Sunday, May 30, 2010


"Incidentally, as a first step, we tried to figure out how much the recent crisis has cost governments in terms of the direct support they provided to the financial sector. The answer is: so far, about 2.7 percent of GDP for the group of advanced G-20 countries. More for some, less for others – including most emerging market countries.

That’s a sizable sum, but the risks during the crisis were even larger, with guarantees and other contingent liabilities averaging around 25 percent of GDP for the advanced G-20. And all that ignores indirect fiscal costs caused by the recession and (to a lesser extent) stimulus measures—which is causing a surge in public debt—and, perhaps most cruelly, of all, a cumulative loss of output of around 27 percent of GDP.

The Financial Stability Contribution would start as a simple levy on some balance sheet (and, possibly, off-balance sheet) variables, but then be refined to strengthen the link with each institution’s contribution to systemic risk—giving them some incentive to reduce it. It would be permanent (to keep that beneficial effect at work, at least until regulatory solutions are felt to have done enough) and paid by all financial institutions (because they all benefit from the greater financial stability the resolution mechanism provides).

Whether the revenue from such a charge should be treated just like other tax revenue or instead feed an earmarked fund to help with resolutions is secondary. The fiscal impact is the same (assuming of course, other policies are not affected by whether there is or not an earmarked fund): the government has to sell fewer bonds on the open market, either because it has more tax revenue or because it has a captive customer in the fund. The main argument for a fund is that it could provide more assurance that the agency in charge of resolution has ready access to the resources it needs."

William Buitter desechó la propuesta de la tasa Tobin en esta contribución aquí recogida

La cuestión será debatida en la próxima reunión del G-20

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Es lo que proponen Daniel Gross y Thomas Mayer en el comentario publicado el 7 de Mayo por el Centro para el Estudio de las Políticas Europeas, con el objetivo de conseguir una estabilidad financiera más allá de Grecia.En el mismo también vinculan la crisis bancaria y la de la deuda:
"The key point is simply that a banking crisis tends to become a sovereign debt crisis and viceversa. This poses a particular challenge for the euro area which has an integrated banking market, but where sovereign debt remains national.

A liquidity crisis is in principle a problem for monetary policy and would call for a massive intervention by the European Central Bank. However, the lender of last resort function always falls in the grey zone between monetary and fiscal policy, particularly in a systemic crisis when the border between solvency and liquidity problems is blurred

Moreover, we need to keep in mind that it is true that a liquidity problem postponed is a problem solved but a solvency problem postponed is a problem made intractable. Using the ECB to prop up troubled countries will only magnify the problem over time."
Un comentario europeo sobre el orden del día de la crisis.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Es importante recordar siempre que la habilidad para ver las cosas en su perspectiva correcta puede estar, y a menudo está, divorciada de la habilidad para razonar correctamente y a la inversa.Esta es la razón por la cual una persona puede ser un buen teórico y aún así hablar de un absoluto sinsentido

(Joseph A. Schumpeter)

Las citas y comentarios que siguen son producto de la extrañeza de ver cómo los principales comentarios, en nuestro país y en otros europeos, sobre la crisis europea no mencionan las cuestiones principales y urgentes que tiene planteadas Europa en relación con el futuro de la unión monetaria y del propio sistema. La solución no puede venir meramente de las políticas de reducción del déficit público en los diferentes países y la crisis tampoco puede ser aislada o esterilizada sacrificando algunos miembros: “no es ya acerca de Grecia”.Curiosamente los autores americanos son los que mejor y más claro hablan sobre estos temas y sobre el error de diseño de la unión monetaria (una unión monetaria no respaldada por un poder fiscal).O quizás no tan “curiosamente”, sino que ello es prueba de que una mayor apertura económica (con todos sus serios y graves problemas como los que están en un origen de la presente crisis) va de la mano con una mayor libertad y crítica intelectual.

