Jim Armitage: RBS is right to ‘clean-up’ but taxpayers suffer again

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You could almost hear George Osborne growling in Ross McEwan’s ear this morning: “Spring any nasty surprises after I flog RBS back to the public and you’re toast, pal.”

Today’s figures from the bank look ghastly: billions injected into the pension fund, billions more set aside for mis-selling and a warning of losses.

But, although this is all real money, it is cash that would have left the bank in future years anyway, after the Government had begun selling its stake to investors.

McEwan is emptying the septic tank before selling the house.

He’s right to do this, of course. It would be scandalous to leave a hidden vat of effluent for new investors.

It’s just a shame the poor old taxpayer picks up the tab again.

Uber in driving seat

Sitting on my delayed Eurostar yesterday, I pondered who would be on strike when we emerged from Le Tunnel this time. 

As I picked my way through the beggars outside Gare du Nord in search of a cabbie to get me to my lunch meeting on time, I soon found out. Taxi drivers. Pourquoi? Uber, of course.

If you thought it was only the London black cabs trade which is bolshy about this company, think again.

French taxi monopolies are raging. And, being French, they were blockading the streets and setting fire to stuff to make their point.

The crosstown jog that this necessitated gave me time to consider their plight. For generations, they’ve made a decent living charging high prices ferrying tourists and wealthy locals around the place, safe in the knowledge that a finite number of taxi licences means supply will always be limited versus demand. 

Then, along comes the internet to totally disrupt that. Customers now have a choice of suppliers offering different services: space wagons, multiple child seats and the beck-and-call willing of David Hasselhoff’s motor in Knight Rider, to name a few. Unfairly, they also don’t face the high licence costs traditional cabbies pay.

At the moment, politicians are interfering to protect the monopoly. Boris Johnson has proposed absurd restrictions on Uber drivers which do little but inconvenience the public. France has passed anti-Uber rules too.

But it’s hard to see the world’s mayors holding back the inevitable progress of the internet for long.

Public demand for Uber is too great, their fondness for traditional cabs too small to be a vote winner for the lawmakers. 

The market, in other words, will win. Going on strike is not the answer.

As my Parisian lunch companion shrugged when I arrived, late and puffing: “Mon ami, why didn’t you call an Uber?”

Source Article from http://www.standard.co.uk/business/jim-armitage-rbs-is-right-to-cleanup-but-taxpayers-suffer-again-a3166706.html

January 28, 2016 |
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