Monday, November 23, 2015
In 1988, with the Basel Accord, Basel I, the bank regulators of the all important G10 decided that, for the purpose of defining the capital requirements of banks, the risk weight for the sovereign, meaning the government, was to be zero percent, while the risk weight for the private sector, meaning the citizens, was set at 100 percent. What a lunacy!
Mr Stefan Ingves, Chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and Governor of the Sveriges Riksbank, in remarks made on May 5, 2015 to the 8th Meeting of the Regional Consultative Group for Europe, had this to say about “Sovereign risk”
“A discussion of the risk-weighted capital framework would not be complete without a discussion of the Committee's work on sovereign risk - a topic which is clearly of relevance to Europe. At its meeting earlier this year, the Group of Central Bank Governors and Heads of Supervision - the Basel Committee's oversight body - agreed to initiate a review of the existing regulatory treatment of sovereign risk, including potential policy options.
In many cases sovereign exposures are in fact relatively low credit risk assets and also highly liquid.
Yes, they do receive a lower capital charge than other asset classes, but this is generally warranted. But - and this is an important but - I think we can all agree that there is no such thing as a risk-free asset. When we talk about this issue we talk about "sovereign-risk" - not about "sovereign risk-free"
For this reason the Committee will consider potential policy options related to the existing treatment of sovereign risk. It is important to note that this review will be conducted in a careful, holistic and gradual manner.”
Let me here concentrate on “Yes, sovereigns exposures do receive a lower capital charge than other asset classes, but this is generally warranted.”
Mr. Stefan Ingves, why is that generally warranted?
If sovereigns exposures receive a lower capital charge than other assets that means banks will be able to leverage more their equity and the support they receive from society when lending to the sovereign than when lending to the private sector, meaning to the citizens.
And that of course means banks will be able to earn higher expected risk adjusted returns on equity when lending to sovereigns than when lending to the private sector, meaning to the citizens.
And that of course means banks will tend to favor lending to the sovereigns than to the private sector, meaning the citizens.
And the only possible rational explanations for that must be if you believe government bureaucrats more able than citizens to use bank credit.
Do you Stefan Ingves believe that? Are you a raving statist? Are you a raving communist?
Who has ever heard about a zero percent risk free sovereign? They even tell you in your face that they have an inflation target, so as to pay you off with money worth less and, if that does not suffice, that they will then increase your taxes to service their debt.