Jeremy Warner: It's good to talk

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The Independent Online

Outlook: Stephen Green's idea of a "B20" to encourage a dialogue between global business and policymakers is a good one.

Another business lobby group, you might think, is just what we don't need, with public trust in bankers,financiers and big business at rock bottom. Wasn't it the irresponsible, greed-fuelled self-interest of bankers that got us into this mess in the first place? Yet as an invited panel of experts, a B20 could be a useful addition. Certainly, it would go some way towards guarding against the law of unintended consequences as the reform agenda develops. Over-reaction is in nobody's interests.

Many aspects of "fair-value accounting" are completely bonkers in their pro-cyclical consequences. The same goes for the Basel 2 capital requirements, which even now are acting to make an already calamitous lending famine a deal worse. A B20 will help in getting these things right.

The problem is that by the time a more counter-cyclical policy agenda is agreed and introduced, it will already be too late. Such changes may or may not help mitigate the next catastrophe, but they will dolittle to ease the immediate crisis unless acted on right now.

One of the reasons so many participants here think things will get a great deal worse before they getbetter is that a huge amount ofprivate-sector debt has to be refinanced over the next year – £200bn in Britain alone – with still no obvious answers on where the money will come from, other than governments.

Without urgent action, mass defaults are threatened, even among companies that in normal conditions would be perfectly healthy. The new banking bailout package announced last week will help a bit, but it is not the whole solution by any means.

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