December 06, 2017

More food for the hungry and less food for the less hungry sounds logical and decent, that is unless the hungry are obese and the less hungry anorexic.

Sir, Martin Wolf writes: “More equity capital would make banks less fragile.” “Fix the roof while the sun is shining” December 6.

That is only true as long as we get rid of the distorting risk weighted capital requirements for banks. Though “more risk more capital - less risk less capital” sounds logical, that is unless “The Safe” get too much credit and “The Risky” too little. If that happens, both banks and the economy will end up more fragile.

Wolf writes: “The world economy is enjoying a synchronised recovery. But it will prove unsustainable if investment does not pick up, especially in high-income economies. Debt mountains also threaten the recovery’s sustainability”. Let me comment on that this way:

First: “a synchronised recovery” is a way to generous description of what is mostly a QE high that has just helped kick the crisis can down the road.

Second: The investments most lacking in the “unsustainable if investment does not pick up” part, is that of entrepreneurs and SMEs, those which have seen their access to bank credit curtailed by regulators. It is high time we leave the safer but riskier present and get back to the riskier but safer future.

Third: The “Debt mountains [that] threaten” are either those for which regulators allow banks to hold much less capital against, like sovereigns and residential mortgages; or those consumer credits at high interest rates that dangerously anticipate consumption and leaves us open to future problems.

Sir, let me again make a comment on Wolf’s recurrent recommendation of “Public investment to improve infrastructure”. He usually argues this in order to take advantage of the very low interest rates. That ignores that those low rates are not real rates but regulatory subsidized rates. If banks had to hold the same capital against loans to sovereign than against loans to citizens, and if also central banks refrained from additional QEs, I guarantee that the interest rates on public debt would be much higher.

Besides, given the fast technological advances, we do not even know what infrastructure will be so much needed in the future so as to be able to repay the loans, instead of just burdening more our grandchildren.