Thursday 6 February 2014

Goldilocks and BP

The American boss of BP has gone where many British company leaders have apparently feared to tread, and expressed very publicly his concerns about Scottish independence.  It’s his right to do so, of course, although whether having bosses of multi-national corporations telling Scots what they should do will turn out to be productive or counter-productive remains to be seen.
His “concerns”, such as they are, seem mostly to boil down to the fact that there are – inevitably at this stage – some uncertainties about the consequences.  As far as it goes, that’s fair enough; those planning investments will always prefer certainty to uncertainty because it reduces their exposure to risk.  However, one doesn’t need to get far into Rumsfeld-speak about the knowns and the unknowns to realise that the future without independence isn’t as certain as he might think.
We all have an inbuilt tendency to see the status quo as having a “forever” quality to it, but as the song says “It isn’t necessarily so”.  The status quo itself is always changing.  Worse still, in this particular case, since a ‘no’ vote in the first referendum on Scottish independence won’t make the independence issue simply go away (and I’m still surprised at how many people don’t seem to understand that), it might merely prolong the uncertainty.  In that sense, independence is a more certain and long term outcome than the result of a ‘no’ vote.
More generally, although not directly voiced by the head of BP, multinational capitalists prefer what are to them Goldilocks-sized states.  They want them to be big enough so that they don’t have to deal with too many different sets of laws, regulations and taxes, but small enough so that they can be played off against each other, and so that economic power can be retained in the hands of the corporations rather than governments.  For BP, the UK probably looks about the right size.  And having a government which is a bit of a pushover when it comes to protecting the interests of multi-national capitalism is a bonus.
But ultimately, the only thing that really matters to them is profit.  They can’t move the oil and gas deposits, so as long as they can cover the costs of dealing with whatever rules a country – whatever its size – throws at them, and still make an acceptable level of profit, then they will continue to invest.
The ‘noes’ will seize on this latest intervention as ‘proving' their point; but I’m not convinced that the ‘ayes’ have much to worry about.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic. the naivety of some politicians!

When business people speak they are no more telling the truth than politicians. Try reading between the lines!

Is it any wonder those supposedly responsible for public money waste so much of it (think IT systems, business incentives, QUANGO's, etc.). Just because someone says it costs ten doesn't mean you have to offer ten!

Get real!

Anonymous said...

This would be BP, the company which does business in Russia, Nigeria, the Gulf - all, areas of course famous for their political stability and transparency!

Scots should kick them out.

Spirit of BME said...

The first thing that has to be said about BP`s CEO statement is that it was qualified as being “personal view” – so they are open to deal with anybody.
Second, he needs the help of HMG to talk with Washington to try and cap the pay outs owing to their little difficulty on the Gulf of Mexico blow out- so, no such thing as a free lunch.