A BREAKDOWN of trust was the biggest contributor to the global financial crisis, and it needs to be rebuilt, Ken Costa, the chairman of both Alpha International and Lazard International, said in a lecture, “Faith in the Marketplace?”, on Wednesday last week.
Mr Costa was a speaker in the second of a series of seminars, New Perspectives on Faith and Development, at the Royal Society of Arts, organised by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. He has worked in the City for more than 30 years, and was formerly vice-chairman of UBS Investment Bank. He was joined by by Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the University of Oxford.
Mr Costa said the smooth functioning of the economic market relied on trust, and, if that was not restored, the only alternative was increased regulation. “Because our values have shifted from a culture of trust to a culture of self-first, we are experiencing a crisis of trust, resulting in the serious malfunctioning of the marketplace.”
But “faith can help, as it articulates the values, and provides the motiv-ating spirit to generate and sustain a culture of trust in the marketplace.”
He went on to say that “religious faith can make a huge contribution to rebuilding trust in the ecomony,” and that people of faith had a “unique opportunity in the present financial crisis to offer their values to the marketplace”. Religious values could improve the health of corporate relationships, and offer a more holistic approach to the market.
He acknowledged that there was “widespread anger among the public” at the causes of the economic crisis, and he described the market economy as “a good servant but a poor master”, which needs to be infused with “the values that promote the common good”. Religious faith “is going to play an increasingly signific-ant role in the future”.
Globalisation had been a positive phenomenon, allowing the distribution of wealth, but “ill effects now occur on a global scale.”
He concluded by saying that the global economy “cannot do without faith”, and the future could be bright if people of faith applied “the values derived from their faith to the workplace”.
Other contributors to the debate included the Revd Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and John Reynolds, who chairs the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group.
Canon Fraser said that the way people spent their money reveals a great deal about their values, and that “capitalism is great at generating wealth, but not so good at distributing it.” Mr Reynolds said it was “a lie that Gross Domestic Product must grow”, and that it only benefited the Government, allowing it to preserve a “certain control of which we should be truly scared”.
The decline in commodity prices had led to a serious downturn in many African economies, such as Angola and Burkina Faso, and it was a disgrace, Mr Reynolds said, that Britain still imposed trade sanctions on African nations where people were struggling to live on one dollar a day.
The event was chaired by the Revd Steve Chalke.