Friday, December 07, 2018

The statist Basel Accord should be anathema to the American Constitution.

Charles Krauthammer once wrote the American Constitution “stands for the pillars that define a limited government with enumerated powers, whose mission is to preserve liberty and individual rights”, “The enduring miracle of the American Constitution”, Washington Post, November 30.

In 1988, one year before the Berlin wall fell and so many thought the world had freed itself from communism, America, and much of the developed world, signed up on the Basel Accord. That accord, for the purpose of its risk weighted capital requirements for banks, awarded the sovereign a 0% risk weight, while imposing one of 100% on unrated citizens.

If Krauthammer is right when he wrote of a reverence for the Constitution “so deeply ingrained that we don’t even see it; we just think it’s in the air that we breathe”, I cannot understand the American silence on what clearly is a statist concoction; which I believe goes against everything America and its Constitution stands for.

That seriously distorted the allocation of bank credit in favor of governments and has now painted America into a very dangerous corner; in 1988 America’s public debt was about $2.6bn, now it owes around $21.7bn and still has a 0% risk weight.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

“Just as an identity card is not a man, a credit rating is not a country”

Leonard Cohen, minute 3:50, in his the most ever amazing emotional and respectful thank you speech, in this case for Spain’s “Príncipe de Asturias” prize.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Jeff Fairburn’s £75m bonus is nothing when compared to the real problem with house prices.

Aditya Chakrabortty holds that “Jeff Fairburn’s £75m bonus has sharpened focus on the vast windfalls generated by help to buy” “Let’s stop lining housebuilders’ pockets and tax them instead” The Guardian, November 9, 2018.

No, it clearly has not! By focusing on that bonus, which naturally stirs up some envy into all of us, he misses the real issue, namely how much helping houses to be affordable for some, makes these even more unaffordable to others.

So first, let us all shake off that Jeff Fairburn’s £75m bonus. To begin with just take it as if life had dealt him a lottery jackpot. He has most certainly paid much more taxes on it than the taxes that would be paid had that £75m bonus been shared out equally among us all. And I would bet that more than 99% of what purchase power he had left over, has already been returned to the real economy by him buying assets or services.

That “the five biggest British housebuilders together paid out £4.4bn in dividends to shareholders between 2014 (the first full year of help to buy) and 2017” is totally irrelevant when compared to the magnitude of the real problem with houses.

That problem has to do with how much house prices have been inflated by this scheme and so many other distortions; especially like regulations that allow banks to hold much less capital when financing the purchase of houses than when lending to entrepreneurs… those who could be the ones who create the jobs so that house buyers will be able to afford to pay their mortgages and utilities.

Aditya Chakrabortty laments “Without that money from you and me, Persimmon would simply not have made that many sales, nor made that much profit– and its outgoing boss probably wouldn’t have got such a large bonus.” He should look at himself first.

Does Aditya Chakrabortty own a house? Then he should reflect on how much his house has gone up in value because of all the political kindness awarded house buyers. Should he not pay high taxes on that? House builders at least built. What have house owners done to enrich themselves so?

Does Aditya Chakrabortty not own a house? Then he should reflect on how much all the political kindness awarded house buyers has made houses even more unaffordable to him.

Houses are no longer homes; as a consequence of all regulatory and political kindness these have become investments assets too. The day too many house-owners will want to cash in their investment, for instance to pay some retirement costs… will the buyers be there for them? 

Well if we prohibit all political kindness awarded house buyers… as we in fact should so as not to blow the bubble larger, then many if the current buyers will definitely not be there... but then those that do not own houses may begin to find these affordable.

It all makes me remember Alan Price’s “Oh my, my, my, my, my, my, my, it makes you wanna cry. This is the house that Jack built, baby, and it reaches up into the sky”

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Redistributing wealth is not as straightforward as redistribution profiteers want us to think.

I posted a thread with 8 tweets 

Louis XII could be the filthy rich who gave up main-street purchase power to commission Leonardo da Vinci to paint Salvator Mundi. 500 years later another filthy rich freezes $450 million of his own purchase capacity, hanging that painting on a wall. Bad or great? 

