If I went to the Business Minister in Cardiff with a business plan that said I was going to create new jobs by training people to go into the nearest casino and place a large number of large bets, I wouldn’t really expect the Government to offer me money from the ‘Economic Growth Fund’, no matter how well-paid the jobs appeared to be.
However, if I called the casino a trading floor, and said that I wasn’t going to train the employees to bet, just to buy and sell bets placed by other people, I’d probably be in with a better chance, in the light of this story from last week.
I’m unclear at what point precisely gambling and speculating becomes transformed into ‘financial services’; the dividing line is far from clear, although whenever I hear or read the word ‘derivatives’, I start to suspect that a line has been crossed.
At one extreme, placing bets in a casino is clearly gambling; at the other extreme, there needs to be a market in which commodities are traded. But somewhere between the two, ‘trading’ changes from being about the efficient exchange of goods to being a mechanism for complicated gambling. And complicated gambling was a major factor in the financial collapse.
The Welsh Government’s apparent pre-occupation with ‘financial services’ is of concern. The argument that 'it’s going to happen somewhere, so why shouldn’t Wales benefit?' is not one with which I am comfortable – it sounds awfully similar to the argument that 'someone will sell armaments to dictators so why not us?'. It’s an excuse for putting morality and long term considerations to one side in the name of getting whatever jobs we can in the short term.
There is a parallel, in a strange sort of way, with the support shown by some for new nuclear power stations in Wales; in both cases the big questions about the sort of economy/ environment we want to create are cast to one side in the interests of short term advantage.