I was reading this piece on the current state of telecoms companies in NZ. It’s an interesting topic of course, but the bit that really stood out for me wasn’t about telecoms at all:
Spark boss Simon Moutter complained before Christmas that the combined annual profit of the country’s five biggest phone companies, Spark, Vodafone, Chorus, 2degrees and CallPlus, had fallen to half that of New Zealand’s smallest major bank, ASB Bank.
I’m blown away by that statistic. I think telecoms services in NZ are still way too expensive, but to be fair I can see that there is a lot that these companies have to invest in, a lot of infrastructure to be built. Banks? Not so much. What do they do for their huge (and mostly Australian) profits?
We need an alternative to fattening banking coffers. This piece from a couple of years ago on Stuff makes a strong case for credit unions, listing several specific advantages. But this overview message should appeal to lefties:
The services that credit unions provide are essentially the same as a small bank. The real difference is the way they operate. Credit unions are collectively owned. Each member gets one vote, regardless of how much they have invested. Any member can run for elections to become a director. Profits are distributed back to members through lower fees, better interest rates, a dividend, or some combination of all three.
A gentleman called John Pemberton has a (seemingly defunct) blog on “monetary justice”, which includes this page on alternatives to banks. He divides them in to four categories (see his site for links under each category):
Community trading schemes – they are co-operative (nobody owns them) and they are controlled by the users.
Co-operatives or Mutuals which are owned and controlled by their members – The people who save, borrow and do their transactional banking or trading with them.
Community Banks – Ownership vested in a community trust
Government owned banks – Owned by the people through their elected representatives.
Another interesting recent development is peer to peer lending.
What else folks?
The last Labour government brought us KiwiBank. The next should go one further – KiwiCooperative.