Why are just the "filthy rich", like Louis XII and the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi cursed? Why not Leonardo da Vinci, or the current vendor of Salvator Mundi? Could they‘ve not just as well used money they got from filthy rich for something “more worthwhile”?

Does it all boil down to that Louis XII should not have commissioned Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi and instead have bought food for the poor? I guess that would then depend on what the food suppliers did with that money, grow more food or drink more gin. Life isn’t easy

We can just pray that something of that main-street-purchasing-power comes into the hands of the few risk-taking entrepreneurs who, with luck, help catapult our world forward. Sadly, with risk weighted capital requirements for banks, regulators have made that less possible.

Yes, life isn’t easy. So let us all beware of all those redistribution profiteers out to make money or gain political power and who tell us “Let us just redistribute the wealth of the filthy rich, and you will all live in Nirvana. Venezuela, Nirvana? My …!!!

If Louis XX commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint Salvator Mundi, would it not make a beautiful novel to trace how that money flowed, perhaps to a Bill Gates, generating wealth so that someone could freeze $450 million on a wall, and keep the human development ball rolling? 

These ramblings about how the “filthy rich” convert their main-street-purchasing-power into assets and services, some that would never have existed without them started when seeing a totally useless shield in the Louvre in Paris.

Just in case, this is not a point blank defense of the “filthy rich”. It refers strictly to how their purchase power morphs into assets and services. Many “filthy rich” do become so in unjust and corrupt ways, quite often highly detrimental to development.

PS. This of course does not mean that I am not in favor of reducing inequality. For that I strongly believe in the need for an unconditional universal basic income, a Societal Dividend

PS. When it comes to wealth, yachts are often depicted… but rarely do we see any interest in what those yacht-builders did with the money they received.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Five tweets and four PS: When shares and houses will want or need to transition from here to there, what will happen?

Huge QE, large fiscal deficits, and generous bank credit pushed on by very low capital requirements, injected huge amounts of liquidity that, among others, caused the price of shares, and the price of houses that morphed from homes into investment assets, to increase immensely.

Soon many of the elderly owners of shares and houses, will want to reconvert these assets again into main-street purchase capacity, whether voluntarily, in order to cover for their retirement costs, or involuntary, by having these assets becoming part of an inheritance.

The sale of shares and houses will then face: An extremely indebted economy that includes huge unfunded social obligations. Gig jobs, robots that tend to hold down wages, and pension funds and insurance companies also needing to sell assets in order to meet their own commitments.

How is all that going to play out? Since there are no possibilities of reenacting Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), or placing all shares and houses on central bank’s balances, it has me very troubled and finding very little that could bring me, a grandfather, some relief.

Is someone somewhere preparing financial or economic counter measures that could alleviate the problems brewing in the horizon? I really doubt it! As Einstein said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

PS. All this could be further much complicated by social tensions caused by lack of employment. Therefore I would ignore all the redistribution profiteers’ natural objections, and immediately enact an Unconditional Universal Basic Income. Even $100 per month would do for a start.

PS. That UBI could be partially funded by a high tax on carbon emissions. That would allow us to use market signaling more, in order to avoid that whatever little resources we might have available for fighting climate change, are captured by green-profiteers.

PS. Bank regulators messed it up for us. Their risk-weighted capital requirements only guarantee banks building up especially large exposures, to what’s perceived as especially safe, against especially little capital, dooming bank systems to especially large crises

PS. If our descendants are to stand a chance they must understand that risk-taking is the oxygen of any development, and so they must be wary of any loony runaway risk aversion, imposed by expert besserwisser nannies. God make us daring!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Investors want to promote the use of the products they have invested billions in; and that goes for cannabis-marijuana-marihuana-pot too.

My grandchildren are Canadian. 

So when I read in the Globe and Mail that “Investment banks reap rewards with $2.8-billion in cannabis equity deals” and the head of a Canadian bank’s Canadian equity capital-markets investments saying “Without cannabis new issue activity, our volumes would be down substantially more… it has certainly offset the declines in energy and power and utilities”, I really got nervous, mad, and began tweeting out everywhere.

"Is nobody concerned with those billions in equity invested in the legal production of cannabis-marijuana-marihuana-pot in Canada? That equity will search for good returns by promoting its intensive use. Have the pushers now moved to Wall Street?

