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Cantona’s ‘clumsy’ cash call highlights real issues in banking

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2010-12-07

Footballer Eric Cantona is calling on individuals to bring down the banking sector by withdrawing all their money. It may not bring down the banks, but it certainly highlights that something's wrong, an economist tells FRANCE 24.

Eric Cantona’s call to bring down the banks by telling individuals to withdraw all their money on Tuesday is “clumsy” and “trivial”, according to a leading economist.

But his message and the fact that thousands have pledged to do just that does demonstrate a high level of public concern at the morality of the banking and financial sectors, International Finance Professor Moncef Cheikh-Rouhou, told FRANCE 24.

“Mr Cantona is wrong to believe that on a practical level you can bring down the banks if people withdraw as much money as possible,” he said. “The banks are prepared and they are not going to run out of cash.”

‘No weapons, no blood’

Ex-Manchester United footballer and occasional philosopher Cantona first made the call to bring down French banks in October, as thousands took to the streets to protest against extending the retirement age.

In a video interview with Presse Ocean that subsequently went viral, he asked: “What is the system? It revolves around the banks; the system is built on the power of the banks, so it can be destroyed through the banks.

“The three million people in the street, they go to the bank, withdraw their money, and the banks collapse. That’s a real threat, there’s a real revolution. No weapons, no blood, nothing at all. It’s not complicated. Then we’ll be listened to in a different way.”

His words were picked up by activists through the website and the word spread quickly through social networking websites.

French citizen Franck Courreau, living in Corsica, said he planned to empty his bank account on Tuesday.

“It’s not that we want to destroy the banks, it’s more that they need to be told that they must behave more responsibly and to stop playing the lottery with our money,” he said. “Banks are necessary but the money they hold is ours and they must respect that.”

Banks mute on the issue

Last Thursday the head of France’s biggest retail bank BNP Paribas criticised Cantona’s call as being “typically misplaced”.

“I respect this great sportsman and his concern for matters of poverty,” he told journalists. “But the recommendation to withdraw deposits will sow insecurity. It is completely against that which can ensure the economy's functioning.”

However, when FRANCE 24 contacted BNP Paribas on Tuesday, no spokesman or press officer was willing to make any comment whatsoever on the Cantona campaign.

A re-evaluation is needed

While Professor Moncef Cheikh-Rouhou was relaxed about the practical implications of Tuesday’s day of withdrawals, he said that it illustrated why significant changes need to take place.

Cheikh-Rouhou pointed out that in the USA in 1948, the banking and finance sectors accounted for 7% of the country’s profits. In 2008 that figure was 45%.

“Money is being made on betting and speculating, rather than in the real economy,” he said. “Other sectors are not getting the profits. So the question is, are the banks sucking too much blood from the rest of the economy?

“Unemployment is the real barometer of the success of an economy, and unemployment is high. The world needs to find a joint solution, to decide the real role of the financial system in the world today.

“And while Mr Cantona’s message is clumsy, and the effect of what he is asking will be trivial, from an ethical point of view he is conveying the general feeling that there are serious problems, and he has a point.”

Date created : 2010-12-07


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