Thursday, November 18, 2004

The mutual admiration club of firefighters in Basel

(A letter Financial Times did publish)

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 there 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 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.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Towards a counter cyclical Basel?

(A letter to the Financial Times extracted from Voice and Noise, 2006)

Sir, the financial system is there to safeguard savings, to generate economic growth by channeling investments, and to promote equality by providing full and free access to capital and opportunities.

Currently, our bank regulators headquartered in Basel are primarily concerned with the first goal, that of avoiding bank collapses, and how could it be otherwise, if you have only firemen on the board that regulates building permits.

Now, one of these days, the financial system, neatly combed and dressed in a tuxedo, but lying more than seven feet under in the coffin of financial de-intermediation, is going to wake up to the fact that it needs the presence of others in Basel. At that moment, perhaps we might start hearing about flexible capital requirements, moving up to 8.2 % or down to 7.8% by region, in response to countercyclical needs.

Meanwhile it’s a shame that even their first goal might turn out to be elusive, since although the individual risks have fallen with Basel regulations, the stakes have increased, as those same regulations accelerate the tendency towards fewer and fewer banks.