Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The face of the new enemy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The on-going and developing protest movement in the industrialized West known as “Occupy Wall Street” is growing stronger and more profound in content. It has transformed the enthusiasm of the resentful youth and disaffected society into genuine legal demands and lawsuits, after employing the services of several experienced lawyers and influentially active human rights organizations. Naturally, the movement now has a clearly defined enemy with a face, name and address. This enemy is a global consortium of banks which have conducted scores of suspicious financial operations to abnormally increase their profits and secure enormous incentives for their top executives.

Today these banks are considered an integral part of economic autocracy, the consolidation of the social hierarchy, and the redistribution of wealth according to the preferences and agendas of favoured associates, supporters, and close circles of the financial, economic and political decision-making elite.

As the damage resulting from the US financial crisis spread over to the European continent, it was natural to see the heads of several top bank executives and some central bank managers roll. The latter had neglected their role in monitoring the managerial corruption pertaining to the financial policies and irresponsible loaning system practiced by the former. Today the “Occupy Wall Street” movement intends to take legal action in the US by filing a lawsuit against junior executives in an information technology company. These employees are alleged to have been contracted by different banks to reveal the protesters’ economic entitlements and freeze their bank accounts, in order to force them into paying off their debt instalments or evacuate their houses, in a manner similar to blackmail. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement intends to follow the example of how law authorities dealt with criminal Mafia gangs, when junior elements close to the criminal circles were pursued. One link of the chain led to another, as each member stood an immediate trial. This method has proven to be highly effective before.

The Arab Spring is still assigning tasks to political cadres from ousted regimes. However, there are clear signs in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya of efforts to uncover elements of corruption that have penetrated the economic and financial body of the state. There are endeavours to disclose the way in which banks became instruments of social suppression and autocracy par excellence. In the past, banks would selectively place certain individuals and groups on black lists and highlight others, in a carefully guided and predetermined fashion. It was as if those banks wanted to glorify or humiliate whomever they liked, by virtue of the powers granted to them. Gradually those banks grew into hotbeds of corruption and private benefit. Their profits soared in a disgusting manner, while their economic contributions remained very limited. They continued to offer loans to broad sections of small-scale and medium-scale companies, believing that credit and debit cards represented genuine support for the economy and for the state’s general welfare, but of course this was utter nonsense.

I was in a meeting recently with a highly respected Asian banker. He told me that the collapse of the Arab banking system was inevitable amid the chaos in decision-making, the random nature of choices, the spread of favouritism in recruitment, and the absence of accountability and responsibility. He added that if Arab banking had carried on without problems until that moment then this would have been the result of pure luck, but the downfall was only a matter of time. His words were harsh but not far from reality. There is an increasing global movement against the hegemony of mammoth banking corporations over economic affairs. They are being criticized for acting as means to maximize the benefits of a privileged few. This movement will serve as a true pressure tool to change this situation. The banking system will become more humane, more ethical and more responsible amidst a new changing world which rejects injustice, autocracy and corruption. Banks have assumed the status of the enemy in society’s war against economic grievances. They had better prepare for the showdown.