kick gambling addiction



by Dan Iles, World Development Movement


bankers_anonymous_logo Banks like Goldman Sachs are seriously addicted to gambling. But unlike the bloke in Ladbrokes betting on the football scores, the horses, or the arrival date of the royal baby, investment banks are gambling on hunger.

And while the Ladbrokes gambler is often the loser at his own game, when Goldman Sachs bets on food prices it is hungry people who suffer.

Bankers Anonymous is a five-step programme launched by the World Development Movement to help banks kick their addiction to gambling on food. Goldman Sachs made up to an estimated £251 million from speculating on food prices in 2012. It seems unlikely that the bank, not known for its social conscience, will kick the habit voluntarily, but we can push governments to curb the banks’ greed.

Speculation on food commodity markets fuels sharp spikes in the price of essential staple foods like wheat, maize and soy. High food prices affect everyone: The average UK household’s annual food bill was £108 higher in 2012 than in 2011. But in poorer countries, where it is common for people to spend up to 90 per cent of their incomes on food, a sudden increase can be disastrous.

Just ask Gertrude Kamanga, a stall holder from Malawi, where the price of maize doubled in some areas between 2011 and 2012: “The price of a 50kg bag of maize has gone up to 4500 Kwacha, last year we were buying at 2000 or 2500. I have six children, and am also looking after my sisters and brothers. My husband passed away so I am the one feeding the whole family. It is becoming very hard.”

Barclays has just joined several European banks to announce a partial withdrawal from food speculation, following a barrage of bad press, protests outside its London AGMs, and a spoof video in which actors posing as Barclays salesmen attempt to sell dodgy food investment products to passers-by. But without tough controls, Barclays is free to scale up its gambling on food at any time.

The European Union is discussing new rules, but so far the UK government, no doubt with its ear to the City of London, has opposed tough controls.

George Osborne will meet with other European finance ministers in the coming months to decide on the new regulation. Please take action today through Bankers Anonymous to make sure he backs regulation that will force banks to kick the habit for good!



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