I am not an absolutist against legalization of cannabis. I thought one of the best reasons for it was to fight the illegal business involved with its distribution… but what I now see seems more related to taking over that business L

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Having fallen so low, Venezuela should take that golden opportunity to try reach the stars.

Moisés Naím and Francisco Toro describe well the utter current horrors of Venezuela in “Venezuela’s suicide: Lessons from a failed state” Foreign Affairs, December 2018.  But they conclude in that: 

“Even if opposition forces—or a U.S.-led armed attack—somehow managed to replace Maduro with an entirely new government, the agenda would be daunting. 

A successor regime would need to reduce the enormous role the military plays in all areas of the public sector. It would have to start from scratch in restoring basic services in health care, education, and law enforcement. 

It would have to rebuild the oil industry and stimulate growth in other economic sectors. It would need to get rid of the drug dealers, prison racketeers, predatory miners, wealthy criminal financiers, and extortionists who have latched on to every part of the state. 

And it would have to make all these changes in the context of a toxic, anarchic political environment and a grave economic crisis.”

That mission impossible sounding reads like placing all responsibility on the government to fix it all by going back and repeat, this time differently, all that got Venezuela to where it is today.

That to me is unacceptable. After all the blood, sweat and tears Venezuela has had to spill during the last decades, it really deserves a brand new future.

Here are eight tweets that imbed my action plan and dreams for my country.

"So Venezuelans can eat, quickly, PDVSA must be handed over in payment in full to all Venezuela’s creditors quickly, so they put that junk to work quickly, so they can recover some money quickly, and so as to pay us citizens, not the government, royalties quickly"

“Let then the government tax those oil revenues received by the citizens (like with 10%), so that those in government are clear about who they work for, and let what the citizens have left, then flow through the market and help oil the economy of Venezuela.”

“The result will be a different and better Venezuela, freed from those oil revenue distributing profiteers that have always found ways to keep more for themselves or their crony friends. No longer will Venezuelans have to live in somebody else’s business”

“New government debt should be contracted only to help pay for investments needed by its core infrastructure; Guri’s hydroelectric dams and central transmission lines. Privatizations should be designed to provide good and low priced services to the public ” 

“Expropriated properties should be returned to original owners, and all efforts made to recover what has been stolen the last 20 years, including by paying a bounty on any money recovered.”

“The government employees should be reduced to a fraction of their current number. With their individual share of oil revenues, and not having to go to work, most of them would anyhow be better off than today”

“The government’s initially ultra low revenues should be used almost exclusively for law enforcement (not military spending). Make Venezuela’s streets safe again, and Venezuela’s citizens, including returning migrants, will take care of the rest”.

“The best way to eradicate forever that economic human rights violation of giving away gasoline domestically, would be to have all citizens to participate in the revenues generated by the sale in Venezuela of gasoline at international prices”

These tweets are not just based on current realities. In 1974, as a 24 years old recently graduated MBA, I was appointed to be the first diversification manager in the Venezuelan Investment Fund that was being created to manage the oil revenues from the oil boom of those days. I resigned after only two weeks, the same day my desk arrived, already convinced by outside pressures exerted, that oil revenues redistribution profiteers would never allow the Fund to have the independence needed.

Three decades later, as an Executive Director of the World Bank 2002-04, a chair that Moisés Naím had also occupied before me, during and after the Iraq war I tried to push for an oil revenue sharing scheme as best I could. No luck, the crony statism interest of concentrating these revenues in the hands governments, were they could be more easily exploited, proved much too strong for me. 

Now Venezuela has a golden opportunity to free itself from the most malignant part of its oil curse, the excessive concentration of power in its government. I pray it is able to keep away any neo-redistribution profiteers. Let us make sure that having fallen this low we Venezuelans will aim for the stars… that way we will, as the Chinese saying goes, at least reach higher than if aiming at something seemingly more reachable.

“Venezuela would need to get rid of [all] who have latched on to every part of the state.”  What better way than assuring there is much less to latch on?

Here are some of the articles I've written and that relate to my desires about Venezuela’s future.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Bank regulators behave like the scarer employed at the energy-producing factory Monsters, Inc.

