September 25, 2016

Anything that might weaken the future real economy, destroys pensions which depend more on tomorrows than on todays

Sir, Tim Harford argues “it’s far from clear that the Bank really is destroying pensions. It is true that low interest rates make future obligations loom larger in today’s company accounts. This creates a problem for any pension scheme. But, on the other side of the equation, low interest rates have boosted the value of shares, bonds and property and thus the value of most pension schemes” “Carrots with bite” September 24.

What? Does the Undercover Economist believe that lifting short-term the values of shares, bonds and property has much to do with the long-term value of those assets when they need to be liquidated so as to fulfill retirement expectations? 

Harford writes “Pensions campaigner Ros Altmann recently launched an eye-catching attack on the Bank of England for paying generous pensions to its own staff while undermining everyone else’s retirement plan.” Of course central bankers, and bank regulators, should be held much more accountable for what they do to the economy… and not only by pensioners but also by those needing the jobs that Andy Haldane comments with: “I sympathise with savers but jobs must come first.”

The risk weighted capital requirements, which give banks clear incentives to only refinance the safer past and stay away from financing the riskier future, will hurt both the pensioners when trying to sell assets into a sinking economy, and the young who need jobs in order to at least conserve an ilusion of a decent retirement. 

Harford writes: “The basic principle for any incentive scheme is this: can you measure everything that matters? If you can’t, then high-powered financial incentives will simply produce short-sightedness, narrow-mindedness or outright fraud.”

Harford should really read a recent working paper published by the ECB, “The limits of model-based regulation”. That describes what should go wrong, if you allow banks, by mean of their own complex risk models, to set their own incentives. Perhaps with that Harford who like so many other with close to willful blindness trusted Basel’s risk based regulations, will see that some other than little me, are now reluctantly beginning to have some serious doubts.

@PerKurowski ©