Showing posts with label Published in FT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Published in FT. Show all posts

December 13, 2011

Nothing ‘creative’ about destruction of lending to start-ups

Published in FT, December 14, 2011

Sir, Ed Crooks writes that start-up businesses are crucial for creating US jobs but their dwindling birth rate is stalling hopes of recovery (“Cycle of ‘creative destruction’ loses momentum”, Is America working? December 13).

Lending to start-ups, as something perceived as “risky” for the banks, even though its absence would of course be much riskier for the world at large, requires a lot of that bank capital that is so scarce now; especially after the regulators allowed the banks to lend to what was perceived as not-risky, with little or no capital at all.

In Schumpeterian terms, one can say that bank regulators are engaged in simple and plain vanilla destruction.

December 31, 2009

The monsters that thrive on hardship haunt my dreams

As a son of a Polish soldier who had to endure more than five years in a German concentration camp, I also connect to Martin Wolf's feeling that the civilisation we pray survives for our descendants is indeed at stake ("The challenges of managing our post-crisis world", December 30).

In this respect my worst nightmare is that unmanageable Versailles-type public debts will become fertile ground for those monsters that thrive on hardships, and that is why I often wake up wishing that the US, instead of taxing and inflating itself out of an almost impossible problem, would simply do an Argentine form of restructuring such as offering 10 cents of the new dollar for each 100 cents of old dollar debt, hand out some Dollar II to its citizens and then take it from there. I believe not only that the world would still accept Dollar II as it has little other choice but also that China would then wake up and adjust . . . you see, governments can't stop dancing either while the music plays.

Once the air is cleared then we might have a better chance of tackling other challenges to civilisation like the climate change threat. As to the banking system, there is nothing that could not be solved by asking ourselves the simple question about what our banks are supposed to do for us, because, unfortunately, that is the question our current very poor set of regulators have never asked themselves.

Happy new decade!

September 27, 2006

"In the US we trust" becomes global term of economic faith

Sir, Martin Wolf’s “America could slow us down” (September 27) somehow ignores the possibility that just as the Americans did when they accepted the “In God we trust” printed on their bills as an act of faith when the dollar abandoned its convertibility into gold, the world is now willing to live with an “In America we trust”, at least while there is such a world shortage of better alternatives. If this is so, one could argue that we have still far to travel on the roads of the American current account deficit currently used by the world to dollarize since the fact is that, if you want to lay your hand on a dollar, you have to sell or give something for it. Frightening? Yes, but is not the world itself a frightening place that needs many acts of faith in order to make life bearable?

September 05, 2006

Bank ghostbusters?

Published in FT September 12, 2006

Sir, David Skeel ("The ghost of a crisis in equity funds hides real benefit", September 5), tells us the reason equity funds and hedge funds are "the ghosts of the market's future" is that they "may increasingly assume many of the functions traditionally handled by banks" and "use a wide array of financial instruments now available to hedge the kind of risks traditionally borne by the banks". If he is right then that would make them more like the ghosts of banks past and also turn the banking regulators in Basle into some slightly foolish-looking ghostbusters.

IMF cannot be the independent central bankers' clubhouse

Published in FT, September 5, 2006

Sir, In your editorial "What is the IMF for?" (September 1), you qualify the original formulas used to assign the quotas determining responsibilities of nations to deposit cash and the rights to borrow it as "arcane". Yet you seem to favour a recalculation that will just produce a reshuffling of the local interests. In a world where we see multinationals getting rid of their "home country", it might instead be time to introduce some representation in the International Monetary Fund that is not bound by pure arcane geographical considerations.

You mention a lack of credibility and legitimacy but seem to believe this could be solved by giving the professional staff a free rein. It is much more difficult than that. One of the reasons the IMF has lost credibility is in fact the mistakes of its staff and these go much further than the handling of the Argentine debt crisis. If you take a closer look, you will find them backtracking on so many of their "cast-in-iron" policies. The world needs not less accountability in the IMF, but much more.