The idea of requiring banks to hold less capital (equity) against what is perceived, decreed or concocted as safe, like sovereigns, the AAArisktocracy and residential houses, than against what is perceived as risky, like SMEs and entrepreneurs, is absolutely cuckoo.

That means that when banks try to maximize their risk adjusted return on equity they can multiply (leverage) many times more the perceived net risk adjusted margins received from “the safe” than those received from “the risky”. As a result clearly, sooner or later, the safe are going to get too much bank credit (causing financial instability) and the risky have, immediately, less access to it (causing a weakening of the real economy). 

Anyone who can as regulators did in Basel II, assign a 20% risk weight to what is AAA rated, and to which therefore dangerously excessive exposures could be created, and 150% to what is made so innocuous to our banking systems by being rated below BB-, always reminds me of those in Monsters, Inc. who run scared of the children. I wish they stopped finding energy in the screams of SMEs and start using their laughter instead.

“We need a people’s Fed”. Yes, we sure do! Assigning 0% risk weight to the sovereign and 100% to any unrated citizen is pure statist ideology driven discrimination in favor of government bureaucrats and against the people. But perhaps the activists depicted are not into that kind of arguments. 

PS. Those in Monsters Inc. finally figured it out. Our bank regulators in the Basel Committee and the Financial Stability Board have yet to do so, even 10 years after that 2008 crisis, which was caused exclusively by excessive exposures to what was perceived, decreed of concocted as safe, like AAA rated securities and loans to sovereigns like Greece 😩

Friday, September 21, 2018

Deciphering my tweet

My tweet: "A much worse debt crisis awaits us, perhaps the sooner the better, caused by having kicked the 2008 crisis can down the road, while keeping serious miss-regulation of banks. When it hits, an Unconditional Universal Basic Income, however small, might be society’s only survival tool." 

Just looking at the huge debts of all sectors, in all nations; sovereigns, corporations, house financing, student debt, credit card debt and unfunded social liabilities; that which among other converted homes into also being dangerous investment assets; and pushed the consumer and government demand that should be there to prop up the future economy to prop up the current, there's no doubt that “A much worse debt crisis awaits us.

Since it was our generation that trusted populist besserwisser technocrats to know what they were doing, for instance when they told us “We will make your bank systems safer with our risk weighted capital requirements because we know what the risks are”, this is really our generation’s made crisis. In this respect, because we should not leave that crisis to our grandchildren to take care of, and also because we do not want that debt to grow even more, that’s why the “perhaps the sooner the better”. 

QEs or asset purchase program, ultralow interest rates and many continues fiscal deficits clearly explains the “caused by having kicked the 2008 crisis can down the road” (forward and upwards).

The risk weighted capital requirements for banks in Basel II assigned a 0% risk weight to sovereigns, a 100% risk weights to the citizens who make the sovereign strong; and allowed banks to leverage a mindboggling 62.5 times their capital with private sector assets rated AAA by human fallible credit rating agencies. That caused the crisis. As much of those distortions are still well and alive, that  should more than suffice to explain the “while keeping serious miss-regulation of banks”.

When it hits”, that’s when all polarization and redistribution profiteers of the world, like Venezuela’s Chavez and Maduro, will be out in masses on the street trying to capitalize on the mayhem, in order to increase the value of their franchises.

And that’s precisely when and why “an Unconditional Universal Basic Income, however small, might be our society’s only survival tool.

If only we had all understood and accepted  the benefits of a hard landing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

My tweets on protectionism

I am against protectionism... but... and

All trade deficits are not created equal
If a nation has a trade deficit resulting from importing too much of tomorrow’s goods and exporting too little of yesterday’s, that deficit is worse than if importing too much of yesterday’s goods and exporting too little of tomorrow’s

All capital surpluses are not created equal
If foreigners invest too little in your nations’ current existing assets, and too much in your tomorrows’, that capital surplus is not as good as if they invest much in your current existing assets, and less in your assets of tomorrow.

Are not nations who retaliate against the imposition of tariffs by imposing their own tariffs just as protectionist as those who started imposing tariffs?

Friday, June 08, 2018

Was Sofia Goggia singing her national anthem with such fervor just being another Italian populist? NO!

I refer here to Nobel Laureate Michael Spence’s “The Italian Economy’s Moment of Truth” Project Syndicate July 7.

