Monday, April 08, 2019

A brief comment on Joseph E. Stiglitz “The EURO: How a common currency threatens the future of Europe”

Professor Stiglitz correctly describes many of the challenges the Euro poses, most of which were known from get-go twenty years ago, like the problem derived from having fixed exchange rates within the Eurozone.

In the introduction to the paperback edition, Stiglitz also briefly brings forward something that should have been understood but seems to have been much ignored. That is that although the Euro is for most purposes the domestic currency in the Eurozone, it is de facto not a truly domestic currency for any of its sovereigns, since none of these have the right to individually print the Euros it wants or needs. Without that right, the Eurozone’s sovereigns’ debts are all, de facto, denominated in a quasi-foreign currency.

But what the book does not mention, is what came afterwards, I do not know exactly where and when; something that here and there is referred to, in hush voices, as Sovereign Debt Privileges. These translate into that the EU authorities (European Commission?), for the purpose of the risk weighted capital requirements for banks, assigned all Eurozone nations an insane 0% risk weight. 

That distortion in favor of Eurozone’s sovereign’s accesses to bank credit has impeded the markets from sending the correct market signals with respect to the interest rates for each sovereign.

One of the consequences of this has been the tragedy of Greece. Especially since Greece was then forced up to pay up basically on its own for this EU mistake, so as to bail out German, French and other Eurozone banks. What a Banana Union!

As for Professors Stiglitz opinions on Brexit I might resume those I my own words as “If there's a Remain there might not be a EU in which to remain”, something that would be very sad as EU was, and still can be, a very beautiful dream.

But let me be clear. I do not hold the EU authorities as solely responsible for the consequences of their 0% risk weighing of the Eurozone Sovereigns. Already in 2011, in a post titled “Who did the Eurozone in?” I argued that the extraordinary low risk weights that the Basel Committee assigned to sovereign debt when compared to what it assigned to the private sectors would end in tears. (And that goes not only for the Eurozone)