Local public banks: how can unions make them work in the public interest?

Public banks (PBs) are state-owned or controlled financial institutions that should aim to deliver on public policy objectives to support economic development in a country or region.

They exist at all levels of government and have played – and continue to play – a key role in supporting infrastructure investment and socio-economic development virtually in all world’s countries, including Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Germany, Turkey and the USA among others. To these should be added those private financial institutions that were rescued with public assets in the wake of the financial crises (e.g. Royal National Bank, ABN Amro, Belfius/Dexia etc.). A 2020 estimate counts 910 public banks worldwide totalling combined assets of 48.71 USD trillion. PBs can also be used to work against common goals, workers' interests, and community development. This is why the democratisation of PBs should be a key concern for trade unions globally.

Thomas Marois, Reader in Development Studies, SOAS/University of London