Place your bets for a global bank in Bhutan, but only use the `globo' please

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Indy Lifestyle Online
While the world has been on summer holiday, one quiet little development taking place behind travellers' backs is that the important economies of Europe (ie Germany) are back on track to fulfil the conditions for monetary union.

This is hot news, and I for one hope to be rocking down the Rhine in 1999 with a wedge of euros in my wallet. Far from being afraid of German hegemony in Europe, I am already looking forward to the introduction of the fully global currency. The name of the new currency could raise a few issues. The dollar might be a strong candidate. Other possibilities I have heard mentioned include the Diana. At the moment I am going for the uncontentious "globo".

These little worries aside, the advantages of a global currency are so obvious as to be hardly worth stating. But I'll state them anyway. The first thing, for those who care, is that the power of the Bundesbank will be reduced to that of a mere bit-part, alongside players such as the Bank of China and the Bank of India.

The second is that the globo will have nothing to float against. Currency speculators the world over, from Mr George Soros right down to the dodgy man in brown leather trousers outside Moscow railway station, will be forced to seek new employment.

Thirdly, all the pain will be taken out of travel in one fell swoop. Never again will we creep around Chinese airports at the dead of night in search of locked bureaux de change. Never will we hand over delicate travellers' cheques only to receive two-inch-thick piles of rough notes in return. Never again will we mistake the dirty, crumpled, unrecognisable pieces of paper in our pockets for money.

All right, so it may be some time until the economies of North Korea, Albania and Equatorial Guinea meet the convergence criteria for global monetary union. But as we all know, there's nothing that a little creative accounting can't fix. Governments without budgets won't have deficits to worry about, for example. People will quibble, of course, as to how many Vietnamese dong should equal the Djiboutian franc, and how many Papua New Guinean kina there should be in the Libyan dinar. But the whole point of the exercise will be to put these trifling disputes behind us.

The design of the notes and coins of the globo will also take a while to agree on, no doubt. Religious lobbies will demand that their own ensigns be featured. I think the globo should depict bridges from each of the 200 odd countries of the world, incorporating the essential spirit of each. Countries which don't have bridges should be lent money to build them in time for monetary union.

Ultimately the goal will be to reduce this design to the essence of the global bridge. The world will then hold its breath while Sicilian shepherds and Patagonian aborigines argue over whether the featured bridge had actually been modelled on traditional Latin or Indian designs. But in truth it will resemble no real bridge. It will be pure bridgehood. As for the notes' values, these will be printed in very small letters on the back in 12,000 languages, just in case anyone feels left out.

And when they've settled on the 12,000, they can tackle the question of where to locate the global central bank. Obviously it can't be in New York or Frankfurt. I propose it be set in the global equivalent to Switzerland or Belgium - some small, innocuous country such as Bhutan, Belize or Lesotho.

Let's say that the leaders of the world settle on Bhutan. Imagine it: besuited bankers waiting for snow-blocked Himalayan passes to open before they can convene to put up interest rates which will effect mortgage repayments from Baltimore to Baghdad.

Meawhile a little crop of skyscrapers will have to be built to accommodate all those wise men and women in their Himalayan decision-making. But what of that. It will be a small price to pay for the savings we will make when we go on holiday.