Spence writes:“Italian banks currently holding considerable amounts of government debt would suffer substantial balance-sheet damage.” 

Why is that? Is it perhaps because bank regulators allow banks to hold Italian debt against the least capital, meaning they can leverage it the most, meaning they can earn the highest expected risk adjusted returns on equity on it? Yes!

Then Spence writes: “Moreover, Italy needs to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystems that underpin dynamism and innovation. As matters stand, the financial sector is too closed, and it provides too little funding and support for new ventures.” 

Why is that? Could it be because regulators require banks to for instance hold more capital against loans to entreprenuers than against residential mortgages? Yes!

Spence writes: “Italy has enormous economic potential. But the challenge lies in unlocking it, which will require several things to happen.”

One reason for that is that the option to restore competitiveness by means of devaluing its currency was closed when the Euro was adopted, and the EU authorities have been too busy with other minutia over the last 20 years so as to concentrate on how to solve the immense challenge with creating a union by pushing a common currency instead of a common currency resulting from a union.

The best of the Winter Olympics 2018 for me was seeing Sofia Goggia singing her Italian national anthem with such enthusiasm. There was not one bit of Europe present in her voice… and that is an indication Europe is not going in a European direction. Was she a populist?

Let’s face it. Americans dream they are American. Few if no Europeans, dream they are Europeans.

PS. The euro has done nothing to solve the challenges posed by the use of the euro, and in many ways, like what it did to Greece, it has behaved more as a Banana Union.

PS. “We will safeguard your bank system with our risk weighted capital requirements for banks”, as if they the regulators in the Basel Committee really knew what those risks were, is a hubris fed dangerous technocratic besserwisser populism of the worst kind. 

PS. Just in case you are curious, the worst for me at the WO-2018 was to suffer with Egvenia Medvedeva when not winning gold.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Keep your eyes on the ball, Cambridge Analytica is not it.

The whole Cambridge Analytica affair, which came about when some limited Facebook data on 87 million people was presumably misappropriated, seems now used a lot to hide the fact that the existence at Facebook of much more detailed data on 2.2 billion people poses, almost by definition, a bigger problem.

Since regulations might come, whether we like it or not, like many I have been giving some thoughts on how to regulate Facebook. This is what I have come up with. First of all, let us avoid many complicated hard to understand rules and go for some very simple few ones. Among these I would suggest: 

Have Facebook respect our very scarce attention span by limiting the ads it generates to a maximum of 3 per person on a per hour on line basis.

Prohibit all data collection on truly private matters such as political, religious or sexual preferences.

And foremost a total prohibition on handing over any data to government agencies. The last thing we need is for Facebook and similar to enter into profitable "Big Brother is Watching You” joint ventures with governments. I am from Venezuela, and I have seen enough damage having been caused by governments taking over traditional media, to want to think about these being able to exploit social media. Can you imagine Maduro using our Facebook data to decide with much more precision, who to give his food-boxes to?

We "The Resistance", might urgently need to create alternative underground social media.

PS. Of course I would love to see some of the advertising revenues we allowed Facebook to earn, return to us whose data is being exploited, perhaps by means of helping to fund a Universal Basic Income


Monday, April 09, 2018

Since you don’t eat gold-bars, just redistributing of wealth solves very little, or even nothing.

The Guardian writes: “An alarming projection produced by the House of Commons library suggests that if trends seen since the 2008 financial crash were to continue, then the top 1% will hold 64% of the world’s wealth by 2030… equating to $305tn” “Richest 1% on target to own two-thirds of all wealth by 2030”, April 7, 2018.
How awfully unjust… but… how do you productively convert that wealth into the products or assets that could be useful for the 99%, without unexpected consequences or without most wealth just going to a 1%, or less, of some new filthy-rich wealthy?

How much value of that $305tn of wealth would just evaporate by the redistribution? And what would that do to the value of the then projected $152 wealth in the hands of 99%?

For instance what would happen to the price of a Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, in which, someone very wealthy, agreed to freeze $450 million of his main-street purchase capacity? How do you turn that wealth into something the poorer of the 99% need?

Where would the stock market value head?

Where would the interest rate, for instance on public debt go?

Where would the prices of houses head?