Los “sabios europeos” –y todos los ciudadanos que harán bien en desconfiar de cualquier argumento de autoridad-tienen una tarea más apremiante que la de diseñar la política del futuro de Europa: la de evitar su colapso. No mañana, sino hoy.

Esto es lo que dice el Financial Times sobre posibles inyecciones de liquidez en el sistema financiero europeo para evitar su “parada”:

“Worried bankers from 47 European groups urged the ECB to become a "buyer of last resort" of eurozone government bonds to steady markets.

There was speculation that the central bank could be preparing a €600bn ($762bn) loan facility for one-year loans at 1 per cent to help more than 1,000 banks in their funding.

But as European leaders met in Brussels to give their formal approval to a three-year €110bn rescue plan for Greece, there was no sign of imminent ECB action. French officials said that it was imperative for Europe to act to stop the crisis escalating, but conceded there was no consensus on how to proceed.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the central bank's president, said this week that its governing council had not discussed the purchase of government bonds at its meeting in Lisbon. But Mr Trichet added that it was willing to respond to unfolding events.
As markets tumbled in the wake of Wall Street's plunge on Thursday, Olli Rehn, European Union monetary affairs commissioner, warned that the Greek crisis could bring the banking system to a standstill.”

Y esto es lo que dicen Peter Boone y Simon Jonson (“Ya no es más acerca de Grecia” y “La Agenda para las discusiones económicas de emergencia de esta semana”):

Los ajustes deflacionarios no son políticamente viables. Los países con problemas pierden su acceso al crédito. Es un problema de solvencia, no de liquidez :

“In the last few days, bond markets have decided that the deflationary adjustments – cutting wages and prices — needed in large parts of the eurozone are not politically feasible. The deflationary spiral that will come with fiscal cuts causes political turmoil and reduces revenues – that in turn makes it ever harder to service debt; see Greece this week. Eurozone countries running large budget deficits with substantial outstanding public debt are finding they are cut off from credit markets as a result. This is a solvency issue, not a liquidity issue.

But do not rush into this gap. If the European Central Bank (ECB) were to start buying Spanish debt today, for example, they would find an abundance of sellers because the bonds are fundamentally overvalued.

There is a good rule for foreign exchange intervention: you intervene to buy a currency at a time when you think you can really shift events – i.e., when the exchange rate has fallen more than really makes sense and shorting the currency has become overly fashionable. In that way you cause traders with short positions to lose a considerable amount of money, and you draw in real buyers who want to own the assets because they are inexpensive and can now see an end to the declines.

No se ha alcanzado todavía el momento para la intervención en el mercado de bonos o del euro: ese momento es cuando el valor o la divisa han caído más de lo necesario

We are not yet at that point in the bond markets for weaker eurozone countries or in the foreign exchange market for euro.

Start with bonds: Greece clearly must end up restructuring its debt. The IMF program makes that obvious – how can Greece make a total of 19% of GDP in cuts, only to end with 149% of GDP in debt, and a perpetual bill to pay German, French, and other foreign holders roughly 10% of income each year just to cover interest?

This is a political disaster for all concerned and should be cleaned up now rather than left to ferment. The markets, with their high interest rates on Greek debt, show they believe this is the outcome. The market prices in about a 29% chance that Greece’s default within one year, and 35% over two years (assuming a 40% recovery rate on Greek bonds after default and restructuring).

Portugal should restructure preemptively – they have a large budget deficit and current account deficit, and will have similar problems cutting the budget deficit. When the government takes fiscal austerity measures, unemployment will rise further, the economy will slow, so revenues will fall, and that will mean they make too little progress bringing in their deficit.

