Speaking at a conference in May, David Cameron said he was “thoroughly relaxed about foreign investors” in the UK and that Britain was “probably one of the most welcoming countries anywhere in the world” for them. The year before, chancellor George Osborne described the government’s decision to slash corporation tax as “an advertisement for investment in Britain”.
It’s a common refrain as governments across the world compete to lure the money of companies, banks, pension funds and other governments with ever more ‘pro-business’ policies. The investors themselves are often explicit about what they want. In Greece earlier this year, eleven aggrieved companies, including Nestle, Philip Morris and Unilever said that they would be happy to spend more in the country if only it was “more friendly to investment”. Their definition of friendship turned out to involve lowering minimum wage, especially to young or currently unemployed people.
The whims and predilections of ‘the market’ are objects of obsession for a variety of financial analysts and politicians. This issue of the Corporate Watch magazine isn’t for them, but it is about investment and what these much-quoted and feared investors get out of it.