Governments must take moral responsibility for economy

  • January 30, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Making a budget is about making moral choices, the social justice coalition sponsored by Canada’s Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches said in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the provincial premiers.

The global financial crisis happened because governments and corporations failed to take moral responsibility for the economy, according to a Jan. 23 letter from KAIROS to Harper and the premiers.

“This financial crisis (is) a systemic failure in global financial markets. Over the last 30 years, governments have increasingly deregulated these markets, allowing them to be manipulated in favour of short-term interests of the wealthiest and most powerful,” said the letter signed by KAIROS’ executive director Mary Corkery.

The letter arrived on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s desk far too late to have any influence on the Jan. 27 budget, Corkery conceded. The church coalition however, still hopes to influence provincial budgets expected through February and March.

“It’s intended also to be a statement that can be used locally,” Corkery told The Catholic Register. “We need to be very forthright as KAIROS churches — to speak out first and foremost about the moral and ethical values that need to ground our political work.”

Churches can’t be afraid to talk about morality and politics, she said.

“It really is the role of the churches to say economies aren’t neutral,” said Corkery. “Economic theories and economic activities are not a science — it’s not a fact. It’s decisions made by powerful people.”

A moral federal budget will be one that pays attention to the most vulnerable and promotes the common good, said the letter to political leaders. KAIROS calls on the federal government to:

  • formulate and legislate a poverty-reduction strategy that targets child poverty, native people and new immigrants with affordable housing;
  • invest in alternative energy infrastructure with an eye to lessening Canada’s reliance on carbon-emitting oil and gas;
  • advocate internationally for a 0.005-per-cent tax on international currency transactions. In addition to slowing down currency speculation, KAIROS believes the tax would yield $33.4 billion per year to spend on sustainable development projects in poor countries.

“The current thinking of people in positions of economic power has been that the way to help the most people is to keep your hands off the economy. The irony is that very few people are saying that now,” said Corkery. “That got us into this crisis.”

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