España está en una posición muy difícil.Es improbable que pueda evitar la reestructuración de deuda por las misma razones que Portugal y Grecia, pero parte de un menor porcentaje de deuda pública.Sin embargo, los bancos españoles tienen una imporatnte cantidad de deuda portuguesa, de forma que si Portugal reestructura su deuda, ello pondría una carga adicional severa sobre España

Spain is in a very difficult position. It is unlikely they can avoid restructuring for the same reasons as Portugal and Greece, but they are starting from a position with less public debt outstanding (if the numbers are correct). However, Spanish banks own a great deal of Portuguese debt, so if Portugal restructures it poses a major additional burden on Spain.

Italy and Ireland are clearly in trouble also, depending on exactly how expectations for eurozone growth are revised downwards. Given all these nations probably need to restructure their debt, or have large bailout packages that may not succeed in any case, we cannot expect bond markets to rally at this time. “Investment grade” investors, finally waking to the problems in the market, now fear holding these bonds.

Los tradicionales tenedores de los bonos de estos países, tales como AXA o Commerzbank, están diciendo a sus inversores exactamente cuanto riesgo tienen en Portugal-Irlanda-Italia-Grecia y España.El verdadero mensaje es “Prometemos que no compraremos más deuda de estos países”.Sin estos inversores tradicionales quién va a financiar los déficits públicos abultados.

The traditional holders of these bonds, such as AXA the French insurance group, or German Commerzbank, are telling investors exactly how much risk they have in Portgual-Ireland-Italy-Greece-and-Spain. The true message is: “We promise we will not buy more of the these countries’ debt”. Without the traditional investors available, who is going to finance Spain, Ireland, Italy, and Portugal’s ongoing large budget deficits?

And this is the next problem. This week the EU commission released its forecasts for budget deficits in 2010 and 2011. Those were a depressing set of numbers. They expect Europe will grow by less than 1% this year and only 1.5% in 2011. Meanwhile, budget deficits would hardly change. Ireland leads the pack (in a bad sense) with a 11.7% of GDP budget deficit in 2010 and 12.1% in 2011. Greece, Portugal, Spain are all in the same range – large budget deficits and little improvement on the horizon. These are unrealistic plans given the lack of buyers for their bonds. Careful study of the details will only exacerbate concerns about fiscal solvency.

What should economic policymakers – in Europe, the US, and elsewhere – do about all this, for example as they convene in emergency meetings this weekend?

El problema crucial es que la eurozona tal y como está diseñada es un fracaso.Ello es una desafortunada vergüenza para la élite política europea, pero necesita sobreponerse y reaccionar

First, the core problem is that the euro zone as currently designed is a failure. It has proven wrong to blend so many disparate nations into one currency, and then manage the currency according to relatively hawkish German preferences.
This is an unfortunate loss of face for the eurozone policy elite, but they need to get over this and move on.

The euro zone in its current form needs to be wound down, most likely being reduced to a core of countries that are sufficiently similar – and without the presumption that others will soon be admitted. The weaker countries badly need currencies reflect their national fundamentals. Germany does not need a weak currency, but Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain today do.

A depreciation of the euro against the dollar and other major currencies would help. But these nations trade more with each other more than with non-euro countries, so they need to change competitiveness relative to each other.

Even if by a miracle the worst outcomes are now averted, what will prevent problems like this from happening again if the euro zone stays in place? The euro authorities have demonstrated repeatedly they are incapable of regulating banks well at the eurozone or EU level – it is unimaginable that the 16 eurozone countries could get together around a table and declare that any one regulator has been seriously derelict.
The planned budget reforms at the EU level will push towards more discipline, but you need an incentive structure to get that and the consensus-based decision-making does not work for that. If this weekend only produces a reaffirmation of platitudes in this regard, next week will be very bad. This is fiddling while cities burn.

On top of all this, shocks to economic performance that are different across nations will persist. Sharing one currency across these very different and insufficiently convergent countries simply does not make sense.

