Dinner with Michael Bear, Lord Mayor of the City of London, and Stuart Fraser, chairman of the Policy & Resources Committee at the City of London, Monday 17 May, 2011.
The Lord Mayor, Alderman Michael Bear, introduced himself as the 683rd Lord Mayor, global ambassador for Britain’s financial services industry, which generates 10% of the UK’s GDP, raises L54 billion in taxes and exports L42 billion-worth of services.
“I spend a third of the year travelling, promoting the Square Mile, in keeping with the centuries-old tradition of this function”, he said. “The City is unique because of the educated pool of talent from which firms can recruit the best staff. Over half of the workers in the City have foreign passports,” he said.
Alderman Bear spoke of the need for the City to restore confidence in its institutions in the wake of the global financial crisis.
“Vince Cable [the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Industry and Skills] has had to decommission his banker jokes,” he said.
He stressed the need for the City to remain competitive vis-a-vis other global centres for financial services, in particular New York, Hong Kong and Singapore. “We are not interested in competing on the basis of lowest common denominator when it comes to regulation; confidence must be retained.”
The City of London’s visit to Warsaw is directly connected with the imminent Polish presidency of the EU Council. The Lord Mayor and Chairman of Policy spoke to representatives of Polish government and the financial services sector about completing the European Single Market – one of the Poland’s priorities for its presidency. The liberalisation of cross-border trade in services is seen as extremely important by Britain’s financial services industry, and hence the importance of a dialogue between Poland and the City.
Alderman Bear also revealed that they had spoken to Cezary Grabarczyk, Poland’s infrastructure minister, about project finance for road building, high-speed rail and airport development. “I am extremely impressed by the way Poland has increased its GDP per capita to 60% of the EU average with ambitions to rapidly reach 80%. However,” he added, “Poland has not marketed itself strongly enough. There are enormous opportunities. But it needs to improve ease of doing business” – Alderman Bear cited the World Bank Doing Business survey which places Poland 70th in its ranking of 189 countries. “At least Poland is not in denial about its bureaucratic barriers.”
Stuart Fraser chairs the Policy & Resources Committee, which leads the City of London’s relations with local and regional government, Westminster, Whitehall, Brussels, the United States as well as the emerging markets of China and India, and is responsible for economic development, public relations and public affairs.