Thursday, May 08, 2014

Did you know the banks are regulated by means of an ideology?

In 2004 I wrote in the Financial Times: "Bank supervisors in Basel are unwittingly controlling the capital flows in the world. How many Basel propositions will it take before they start realizing the damage they are doing by favoring so much bank lending to the public sector (sovereigns)?

In May 2014, in the Brookings Institute in Washington, while discussing the book by Jean Pisani-Ferry "The euro crisis and its consequences", Jörg Decressin, the deputy director of the European Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), dared to put forward an explanation...finally! ... God bless him.

My question: “In Sweden there is a psalm that prays ‘God make us daring’. And risk-taking risks has been critical to get Europe to where it is. However, in June 2004, the Basel Committee introduced bank capital requirements based on perceived risks, which subsidizes risk-aversion and taxes risk-taking.

For example, a German bank, when lending to a German businessman should keep 8 percent of shareholders’ capital (equity) but, if lending to its government, or to Greece, it could do so without having to hold any capital. That distorts allocation of bank credit in Europe. The book does not mention that problem. Do you have any comments?"

His response: "You raise a very good question and an answer to this revolves around: 

Do you believe that governments have a stabilizing function in the economy?

Do you believe that government is fundamentally something good to have around?

If that is what you believe then it does not make sense necessarily to ask for capital requirements on purchases of government debt, because you believe that the government in the end has to have the ability to act as a stabilizer, when the private sector is taking flight from risk, that is when the government has to be able to step in and the last thing we want is then for people also to dump government debt and basically I do not know what they would do, basically like buy gold. 

If on the other hand your view is that the government is the problem then you would want a capital requirement, so it depends on where you stand [ideologically]. 

I think the issue of the governments being the problem was very much a story of the 1970s, and to some extent of the 1980s. The problems we are dealing with now are more problems in the private sector, we are dealing with excesses in private lending and borrowing and it proves very hard for us to get a handle on this. We have hopes for macro prudential instruments but they are untested, and only the future will show how we deal with them when new credit booms evolve.” End of quote

Jean Pisanny-Ferry… said he agreed and left it at that. 

No Decressin! It is not about the government or the private, it is about the balance between the two, that which is broken.

And I had no chance to ask: Are you arguing that we should support the government’s borrowing ex ante, so that the government can help us better ex post? Would that not result in that when the government is truly needed it might not be able to help because it would already be too indebted… like Greece?

Who authorize regulators to regulate the banks with THEIR ideology?

And what about those who argue that the IMF is a bastion of neoliberalism?... Is it just a Potemkin facade?

Europeans, the structural reform most necessary for Europe to grow, is to get rid of its current bank regulators with their foolish risk aversion and their pro-government and anti-citizen ideology.

Translated from El Universal