In my view the Fund's problem is that it has now turned into the clubhouse of the "independent" central bankers. What instead we need the IMF to do is to open up its executive board and diversify the recruitment of its staff so there is a better chance for the board to have a healthier perspective of what the IMF's role should be.

Though I agree completely with you that the top job should not be reserved for a European, since "he must now defend interests wider than those that put him in place", may I also advance the idea that it should not be reserved for a central banker either?

August 19, 2006

Long-term benefits of a hard landing

Published in FT, August 23, 2006

Sir, While you correctly argue (“Hard edge of a soft landing for housing”, August 19,) that “even if gradual, a global housing slowdown would be painful” you do not really dare to put forward the hard truth that the gradualism of it all could create the most accumulated pain.

Why not try to go for a big immediate adjustment and get it over with? Yes, a collapse would ensue and we have to help the sufferer, but the morning after perhaps we could all breathe more easily and perhaps all those who, in the current housing boom could not afford to jump on the bandwagon, would then be able to do so, and take us on a new ride, towards a new housing boom in a couple of decades.

This is what the circle of life is all about and all the recent dabbling in topics such as debt sustainability just ignores the value of pruning or even, when urgently needed, of a timely amputation.

May 24, 2006

The information Mr Market receives could also be neurotic

Published in FT, Friday May 26, 2006

Sir, Martin Wolf’s very interesting although not quite sure where-it-finally-leads-you article “Neurotic Mr Market has plenty to be anxious about” (May 24), bases itself on an argument made by William White, in a working paper of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), that there is something intrinsically destabilising derived from stabilising inflation. I would argue instead that it is solely the way how inflation is measured that creates the confusion. Let us not forget that inflation as they, our monetary authorities, know it, is just obtained by looking at a basket of limited consumer goods chosen by bureaucrats and that although they might be highly relevant to the many have-nots, are highly irrelevant to measure the real loss of value of money. For instance, who on earth has decided for that the increase in the price of houses is not inflation? And so what should perhaps be argued is that really our monetary authorities have not been so successful fighting inflation as they claim they have been.

April 20, 2006

Go for an oil consumers' co-operative group

Sir, James Pinkerton suggests that “The world should get ready for a Nato-style oil alliance” (April 20), and although he makes it implicit that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is the “enemy, he does not really explain what the alliance should be up to. Let me make three suggestions. First, forget about the NATO simile - too militaristic - and go for a simple Oil Consumer Co-operative. Second, the OCC should then start some serious introspection so as to realize that its biggest enemy, unchecked oil demand, is thriving behind their own lines. Finally it should look seriously into the alternative of offering the oil producing nations long-term supply and purchases agreements based on prices that are reasonable for both sides.

For instance if the price offered on a 50 years arrangement was 40 dollars per barrel, with adjustment for inflation, plus or minus 50% of the difference with the spot market, this would provide the producers with a floor of 30 when the spot hits 10 dollars, and conversely “only” charge consumers 70 when the spot rises to 100 dollars. Such an arrangement would not only stimulate new oil investments but also keep the hawks (those who love the NATO part) from trying their solutions, as wars mostly tend to erupt while fighting over bargains, like oil priced at its marginal extraction cost.

April 07, 2006

'American Union' passports could work

Published in FT, April 10, 2006

Sir, It is sad in today’s globalized world to still find so many local Americans who believe that when they ship a criminal band member over the border, to someone much less resourceful, they have gotten rid of their problem.

In this respect, Jacob Weisberg, ("Immigration ideas bordering on perverse”, April 6), aghast with the current ideas on immigration law reform in the US, proposes not passing any reforms but to keep going as if nothing’s happening.

Another more transparent route would be to bite the bullet and accept that an “American Union” between North and Central America already exists, de-facto, and issue a common passport for all the citizens of the enlarged American Union.

