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This Turner is certainly no masterpiece

Turner? I thought he was a landscape painter. Call me dim but I couldn’t initially understand why everyone was making such a fuss over an artist who died in 1851 or his pension – other than the fact that he didn’t get one.

Mind you, given that Joseph Turner’s paintings became increasingly abstract as he strove to portray light, space and the elemental forces of nature this new Turner bloke could be a relative. Adair Turner’s leaky report has energised some elemental forces of its own. So what are we to make of it?

Well, abstract it ain’t! It’s specific enough to cause a right old rumpus in the financial sector. But most commentators think the guy would have achieved a better result if he’d stuck to his Art Master set. What he’s produced is as predictable as painting by numbers anyway.

Probably the report’s most telling conclusion is that we’re all doomed. Well, not we mortgage specialists obviously – we’re all off the hook until the interest-only mis-selling scandal pencilled in for 2012. No, the guys who will get it in the neck are those who misread the market and specialised in providing pension advice.

There’s going to be no need for it, you see. The proposed National Pension Saving Scheme will be operated so cheaply it will corner the market. This means instead of the profit from pension sales being available to inflate the billions of pounds of profit the banks and insurers make each year, the hole it leaves will have to be filled in with job losses. That’s 50,000 corporate support roles and 10,000 IFAs.

Then, of course, there’s the impact of the compulsory employer contribution to employee pensions – a minimum of 3% of salary. The merchants of doom predict this will have dire consequences for the small and medium-sized companies for which the added financial burden will, in some instances, be unaffordable.

But don’t all slash your wrists yet. There’s not even unanimity about what’s being proposed within the government, with Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street predictably disagreeing on which elements of the report are desirable or affordable.

So it’s debatable whether this Turner’s latest canvas will ever get framed, other than in the annals of heroic British failures.

The consensus is that although the pension patient is indeed in terminal decline, the Turner proposals aren’t even a palliative let alone a panacea.

And, despite all the advance hype, the picture being painted is that he’s produced a far from a finished work – more of a tentative sketch with a thinly loaded brush. This watery work in progress will need a lot more attention to detail before it approaches anything like the status of a masterpiece.peter mounty


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