March 14, 2013

To get out of its crisis-paralysis, UK needs to give its "risky" risk-takers, more access to bank credit.

Sir, I refer to Chris Giles’s “Osborne’s strategy is too timid, not too austere” March 14. I agree completely with his titling, especially after he references the weak export patterns in UK, which clearly sheds new light on why UK’s economy is not doing well. And of course, because “weak business investments suggest continued uncertainty over economic prospects and impairments in getting credit to companies that need it” or as I would say, “that want it”, but are perceived too “risky” to get it.

It is vitally important to realize that in order to overcome the crisis’ paralyzing effect, one needs to get credit out to the "risky" risk-takers. And that is simply made impossible by capital requirements for banks which, when bank capital is as scarce as it is now, force the banks to retrench into what is considered to be safer trenches. In other words the UK, as all other Basel Committee followers do, instruct their toughest soldiers to sit tight, as if the war could be won by attrition.

Sir, in response to your “Britain needs an activist chancellor” March 11, I recommended temporarily lowering the specific capital requirements for banks when lending to “The Risky”. This would be helpful for the real economy, and this should signify little costs to the public sector, since the dangers of banks lending excessively to what is perceived as risky are always really minor.

That, as I told Martin Wolf after his, “Britain’s austerity is indefensible” March 13, is something that could be achieved by allowing, while the overall capital ratios of banks are rebuilt, that banks could lend to the “risky” with the capital requirement represented by their current not risk-weighted capital ratio.

Martin Wolf now agrees with me that risk-weighing for the purpose of setting capital requirements is wrong and creates distortions. But, for reasons of his own, which I do not understand, Wolf is not interested in pursuing the argument further.

I hope Chris Giles, you Sir, or anyone else in FT would understand how important that is and have a go at it. As is we have already wasted more than five years and a lot of precious scarce fiscal and monetary policy space.