Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dr Jens Weidman, why did it take you so long to figure this out?

Dr Jens Weidmann, President of the Deutsche Bundesbank, at the Tagesspiegel event "Deutschland Agora 2014", Berlin, 16 January 2014 said the following.

“In order to break the disastrous nexus of banks and governments, the regulatory treatment of government bonds will, however, also have to be changed.

Currently, banks can invest unlimited amounts in euro-area government bonds. Under the current capital rules, a zero risk weight applies to these assets, which means that these government bonds can be fully funded with borrowed money, in other words, they do not require any capital backing. This constitutes preferential treatment, and has been a factor in banks in several peripheral euro-area states, in particular, raising their exposure to domestic sovereign bonds during the crisis; they have thereby tied their fate to that of their national government.

In my opinion, credit ceilings and risk-based capital backing would be a sensible way of breaking the nexus - that would basically mean applying similar rules to those for bank loans to private-sector debtors. Such rules would also promote bank lending to enterprises.

Support for this proposal is growing, its logic is compelling, but implementation is probably not on the cards for 2014… In the longer term, however, such regulations are, in my opinion, an indispensable prerequisite for a stable monetary union and a healthy financial system.”

And I just ask Dr Jens Weidman… why did it take you so long to figure this out? And if you accept that correcting for it is "indispensable", why not more urgency?

In November 2004, soon 10 years ago, after ending my 2 year term at the World Bank as one of its Executive Directors, in a letter published by the Financial Times I wrote: 

“Our bank supervisors in Basel are unwittingly controlling the capital flows in the world. How many Basel propositions it will take before they start realizing the damage they are doing by favoring so much bank lending to the public sector (sovereigns)?