Es necesario un plan ordenado para la reestructuración de la deuda en toda la zona euro.Ello debe ser hecho rápidamente (esta semana puede servir, pero de manera realista llevará varias semanas).Como la mayoría de la deuda nacional está hecha bajo la ley propia de cada país, la reestructuración podría progresar rápidamente.No solo Grecia, todos los países de la eurozona más débiles deben proceder juntos en este frente o será el caos.En este escenario, España podría librarse

Second, there needs to be an orderly plan for debt restructuring across the euro zone. This needs to be done quickly (this weekend works, but realistically it will take several weeks), while the exit to a new currency could take longer. Since most euro zone nations bonds are issued under domestic law, such restructurings should be able to proceed quickly (in emerging markets, most of the bonds are often under US or UK law, which generally makes restructuring much harder).

But do not think that Greece can restructure its debts without having broader repercussions. All the weaker eurozone countries must proceed together on this front or there will be chaos.

Es necesario que el G20 asista en el proyecto de reestructuración y que el FMI juegue un papel crucial en su implementación

Third, the G20 needs to assist in the euro restructuring project. This body can authorize the International Monetary Fund to help each affected nation declare a standstill on debt, and then draw up a plan to restructure debt. The IMF should play a key implementation role in helping to decide which nations should restructure their debts and then support this process – not because it is particularly good or suited to this task, but simply because no one else is available.

Durante los próximos años cada país de la Unión con problemas necesitará soporte de liquidez del BCE y financiación fiscal del FMI y de los países centrales de la Unión.El G20 debería comprometer más recursos, al menos como respaldo.

During the next few years each troubled euro nation will need liquidity support from the ECB, and they will need fiscal financing from the IMF and core nations in the EU. Probably the G20 should commit more resources, at least as a back stop. These programs can be drawn up quickly, and, they should include a transition to a new currency where appropriate.

No hay liderazgo real en la Unión Europea, combinado con la completa falta de voluntad de admitir el error fundamental de la zona euro

There is no real leadership in the EU, combined with complete unwillingness to admit the fundamental error of the euro zone itself. The Germans are happy to let other nations suffer for their past mistakes, so they will do nothing until there is a more complete crisis.

The ECB, as witnessed by Mr. Trichet’s news conference on Thursday, has decided that they will play the hawk, and so offer nothing of support to the nations in the periphery. Meanwhile, bond markets have closed for the periphery. This can only mean bond yields keep rising, there are runs on the banks in many nations, and then eventual economic collapse. This, unfortunately, is the path of least resistance for all parties.

So, someone needs to take leadership. Who can do this? Not the IMF by itself – it is too weak and conflicted with Dominique Strauss-Kahn clinging to his position as managing director (against increasing pressure from the United States). Indeed, Strauss-Kahn should leave the IMF so he can launch his run for the French presidency – it would be appropriately ironic if he were to win; as an architect of the eurozone, he is the perfect person to dismantle it. A much more independent person with international stature should replace him.

Este es un problema internacional y no meramente de la zona euro, puesto que afecta al comercio y a la estabilidad financiera mundial.Todos los mayores bancos mundiales están vinculados por medio de deuda, derivados y otra financiación.

President Obama needs to step in personally to help this process work smoothly. The president can rightly claim that this is an international issue, not just a euro zone issue, since it impacts global trade and financial stability. All the world’s large banks are closely linked through debt, derivatives contracts, and other finance.

Sería irresponsable pensar que los bancos americanos sortearían suavemente el colapso financiero desencadenado en la zona euro.Si se abandona a los europeos hay un peligro real de que los problemas de Europa conduzcan a una nueva recesión y episodios de inestabilidad financiera

It would be irresponsible to presume that American banks will smoothly sail through the impending financial collapse in the euro zone. If this is left to the Europeans, as we learned this week in markets, there is a clear danger that Europe’s problems will topple the world into a new recession and a serious round of financial instability this year.

Es necesario que alguien proporcione claridad y restaure la confianza.¿Quién si no el Presidente Obama?.

Someone needs soon to bring clarity and restore confidence. If not President Obama, who?

