By Sami J. Anteroinen
This article was published in NORDICUM 2/2009
The economic crisis is making us hope for the best while we fear the worst. In this issue, Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen admits that his view of the future is murky as well. Uncertainty prevails.
Ideologically speaking, the outlook is not quite as gloomy. We are not witnessing the death of the market economy as such, but modifications are certainly in order to make the system work again. The finance sector bears the biggest responsibility for the present crisis. As Enron gave us “creative accounting”, the finance players came up with “creative financing”. One lesson in all of this is certainly that while innovation, in general, is a splendid thing, not all innovation leads to enduring results.
Katainen concludes that the finance sector was especially lacking in two departments: transparency and accountability. It is easy to see why this combination could set off a chain of dominos with such disastrous results. Fueled by a relentless hunger for profits, the economic virus spread across the world.
While George W. Bush talked about “Axis of Evil”, the real threat, it seems, was the Axis of Greed growing momentum in his own country. Now we are faced with a situation where we should turn to another Republican president for some insight. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, we must now trust – but verify.
Trust has been a scarce commodity in the banking sector, but it appears that the banks are ready to face the music now. Whatever skeletons lurk in the vaults must be dragged into the daylight and a thorough inventory has to be made of the compromised assets. Taking out the trash is not fun – but procrastination will only make it worse.
The unprecedented period of growth and prosperity preceding the crisis is something that we may not be able to experience for a long, long time. This, however, may not be all bad. Instead of the workplace, the people’s focus will turn to family and friends – and the planet receives a welcome respite as the consuming frenzy drops down a few notches.
While getting ready for the next round, it pays to contemplate the decade – and decades – ahead. Concern has already been voiced that countries will back away from their commitment to fighting Climate Change when faced with tough domestic decisions. Granted, a politician is more likely to respond to the angry protests of the newly unemployed than the more subdued cries of the environment.
In this issue, we survey some of the newest energy innovations as a kind of a reminder: we must keep pursuing our common goal of a more sustainable world.■