And if wealth gets too much distributed, who is going to demand that which only the really wealthy 1% can afford to demand, and which creates a lot of jobs that would otherwise not exist?

It is amazing how much discussions there are about the need to redistribute wealth without any consideration to what that redistribution would entail. Could that be because that is not in the interest of any redistribution or polarization profiteers?

As I see it there is much more to be gained by capturing more income before it has been converted into wealth assets. Just redistributing existing wealth is a one-shot unsustainable top-down approach.

Much better is a very modest starting Universal Basic Income where you little by little begin to build up a societal dividend that will keep the redistribution and polarization profiteers at bay. And that is of course why the latter hate UBI… as it eats into the value of their franchise.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz should be ashamed of himself for arguing racial profiling was a major cause of the 2007/08 subprime mortgage crisis

Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz, in “When Shall We Overcome?” Project Syndicate, March 12, 2018 writes: “America’s financial sector targeted African-Americans for exploitation, especially in the years before the financial crisis, selling them volatile products with high fees that could, and did, explode.” Thousands lost their homes, and in the end, the disparity in wealth, already large, increased even more. One leading bank, Wells Fargo, paid huge fines for charging higher interest rates to African-American and Latino borrowers”

No! America’s financial sector did not target any special community”. It targeted extraordinary returns on equity made possible by the process of securitization teaming up with extremely lousy bank regulations.

1. A part of the financial sector targeted originating and packaging very lousy high interest rate mortgages into AAA rated securities, because that is how you make real big money in the process of securitizing. Packaging an AA rated mortgage into an AAA rated security is not even worth the effort. Packaging a $300.000, 30 year, 11% fixed rate mortgage, and getting an AAA rating on the resulting security, that would allow you to perhaps sell the mortgage as if 6% was a reasonable rate, something which would allow the team to pocket $210.000 in immediate profits.

2. In 2004, bank regulators approved that if those securities had an AAA rating, or if an AAA rated corporation (AIG) had sold a default guarantee on such securities even if it had worse credit ratings, then banks needed to hold only 1.6% in capital, meaning they could leverage 62.5 times with it. If banks thought they could only make 1% in net margin on those securities, then they could expect 62.5% yearly return on equity… and frankly who could resist such a temptation.

Put those two things together and you have 99% of the explanation you need without having to enter into any sort of racial profiling arguments.

Professor Stiglitz having served in 2009 as the chairman of the U.N. Commission on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, where he oversaw suggested proposals and commissioned a report on reforming the international monetary and financial system, should know all that very well, and so he should be ashamed of himself for doing so.

Monday, February 05, 2018

World Bank, more than a “Knowledge” bank, a “Besserwisser” bank, be the “Wisdom” bank I know you could be; or, if that sounds too haughty, at least aspire to be “The Common Sense” bank.

A “Knowledge” bank might think that assets perceived as risky could be risky for banks. A “Wisdom” bank understands that what could be especially risky for banks, and for bank systems, is what is perceived as safe.

A “Knowledge” bank might think that it is great for banks to avoid taking risks.

A “Wisdom” bank knows that the most important function for banks is to take intelligent risks on behalf of society.

A “Knowledge” bank might agree with the Basel Committee’s bank capital requirements based on perceived risks.

A “Wisdom” bank would think much more in terms of not distorting credit allocation, and, if that’s not possible, in terms of capital requirements for banks with a purpose, like on perceived chances of fostering human and natural capital wealth

A “Knowledge” bank, if it has to distort the allocation of bank credit, might agree with bank capital requirements against sovereigns based on credit ratings.

A “Wisdom” bank, in such a case, would much more prefer to base the bank capital requirements on a good governance index.

A “Knowledge” bank might say: “We know it all”. A “Wisdom” bank, would understand “We know Jack shit!”

Or, if aspiring to becoming the “Wisdom bank” sounds too haughty, the World Bank it should at least aspire to be “The Common Sense” bank.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Many of our young will be without jobs, and will have to live in the basement of their parent’s houses, as a direct consequence of abominable bank regulations

Fact: The financing of house purchase is usually, with reason, perceived by bankers as much safer than financing entrepreneurs.

Fact: That means that, on their own, unregulated, banks would be expected to finance the purchase of houses more, and at lower risk adjusted interest rates, than financing entrepreneurs. 

