We are the banks
The past 18 months was a story about the collapse of lending to banks and by banks - and about how we as taxpayers came to the rescue by providing £600bn of loans, guarantees and capital to the banks, to keep them afloat.
The story of the next year will be about the implications of this continued shrinkage in the availability of credit and about the implications of this massive, unprecedented support given to banks by taxpayers.
As a nation, our fortunes in 2009 will be conspicuously tied to the fortunes of our banks as never before.
First, an economic recovery rests on the ability of banks to support viable businesses during what increasingly looks like a severe recession.
Second, and as important, the balance sheet of the British public sector can be seen as the aggregated balance sheet of some substantial banks - because the state now controls three banks, Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley and Royal Bank of Scotland, and will have a huge stake in a soon-to-be created fourth, LloydsTSB/HBOS.
It means that if the perceived credit-worthiness of our banks - with their trillions of pounds of assets and liabilities - were to deteriorate further, that would have an impact on the perceived credit-worthiness of the state.
As never before, it matters to all of us that the banks run themselves in a prudent way. In an extreme and highly unlikely case, if the markets viewed our banks as recklessly managed basket-cases, that would have an impact on the value of sterling and on the ability of the government itself to borrow.
It's probably no exaggeration to say that - for the coming year or two at least - UKFI will be as important to all of us as the Treasury, or the Bank of England or the City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority.
UKFI's primary aim is to "protect and create value for the taxpayer as shareholder" - while also making sure that the banks we own provide "competitively priced" loans to small businesses and homeowners "at 2007 levels".
Those objectives are not quite irreconcilable - in that the banks over which it has sway should be capable of providing substantial credit to the housing and small-company markets without chucking good money after bad, even though this is a dire period of economic contraction and proliferating bankruptcies.
But, for the avoidance of doubt, UKFI has no ability to increase the supply of credit in the economy as a whole.
Remember that the ability of banks to lend is anyway being undermined by losses on the stupid loans they made in the boom years and also by the collapse in the price of houses, property and shares, which slashes the value of vital collateral that backs loans.
So many banks are lending less to big companies, they are lending less for commercial property transactions, they are lending less to City institutions, they are lending less in the form of unsecured personal loans.
Lots of overseas institutions are cutting back significantly on the bounteous credit they provided directly to the real economy in the UK during the preceding few years.
Also many bigger companies that borrow directly on wholesale markets by selling bonds and other securities are finding it much harder and more expensive to raise money.
And credit provided between companies that buy and sell to each other is being massively restricted, by a collapse in the availability of insurance for such credit.
All of which can be summed up as "ouch" for businesses and households - and is the primary reason why some companies are going bust, and why those that will survive are reducing investment and cutting jobs.
So even with £600bn and rising of support for banks from taxpayers, our banks simply don't have the resources to keep afloat real companies - manufacturers, exporters - that are vital to the future of the British economy.
Which is why early in the new year, the Treasury will announce details of yet more taxpayer lending, this time to ensure that credit is provided to viable and strategically important companies - such as the more efficient carmakers.
The line between private sector and public sector, which became blurred in 2008, may become almost impossible to see in 2009.