Such a strategy would make it possible for many of the over 11 million illegal immigrants that dare not leave the US because they do not know whether they can later return, to be freed from their (also de-facto) mother of all jails, and go home, even on a temporary basis.

It would also help to realize that had the US spent an Iraq-war sized budget assisting Central America, as the European Union did with Spain and others, the whole immigration debate could have been a moot issue, with exception perhaps of all the aging baby boomers moving south to find care and services.

Finally, the fact is that when you see how all the Central Americans toil away in the US and help their families back home, you have to ask yourself whether this is not just part of the process whereby the US manages to renew its working and family ethics, in order to remain strong.

March 03, 2006

Europe's welfare state should not be scorned

Published in FT March 03, 2006

Sir, Whatever failings Martin Wolf points out with respect to the European welfare state let us not forget that its main pillar is the sharing of social responsibilities among citizens and, in this respect its opposite, the non-welfare state, the everyone-on-his-own state, is fundamentally more rotten and unsustainable in today's global world. Most of his criticism is not about the welfare state itself but about its workings and these do indeed present some problems that need urgent corrections. Nonetheless, while reforming please do not throw out this very beautiful baby with the bathwater.

December 07, 2005

Fuel advertisement rubs salt into Venezuelans' wounds

Published in FT, December 7, 2005

Sir, Andy Webb-Vidal got it absolutely right when he pointed out the incongruence of Venezuela, with its abounding extreme poverty, distributing subsidies through cheap heating oil to the less well-off in a Massachusetts, US, that has more than 10 times its per capita income.

But as Mr. Webb-Vidal most probably did not see the advertisement that ran last week in some US newspapers, he left out some details about what really rubs salt in the Venezuelans' wounds.

First, the picture in the ad, which is the one to be compared with the shanty towns in Venezuela, depicts a large, two storey, typical Massachusetts self-standing house, with a small garden and a big tree in front, beautifully decorated with what looks to be Christmas ornaments, and completely lit up, porch included.

Second, the ad ends with the statement: "The fuel assistance program isn't about politics. It's about offering humanitarian aid to those who need it. What could be more American than that?"

June 08, 2005

Come on Europe, wave away gloom

Published in FT, June 8, 2005

Sir, For those who believe that the world needs Europe more than ever, the latest events are very disconcerting, not so much because of the No votes themselves but more so because of the ensuing reactions. What a gloom! After the incredible advancements of a Europe over past decades it is unbelievable how this little setback could create so much fuss. The votes on a messy, too voluminous, uninspiring and basically unreadable document, was an as- good-as-it-gets opportunity to grunt a bit about bureaucracy, but now they allow the same bureaucrats to deflect this perfect valid criticism by equating the votes with a rejection of Europe. Europe, pick yourself up! Just wrest whatever Delacroix’s flags are waived from the current bearers, and keep moving on. We will be cheering.

April 02, 2005

A sensible country would raise tax on petrol, so what is US waiting for?

Published in FT, April 2, 2005

Sir, it is hard to understand the United States of America!

It has a huge fiscal deficit; it has a huge current-account deficit; it is by far the world’s biggest oil consumers both in absolute and in relative terms; now willing to explore for oil and gas in Alaska, it shows itself to be aware of the difficult energy outlook the world faces; it seems aware and resolute about the environmental problems (ignore the Alaska part) as it imposes other expensive environmental regulations, such as recycling—which, as no one likes to do it, requires the hiring of Salvadoreans; it speaks all over the place about having to reduce the vulnerabilities of its oil supplies.

As any other sensible country would, in similar circumstances, increase the taxes on petrol consumption and substantially help to solve all the above-mentioned problems; and as the US has always shown willingness to pull together as a nation, recently even to the extent of going to war on shaky grounds, the big question remains: why is it that the leaders of the US do not even want to talk about a substantial tax on petrol?

