Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why does IMF never mention that credit-risk-weighted capital requirements for banks, is a potent inequality driver?

I refer to an IMF Staff-Discussion-Note titled “Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective”. It includes among other “Factors Driving Higher Income Inequality” the following:

“Financial globalization. Financial globalization can facilitate efficient international allocation of capital and promote international risk sharing. At the same time, increased financial flows, particularly foreign direct investment (FDI) and portfolio flows have been shown to increase income inequality in both advanced and emerging market economies… Financial deregulation and globalization have also been cited as factors underlying the increase in financial wealth, relative skill intensity, and wages in the finance industry, one of the fastest growing sectors in advanced.

Financial deepening. Financial deepening can provide households and firms with greater access to resources to meet their financial needs, such as saving for retirement, investing in education, capitalizing on business opportunities, and confronting shocks. Financial deepening accompanied by more inclusive financial systems can thus lower income inequality, while improving the allocation of resources… Theory, however, suggests that … inequality can increase as those with higher incomes and assets have a disproportionately larger share of access to finance, serving to further increase the skill premium, and potentially the return to capital.”

And again I must ask: Why does IMF insist on keeping mum on that huge financial inequality driver that is the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks?

Society lends bank much support, not only directly, by entrusting it with its deposits, but also indirectly, by offering deposit guarantees that if called upon will be paid by taxpayers.

And the Basel Committee thought it could make banks safer by making the capital requirements for banks to be dependent on perceptions of credit risk… while entirely ignoring that those perceptions of risk were already cleared for, by means of risk premiums and size of exposure.

And so, for instance with Basel II, regulators decided that banks were allowed to leverage the societal support over 60 times to 1 when lending to the AAArisktocracy, namely those rated AAA to AA, but only about 12 times to 1, when lending to unrated SMEs and entrepreneurs. That, which allows banks to earn much higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when lending to “The Safe”, blocks the opportunities of “the risky” to obtain fair access to bank credit. It therefore constitutes a huge driver of inequality.

And since the document refers to “Financial deregulation” I must also ask, for the umpteenth time…what financial deregulation? That where a small number of regulators redirect the allocation of bank credit all over the world… de facto imposing global capital controls? You’ve got to be kidding!

No! The Basel Committee is just a nest of irresponsible populist technocrats, who frankly have no idea of what they are doing. For instance they derive those capital requirements, that they themselves declare should be there to cover for unexpected losses, from the perceptions of expected losses. How loony is not that? Clearly the safer something is perceived, the bigger its potential to deliver truly disastrous unexpected losses.

I have often complained about these regulations on the IMF blog… you can Google it on “ Kurowski”. But I have never received an answer from IMF, seemingly the automatic solidarity among technocrats is very strong.

PS.That regulatory protectionism can both keep our banks safe and allocate credit well, is pure and unabridged technocratic populism