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Spain's “Move Your Money!” Campaign Advocates for Ethical Banking

Various organizations have joined together to launch the “Move your money!“ [es] initiative in Spain, aiming to convince citizens to transition from traditional banks, which are in large part responsible for the current economic crisis, to emerging financial institutions commonly called “ethical banks.”

The recent bailout conditions imposed on Cyprus by the troika pummeled bank savers’ confidence across Europe. The institutions that have agreed to come to Cyprus’ rescue stipulated that Cypriot bank losses be partially covered by a tax levied on those bank's biggest savers, to the tune of up to 60% on accounts that exceed 100,000 euros.

This development goes against the established precedence which until now has protected the deposits of European account holders. This decision has been widely criticized in economic circles for the capital risk it presents to peripheral countries like Spain and Italy. Both the financial instability and savers’ fears took its toll on markets after Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, of Holland, confirmed in an interview that the bailout model used in Cyprus could serve as a future model for other countries, and acknowledged that Brussels has been working for months to create new EU law to regulate these types of interventions.

Queues for Cypriot banks after the new taxes were announced. Photo from unitedexplanations.org website under license agreement CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Queues for Cypriot banks after the new taxes were announced. Photo from unitedexplanations.org website under license agreement CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

For years Cyprus has acted as a tax haven within the European Union as the place where Russian fortunes are concealed and laundered, inflating the country's banking sector, which grew to be a staggering eight times the country's GDP. The new stipulations deployed by the troika aim to hit Cyprus’ haven accounts but is erupting general alarm among European savors, especially those whose accounts are held in afflicted banks.

In light of this, the “Move your money!” initiative challenges:

Ahora más que nunca tenemos la oportunidad de replantearnos donde ponemos nuestro dinero, si en la banca capitalista que con sus prácticas especulativas y sus políticas abusivas ha hundido la economía de millones de personas o bien en otro tipo de banca, una banca ética y cooperativa que apuesta por la economía productiva, por la economía social y de las personas.

Now more than ever we have the opportunity to decide where we put our money. We can choose a capitalist bank with their scandalous practices and abusive politics that have worsened the economy for millions of people; or we can choose another type of bank, an ethical and coorporative bank that backs economic productivity for the collective and the individual.

The "Move your money!" logo. Taken from its <a href="http://remuevetudinero.net">homepage</a>.

The “Move your money!” logo. Taken from its homepage.

The website explains how ethical banks work:

Los proyectos de Banca ética se basan  en una gestión totalmente transparente, en fomentar una economía real, para fomentar beneficios medioambientales y generar servicios priorizando el comercio justo y la ayuda social entre otros. Los gestores de dicha banca analizan siguiendo rigurosos criterios sus carteras de inversión y solo conceden créditos bancarios a empresas o particulares que cumplan estos rigurosos criterios de sostenibilidad, beneficio social y medioambiental.

The basis of an ethical bank is a completely transparent management style, promoting a true economy and its environmental services by prioritizing fair trade and social support amongst others. Consultants at ethical banks analyze investment portfolios under rigorous criteria and only award credit to companies or individuals who meet the criteria according to sustainable and socially benefiting standards.

The same website goes on to explain the differences between this type of banking and traditional banking:

(…) se da la paradoja, que nos manifestemos contra las guerras, nos alarmemos con el hambre en el tercer mundo, critiquemos los gobiernos dictatoriales en los países en vías de desarrollo, pero en cambio, seamos a la vez, los patrocinadores de esta situación. (…)

Nunca nos hemos preguntado, ni hemos preguntado a nuestro director de oficina, que hacen con nuestro dinero, la pregunta es, ¿cuánto me vas a dar?

(…) estamos colaborando con nuestro dinero en un 30% con el hambre en el mundo, con un 35% en la especulación con la deuda de países como Irlanda, España, Grecia, Italia o Portugal, con un 15% en guerras, y con un 20% en fomentar la diferencia entre ricos y pobres en los países emergentes.

(…) here is the paradox: we speak out against war, we advocate for hunger in third world countries, we criticize dictatorships in developing world, but in the same breath we endorse what's going on here. (…)

We have never asked and we have never held the bank managers responsible in knowing what they do with our money. So the question becomes, what are you going to give me?

(…) we put 30% of our money towards fighting hunger, 35% to the debt facing countries like Ireland, Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal, 15% to the world's wars, and 20% to fight in the income gap between rich and poor in emerging economies.

For those who wish to review the investment opportunities currently available to clients, the website infobancaetica [es] provides links to the options available in Spain's large conventional banks, which include various armament industries and harmful environmental and food source projects.

By contrast, the “Move your money!” initiative provides various institutions where one can deposit their savings after transitioning from traditional banks, such as Coop57 [es], Fiare [es] or Oikocredit [es]. Triodos Bank is the biggest ethical bank in Spain, which has not joined this initiative. The bank's deputy general, Joan Antoni Melé, provided his thoughts on the situation in a June 2011 interview[es]:

Table listing the differences between ethical and traditional banking. Taken from from the blog "Don't tell my mother I work in a bag."

Table listing the differences between ethical and traditional banking. Taken from from the blog “Don't tell my mother I'm a broker!”

¿Con una banca ética hubiésemos padecido la crisis que padecemos?

No. Radicalmente no. El problema de la economía es que es una economía de casino, una economía puramente especulativa. Más del 95% del dinero que se mueve cada día en el mundo, detrás no hay nada, no se produce nada, es pura especulación. Esto es lo más grave.

Would the crisis have been as bad as its been had we had chosen ethical banks?

No, definitely not. The problem is that the economy is like a casino, where it is purely speculative. More than 95% of the money that is moved in the world every day, there's no reasoning behind it, it doesn't result in anything, it's pure speculation. This is what makes it so dangerous.

¿Nada ha cambiado?

La burbuja volverá a explotar porque la banca en general, pese a que ha habido que ayudarla con dinero público, sigue haciendo lo mismo: se sigue invirtiendo el dinero de la gente en productos estructurados especulativos.

(…)

Yo no quiero que un mercado decida por mí. Quiero ejercer mi libertad y me he dado cuenta de que lo puedo hacer: yo uso mi dinero de forma consciente y responsable. ¿Desde cuándo un mercado financiero, un Fondo Monetario Internacional, un Banco Central Europeo pueden controlar nuestras vidas? Esto es lo que está pasando hoy, pero es porque lo permitimos.

Has anything changed?
The bubble will ultimately burst because although there's been bailout help, the
banks, in general, have continued doing the same thing: they keep investing people's money in questionable funds.
(…)
I don't want a market deciding for me. I want to exercise my rights and have found an place that will allow me to do just that: I manage my money in a conscientious and responsible manner. Since when is a financial market, the International Monetary Fund or the Central European Bank allowed to control our lives? This is what is happening today, but only because we allow it.

Pero, ¿qué se puede hacer?

Creo que es el momento de la sociedad civil. Si quieres saber la fuerza que tiene tu dinero, vas al banco y dices que quieres sacarlo todo, ya verás como sale el director disparado. Ahí está la fuerza. No culpemos a los mercados. Es nuestra debilidad la que permite que pase esto.

What can we do about it?
In my opinion, this is a deciding moment for society as a whole. If you want to know the weight your money carries, go to a bank and say you want to withdraw everything and immediately you will see the bank manager will come rushing out. That's its strength. We can't blame the markets. It is our weakness that has allowed this to happen.

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