Fact: But then bank regulators in 1988 doubled down on the same ex ante perceived risk and introduced risk weighted capital requirements. 

Fact: In those capital requirements (2004, Basel II) regulators assigned a much lower risk weight to the financing of houses (35%) than to the financing of entrepreneurs (100%).

This means regulators allow banks to hold less capital when financing the purchase of houses than when financing entrepreneurs. 

This means banks can now leverage their equity more when financing the purchase of houses than when financing entrepreneurs. 

This means banks can now obtain higher expected risk adjusted returns on equity when financing the purchase of houses than when financing entrepreneurs. 

This means that banks will even more prefer financing the purchase of houses, at even lower interest rates, than the financing of entrepreneurs.

This means easier, regulatory subsidized, access to house financing, causing higher house prices. How much of the easier  financing conditions when purchasing houses do we now have to finance when financing a house purchase?

This means a lesser, taxed by regulations, access to credit for entrepreneurs, causing less job creation and a slower growing real economy.

So, compared to what would be the case in the absence of these risk-weighted regulations this means:

For the young: Fewer possibilities of jobs and of buying their own houses. 

For house owners: They are sitting on assets that at current real valuations will not find buyers in the future.

For the aging: Lesser possibilities of taking care of their future needs.

For social peace: The young might revolt and shout: “Parents we’ve been cheated out of our future by crazy bank regulators, and you said nothing! So now you move down to the basements and we move upstairs!

PS. Those more interested in providing our young affordable housing than in helping our young to afford the houses, which is of course not the same thing, are as I see it just some other vulgar redistribution profiteers.

PS. Here a brief aide memoire on the major mistakes with the risk weighted capital requirements

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Oxfam, how do you redistribute wealth already created, without risking making the poor poorer?

“The world’s billionaires – the richest 2,000 people on the planet – saw their wealth increase by a staggering $762 billion in just one year. That’s an average of $381 million apiece. If those billionaires had simply been content with staying at their 2016 wealth, and had given their one-year gains to the world’s poorest people instead, then extreme poverty would have been eradicated. Hell, they could have eradicated extreme poverty, at least in theory, by giving up just one seventh of their annual gains.”

That particular paragraph is spoken like a true redistribution profiteer 😞

First: Where do those “one-year gains” originate? If from criminal corruption, if from skewed central banks stimuli, if from exploiting monopoly and similar forces, then a reduction in that wealth increase would be absolutely justified and good… but, if that wealth increase came from true wealth creation, or even from heritage, then a reduction of it could have very negative consequences for all, especially for the poor.

Second: If that wealth has already been created and is consequently represented by assets, how does one liquidate those assets so as not to affect the value of those assets, or in other ways put markets at risk? One of those 2.000 billionaires is probably he who bought Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” for $450 million. He, de facto, like with a sort of voluntary tax, froze $450 million of purchasing power on a wall, or in a safe box. How on earth does one go about to reconvert that into $450 million of new purchase power that could be handed over to the poor?

The Oxfam report contains many correct statements. I totally agree with that wealth should not be created by criminal and unfair behavior, or derived from crony statist relations; and I also agree with that wealth should not be used to abusively increase the influence of the wealthy in our societies.

But when the report states “To end extreme poverty, we must also end extreme wealth” I disagree. First because whether one likes it or not, wealth, as it is invested in assets, has de facto already been redistributed… like in the previous case to those who received the $450 million paid for the “Salvator Mundi”… to those who sell a luxury yacht… to those who sell handmade shoes in Milan… to governments by buying public debt… to markets by buying shares.

On the report Jeffrey Sachs comments: “Sometimes the super-rich call out Oxfam and others for ‘stoking class warfare’ but the truth is that in many societies, including my own, the United States, many of the super- rich have in effect declared war on the poor.”

That sounds precisely like what Chavez preached and now Maduro does in my Venezuela… and look where that has taken our poor country… with asset values and salaries totally destroyed over some very few years… a whole generation of Venezuelans growing up severely malnourished… and the Bolivarian revolutionaries blaming it all on the war declared on them by The Empire. 

