October 15, 2014

IMF, Mme. Lagarde, Martin Wolf: Get it! Bank regulators have prescribed the “new mediocrity”.

Sir, I refer to Martin Wolf’s “How to do better than the new mediocrity” October 15.

Wolf writes: “It is important not to exaggerate the story of slowdown in the world economy. Yet it is also vital to avoid a progressive downward slide in growth. To address this risk it is necessary to launch well-crafted reforms in both emerging and high-income economies...”

Current capital requirements for banks direct banks to hold assets, not based on their pure economic returns, but based on those higher risk adjusted equity returns they can obtain by adjusting to the ex ante perceived credit risks, those which have already been cleared for in interest rates and size of exposure. And that IMF, Martin Wolf and so many others cannot understand that excessive credit-risk aversion can only lead to mediocrity, is a real mystery to me.

And so the number one reform the world needs is to abandon all credit risk weighing when setting the capital (equity) requirements for banks.

That would unfortunately not be an easy task because, while bank credit redirects itself to serve the needs of the real economy and not the wishes of the Basel Committee; and while banks are made to have stronger capital (equity) levels, it is important to make certain that the overall liquidity provided by banks does not shrink and become a recessionary factor.

In the absence of such reform, “more public investment in infrastructure” capitalizing on regulatory subsidies that makes public debt less expensive that it would otherwise be, and like what the IMF and Martin Wolf with so much gusto propose, could make it all so much worse… and, of course, so much more mediocre.