Editorial - Dec 2016/Jan 2017

James Lewis

As we come to the end of a momentous year, and anticipate what may lie ahead in 2017, Global Insight takes the opportunity to analyse not only some of the major events of 2016, but also to cast a critical eye over the past decade – the ten years since the financial crisis began.

Coverage in our news pages assesses some of the potential consequences for business of the surprise US election result, based on President-elect Trump’s remarkably bullish campaigning statements on major themes from trade to immigration. Our coverage also considers the implications of a Trump Presidency for rule of law and human rights.

In this edition, we begin to assess some of the historic ramifications of the Brexit referendum: the High Court ruling that the UK government must consult Parliament before triggering Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty, the government’s appeal against this judgment, to be heard by the Supreme Court, and the questions this has raised on fundamentally important issues such as the separation of powers – the interplay of executive, judiciary and legislature – and indeed the role of the media.

Meanwhile, our feature, ‘Sleepwalking into another crisis’, benefits from peerless input from those at the eye of the storm when the financial crisis picked up pace throughout 2007 and reached full force in 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. We assess what’s changed in the intervening ten years, concluding that too little has. As a result, many in the US, the UK and elsewhere are, understandably, angry that the unethical behaviour and excessive risk taking in the financial sector, which played such a large part in the crisis and its catastrophic consequences, seems to have continued unabated. Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2006 to 2014, and others tell Global Insight that, despite the shock of the crisis, regulators have never been given the resources they need to effectively enforce the rules.

As our feature concludes, the abject failure to address the root causes of the crisis in the subsequent decade poses a serious threat to democracies around the world. And if, as is currently the case, the response of major banks to the all too frequently recurring financial scandals they are involved in is simply to pay a fine and return to ‘business as usual,’ then there can be little doubt another crisis is not far off. The consequences would be even more profound than the last.