May 24, 2013

What UK (and Europe) needs, is a massive capital injection into the banking system

This is in reference to “Osborne is too complacent about Britain’s economy” Martin Wolf, May 24.

Sir, first, in the UK, if a bank would give a loan to a Solyndra, the solar power company that recently went bankrupt in the US, it would need to hold, according to Basel II, 8 percent in capital. But, if the bank instead lent that money to the UK government, and so that a UK government bureaucrat could relend it to a Solyndra then, according to Basel II, the bank needs to hold no capital at all against that. That is a huge distortion that needs to be eliminated, and to be replaced by a general capital requirements against any asset, 8 to 10 percent.

Second, because of such regulatory distortions UK banks (as all European banks) have ended up with a dramatic gross, not risk-weighted, shortfall of capital, and which now not only stops them from being able to lend but even forces them to contract. And so, when Martin Wolf writes about “the private sector has a huge structural excess of income over spending” my recommendation, instead of those huge government investment programs Wolf suggests, would be to launch a massive bank capitalization program, offering special tax incentives for all “private excesses” which are converted into bank equity.

How much capital? Whatever is needed for the banks to hold 8 to 10 percent of it, against all assets, including government debt. At that moment the general risk-profile of banks would also change dramatically. At that moment banks can start to contribute to help the real economy to grow.

Why is it that some insist that all rescue actions is to be carried out by governments? Could it be that this crisis is being exploited to advance some political agenda through the backdoor?

PS. Sir, just to let you know, I am not copying Martin Wolf with this, since he has asked me not to send him any more comments related to “capital requirements for banks based on perceived risk”… he already knows it all… at least so he thinks.