April 07, 2017

More than from corporate governance failures Britain, and the Western World, suffer a hubristic regulatory failure.

Sir, Martin Wolf, on the issue of: “why [UK] productivity growth is so pervasively low” writes: “One reason could be the exceptionally weak investment, by international standards. This would be another corporate governance failure. Rectifying this disaster is the UK’s most important policy challenge, far more so than Brexit. The government should finance a high-level effort aimed at working out what has gone wrong, why and what (if anything) to do about it. The country’s very future is at stake.” “Britain’s dismal productivity is its biggest policy challenge” April 7.

What corporate governance failure? Most of the responsibility for weak productivity growth can be traced directly to the risk–weighted capital requirements for banks concocted by Andy Haldane and his regulatory buddies at the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision.

Anyone who has walked on main-street and seen first hand how difficult it has always been for “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs, without bankable collateral, to access bank credit, should have understood that to burden these even more by the fact they would also generate higher capital requirements for the banks than what “the safe” borrowers do, would affect productivity and economic growth.

Getting rid of these regulations that have effectively hindered millions of SMEs and entrepreneurs to access bank loan opportunities they would otherwise have been able to access, must of curse be the number one priority, not only in Britain but in the whole western world.

There will be much written in the future about how on earth regulators could come up with such daft regulations and how little the so much informed and so much connected world, questioned these.

On April 3, in FT, Anjana Ahuja, in reference to Robert Hare’s 1993 “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us,” wrote: “Uncertainty is unsettling and certainty is alluring. Beware anyone who offers the latter with charisma, especially at this jittery juncture. Arm yourself against the charlatans…not only criminal psychopaths but the white-collar kind — who overstate their abilities, denigrate subordinates, have a tenuous grip on truth and seek greater power with shrinking oversight.”

That convinced me that we should subject those technocrats taking decisions on such vital aspects as bank regulations, to a full psychological assessment before we allow them to proceed. We do mandate such tests for airplane pilots, even if they are engaged in much less dangerous activities for the world.

Frankly we can’t afford the luxury of having regulators so dumb that they set the capital banks should have in order to meet unexpected events, like ex ante perceived as very safe borrowers turning out ex post being very risky, based on the expected credit risks bankers already clear for.

And its not like I have not said it before. Here for instance on Martin Wolf's Economist Forum in 2009