Thursday, August 29, 2013

Young! Fight for your right that the society, through its banks, takes the risks you need for your future

Today I refer to the global tragedy of rising youth unemployment. I contend that to a large extent it is caused by the appalling banking regulations of the Basel Committee.

These regulations require banks to hold much more capital (equity) for assets considered "risky" than for those that are perceived as "absolutely safe". And that, no matter what you might think, makes no sense.

As a result the banks obtain much higher risk-adjusted returns on their assets, when lending to “the infallible” than when lending to "the risky”. Something which simply means favoring those already favored by the market, and discriminating those already discriminated by the market. And the consequences are dire.

That alone ensures that when one of those ex ante "infallible" is, sooner or later, ex post, found out to be risky, the bank will stand there naked, with little or no equity to cover up for huge exposures.

And worse, it shatters the chances of banks efficiently allocating credit resources in the real economy... which as you understand means low job creation.

In Washington, in October, there will be a "Youth Summit". In a world where there are so many old people much more concerned about their own welfare, than with the prospects of the young, the summit may not receive sufficient attention .

The summit invites people between 18 and 35 years to submit proposals on development cases, highlighting the challenges faced in real life development organizations. One of these is titled "A better financial product for micro entrepreneurs, young people and small businesses."

And since as "old" I cannot compete, I here try to squeeze by a proposal:

Bank Regulators: Eliminate capital requirements based on perceived risk. With these you only encourage banks to lend more and in better terms to the "absolutely safe". Accept the fact that risk-taking is the oxygen of all development.

Apart from it all your risk aversion is useless. All the major problems with banks, past, current and future, will always result from what you regulators, and the bankers, considered as “absolutely safe”; like sovereign, real estate and AAA credit ratings holders. We have never ever experienced a banking crisis that has resulted from excessive loan exposures to “the risky”, micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses.

And, regulators, if you absolutely must distort the market, in order to justify your salaries, or feed your egos, then at least let the banks hold less capital only in accordance to ratings which indicates the potential of generating employment for the youth, or the sustainability of the environment.

At least banking would in that case be fulfilling a social purpose much more important than being the financier of the AAAristocracy.

“The risky" have the right to bank credit on competitive terms, and that without being relegated to use specialized microfinance entities.

The banks cannot afford not to take the risk on “the risky". On that depends, the creation of the future jobs of our youth, the "infallible" of tomorrow, and even the existence of truly safe banks.

Note: The summit is organized by the Junior Professional Associates at the World Bank (JPA), the United Nations Foundation, Athgo a NGO in Los Angeles, and YEN , a network created by the World Bank , the United Nations and the International Organization Labour Office (ILO ).

PS. In fact there is no way that when the young finally understand the hurt that is being done to them, that they will not revolt… and then perhaps suggest to us older the reinstatement of an “Ättestupa