Dado que no es posible imputar a los autores-también críticos en su país- un sesgo antieuropeo, no estaría de más que los ciudadanos de los países europeos y sus líderes empezaran también a considerar cuál es de verdad el triste y sádico orden del día de Europa.Otra cosa sería “tocar mientras las ciudades arden”.

En último lugar, los autores mencionan la crisis bancaria, la recapitalización y la participación de los acreedores bancarios en una parte de las pérdidas resultantes. Y advierten: “Los banqueros son poderosos por una razón: han contruido estructuras frágiles pero vitales en el corazón de nuestras economías.”

Es muy posible que esta agenda de supervivencia no se abra camino por la propia falta de iniciativa de los actores europeos.En ese caso, si el diagnóstico es acertado, y parece que lo es, la única alternativa sería un incremento todavía mayor del caos económico, social y político.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Los próximos días la crisis europea, detonada con Grecia, va a tener un desenlace.Si no pudiera ser contenida por toda una serie de fallos y omisiones de los líderes europeos y nacionales, su escenario sería para Peter Boone y Simon Johnson el siguiente:

"El paquete estándar: una abrupta caída del euro, reforma de las reglas monetarias y fiscales de la eurozona para hacerlas compatibles con la estabilidad financiera y un mayor apoyo externo de liquidez-no porque Europa tenga una problema de pagos externos, sino porque es la única manera de proporcionar un soporte creíble que suavice el efecto de los necesarios programas de austeridad.

El soporte de liquidez sería elevado: si asumimos que aproximadamente los próximos 3 años de repagos de deuda pública deberían ser completamente garantizados- y tal compromiso sería necesario para deshacer la inclinación negativa- entonces 1 trillón (americano) de dólares sería necesario para soportar a Grecia, Portugal, España e Italia. Podría ser que más fondos fueran necesarios, pero en cualquier caso las cantidades serían menores que las reservas totales de China. Estas cantidades también podrían ser reducidas a medida que el euro caiga. Podría estar volviendo a una paridad por debajo de 1 dólar, que es donde se encontraba hace una década.

El soporte financiero externo tendría sentido solo si se combina con reformas estructurales claves, incluyendo el fin de la ventana de repos en el Banco Central Europeo.

Si la zona euro necesita este paquete, el mismo no puede estar manejado bajo un programa “business as ususal”: los fondos tendrían que venir del G-20 y decisiones extremadamente duras sobre la política monetaria y fiscal deberán ser adoptadas de una forma razonable. Alguien debe representar a Europa y alguien debe representar al G-20.Sin embargo, el G-20 no podría contar en el proceso con la intervención del FMI, por la incompatibilidad de su presidente:

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the current head of the I.M.F, very much wants to become the next president of France. There is no way for the G-20 to provide financing with him in charge of the I.M.F.; he has an obvious and unavoidable conflict of interest, and no incentive to make the tough decisions today that are required to sort out the euro zone.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn should consider resigning, allowing a respected financial leader of a relatively independent country to take charge at the I.M.F. One potential choice would be Mark Carney, the current governor of the Bank of Canada. Or, if the G-20 agrees — finally — that it is time to phase out the leading role of the G-7 (which has not done well of late), Montek Ahluwalia of India would be an outstanding candidate."

El principal problema para cualquier solución es que, como señala Wolgang Munchau, de quien también está tomado el título de esta entrada:

"So far the EU’s policy process has been a net contributor to this crisis. We need to hear something that does not fall short of our lowest expectations. Otherwise Greece will be heading for default, and the crisis will spread to Portugal and beyond. "
Una cura de humildad sería en cualquier caso preferible a dosis más elevadas de sufrimiento.Porque una crisis desbocada puede tener efectos políticos y sociales imprevisibles.Si nuestros políticos nacionales y europeos pretendieran otra cosa, deberíamos preguntarles qué realidad han estado auscultando hasta ahora.