November 19, 2004

Basel is just mutual admiration club of firefighters seeking to avoid crisis

Published in FT November 18, 2004

Sir, If a citizen from a developed country wishes to obtain finance from his local bank to buy a pricey retirement home in his local overheated market, then Basel poses no problem.

But should he want to buy a much more affordable home in a developing country and have his bank finance him, then Basel slaps such capital reserve requirements on the bank as to make it an impossibly onerous proposition.

This is just one way by which our bank supervisors in Basel are unwittingly controlling the capital flows in the world.

We also wonder in how many Basel propositions it will take before they start realizing the damage they are doing by favoring so much bank lending to the public sector. In some developing countries, access to credit for the private sector is all but gone, and the banks are up to the hilt in public credits.

Please, help us get some diversity of thinking to Basel urgently; at the moment it is just a mutual admiration club of firefighters trying to avoid bank crisis at any cost - even at the cost of growth.

May 29, 2004

Big Responsibilities

Published in FT May 29, 2004

Sir, The Big Four accounting firms became that big by marketing the value of their size. Now they want to have their cake and eat it too, asking to be sheltered from ruinous lawsuits. If accountability is to mean anything in accounting, we cannot afford to turn the concept of professional responsibility into a risk model of affordability.

Individual professionals and small firms lay their names on the line, day after day. If the Big Four cannot handle it, they had better let go. Then we might all be better off. At least the systemic risks will be smaller.

December 25, 2003

The search for transparency in an oil-consuming world

Published in Financial Times, December 24, 2003

Sir, There has been a lot of talk lately about a curse that, through corruption and other distortions, is stopping oil-rich countries from turning income into development. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, championed by the UK and endorsed by the World Bank, has been named an exorcist and is starting the rites by applying a much-welcomed transparency to projects such as the Chad-Cameroon pipeline.

In the name of that same transparency, let us also remember that for every $1 received by any oil producing country (which forever sacrifices a non-renewable asset), the public treasury of many oil consuming countries receives, net, at least $4 and is therefore a likely victim of the same curse, albeit stricken by different symptoms. For instance, in many oil-consuming developed countries, the curse has now created such an addiction to petrol taxes that their whole fiscal structures would be completely unsustainable without them.

Transparency would also, perhaps, not be a bad rite to use to exorcise this tax man’s curse, since most of the petrol consumers in these countries are not remotely aware of the real extent of the taxes and much less of how the proceeds are used.

For instance, having been told that these taxes were environmental, they would be surprised to learn that probably less than 0.5 per cent of the $100 bn collected yearly in Europe, just in taxes on lead-free petrol, goes to the environment; and, worse, that much of it goes in subsidies to the even less environmentally friendly coal.

Also, today, as the possibilities of satisfying the world’s demands of energy seem quite uncertain and the world becomes more aware that the final cost of cutting, or not cutting, the trees of the Amazon will be paid by all, whether they like it or not, it is clear that the world needs to become much more penny-wise when developing alternative energies; and we all know that the best and only companion of the penny-wisest is transparency.

So, after the pipelines, when do we start with the Exchequer’s bag?

January 12, 2003

Credit ratings for developing nations are just a new breed of systemic error

Published in Financial Times, January 11, 2003

Sir, Except for regulations relative to money-laundering, the developing countries have been told to keep their capital markets open and to give free access to all investors, no matter what their intentions are and no matter for how long they intend to stay. Simultaneously, the developed countries have, through the use of credit-rating agencies, imposed restrictions as to which developing countries are allowed to be visited.

This Janus syndrome – “you must trust the market while we must distrust it” – has created serious problems, not the least by leveraging the rate differentials between those liked and those rejected by our modern-day financial censors. Today, whenever a country loses its investment grade rating, many investors are prohibited from investing in its debt, effectively curtailing the demand for it just when that country might need it the most.

Everyone knows that, sooner or later, the ratings issued by the credit agencies are just a new breed of systemic error to be propagated at modern speeds. Friends, please consider that the world is tough enough as it is.