Oxfam, a multinational confederation of NGOs, having issued this report, has now a moral obligation of explaining, once wealth has been created, how it can be redistributed without running the risks of making the poorest poorer. And, if it can’t, it should stop creating false expectations.
Expropriate it! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

About Zamorano and the use of country systems

I posted this because today World Economic Forum @wef posted a tweet that said "Denmark is building a school where students have to grow their own food". I already saw such a school, way back, in Honduras, in Zamorano.

This is a copy of an informal memo sent to my colleagues Executive Directors at the World Bank in 2004, as extracted from my Voice and Noise of 2006.

About Zamorano and the use of country systems

Dear colleagues,

Traveling in Honduras recently, I heard on the radio the old rock band Enanitos Verdes singing about having to run the risk of getting up, in order to keep on falling, and it reminded me of our recent discussions about “use-of-country-systems” where I gave you my mumbo jumbo about having to let them go, since this is the only way they could learn how to ride a bike. 

I was on my way to visit the agricultural school Zamorano, cajoled (with no major effort needed) by one of its graduates—a friend of ours, Jorge Wong, and little did I know I was heading into true learning-how-to-bike land. The motto of this most amazing school is “learning while doing” and … Boy, do they! Boy, do they learn!

In Zamorano, kids have a school year of 11 months and are rigorously awakened every morning at 5 am—hellish but I tell you that it has been a long time since I’ve seen such a group of enthusiastic, happy, and feeling-good-about-the-future young faces. There are about eight hundred boarding students, of whom more than two hundred are girls. They come from many Latin American countries, from all backgrounds, and any differences are neutralized with education, companionship, and uniforms. 

Along with their formal academic classroom studies, the kids, from seventeen to twenty-three, are taught about every imaginable (and also some you-do-not-want-to-imagine) agricultural and farm chore there is, by being handled full responsibility for doing them. They grow crops, milk cows and in the industrial installations where they produce cheeses, juices, marmalades, sausages, and much more that they sell in Honduran supermarkets, the managers are the students from senior grades and the workers their younger friends. 

And Zamorano goes way beyond teaching knowledge. When I heard some kids explain to me about the biologic pesticides they develop and market all over Central America, could it be to make it the “Green Subcontinent”? It became clear that besides algebra, they must have gotten lectures on confidence building, communication skills, and character formation too.

Although I was told that in the dry season the landscape changes somewhat, El Zamorano as I saw it lay snuggled in a beautiful valley, where it has about 10,000 acres of land and great and functional facilities. This Zamorano seed effort is more than ready for some heavy-duty scaling-up, and they have already started doing so with some interesting and substantial extension programs, reaching out to their neighboring communities. Envying their tremendous educational expertise, I am already on my knees, begging them to branch out into my favorite Central American growth program—you bet, those who know me: educating doctors specialized in geriatric ailments and bilingual nurses, certified by schools and health authorities of developed nations.

In the last couple of weeks we have been reminded of some of Ronald Reagan’s “one-liners” (slogans), among them, “trust but verify.” It is clear that we face serious challenges when monitoring or verifying the results of our projects, but, frankly, after having been in Zamorano, I am convinced that it is exactly in the trusting department where we really are in the backwaters. We need not worry, though. Zamorano was founded three years before the World Bank, and so we still have a chance to catch up. 

Back in D.C., on my radio, Joan Manuel Serrat was singing about Africa—something about the world not letting it go, yet not holding onto it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Here is a fact Washington should consider before, inhumanly, sending Salvadorans packing, after using them for so long.

Snowing in Washington

Yes, it had snowed a little, but never would I have imagined when I arrived for an early-morning conference at the World Bank that I would find the meeting had been suspended because of “inclement weather.” Later I came to understand. Just a minimum amount of snow creates total havoc in Washington. The snow covers the streets for days and except for those few corners that are shoveled clean by some tropical Salvadoran saviors living up to their name, it will have to melt away either through warmth or tons of salt. The schools also shut down for any little flurry and although the news of this is received with great joy by all children, my daughter first among them, but nonetheless of course, not braving it will only make it harder for Washingtonians to conquer their weakness through Darwinian evolution. Indeed, Washington is a great and beautiful city and although it is the capital of the world’s mightiest nation it has also its Achilles’ heel. It could be completely shut down with just a couple of strategically located snowmakers.