February 23, 2016

How many small bank loans to SMEs and entrepreneurs has Basel Committee’s regulations hindered? Millions?

Sir, Shawn Donnan reports that in his annual economic report to Congress president Obama portrayed an American economy in relatively rude health after weathering one of the most brutal crises in its history. But Obama also acknowledged rising inequality, and that “a lot of Americans feel anxious”, blaming that on an economy that thanks to technological advances had been “changing in profound ways, starting long before the Great Recession”. “Obama rejects allegations economy is on the slide” February 23.

I would suggest to Mr. Obama he poses the following question to some economist at universities and at the Federal Reserve: 

How many bank loans to SMEs and entrepreneurs have not been awarded in America and Europe the last decade because of the risk weighted capital requirements for banks, ten thousands, hundred thousands, millions? I expect their answer to be frightening.

One way to obtain that number would be to look at how many of these loans were on the balance sheets of banks pre Basel II and how many are to be found today.

There is no way in hell America and Europe can regain sturdy and sustainable economic growth with bank regulators who distort the allocation of bank credit to the real economy with a silly and dangerous credit risk aversion.

Ben McLannahan in “US lenders blast proposed capital buffer rules”, reports on the ongoing discussions about rules on banks’ “total loss absorbing capacity” (TLAC). There he writes: “The top lobby groups for banks in the US have blasted proposals to make them build bigger capital buffers against losses, saying the “excessive” requirements could restrict the flow of credit to the world’s biggest economy.”

But, no matter at what percentage they are set, the required total loss absorbing capacity is still based on risk weighted assets (RWAs). And that means banks must hold more TLAC for assets considered as risky than for assets considered as safe.

And so that means those capital requirements especially restrict the flow of credit to those perceived as “risky”, the SMEs and entrepreneurs.

In this world were lobbying has sadly become a part of the government process, how sad it is that “The Risky” have no powerful lobbyist on their side.

The first arguments such a lobbyist could produce is to inform regulators about the fact that SMEs and entrepreneurs, precisely because they are perceived as risky, already count with less and more expensive access to bank credit, and so they never ever set of major bank crises.

And to address the inequality issue they could cite J.K. Galbraith’s “Money: Whence it came where it went” 1975 with: “The function of credit in a simple society is, in fact, remarkably egalitarian. It allows the man with energy and no money to participate in the economy more or less on a par with the man who has capital of his own.”

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” (John Augustus Shedd, 1850-1926) America, Europe, the World, what goes for ships goes for banks too!

America, Europe, the World, for the sake of next generations, allow your banks to finance the risky future and not only be refinancing the safer past!

@PerKurowski ©