In the post of the 17th November, Greece 2: This time it’s Ireland, we looked at the problems of the Irish economy in servicing its debts and whether it would need a bailout. Well, despite protesting that such a bailout would not be necessary, in the end events overtook the Irish government. International loss of confidence forced the government to accept a bailout package. After a weekend of talks, a deal was reached on 28 November between the Irish government, the ECB, the IMF, the European Commission and individual governments.
The deal involves loans totalling €85 billion. Of this, €35 billion will go towards supporting the Irish banking system. The remaining €50 billion will go to supporting government spending. The loans will carry an average interest rate of 5.8%, which is more than the 5.2% on the bailout loans to Greece, but considerably below the rates that Ireland would have to pay on the open market. Being loans, rather than grants, they only delay the problems of dealing with Ireland’s large debt, which has been rising rapidly and is predicted to be around 80% of GDP for 2010 (see Annex Table 62 in OECD Economic Outlook Statistical Annex). They thus provide Ireland with liquidity while it implements policies to reduce its debt.
Ireland itself has contributed €17.5 billion to the loan fund; of the rest, €22.5 billion will come from the IMF, while the European Union and bilateral European lenders, including the UK, Sweden and Denmark, have pledged a total of €45.0 billion, including £3.25 billion from the UK.
One of the main purposes of the loans is to reduce the likelihood of speculation against other relatively highly indebted countries in the EU, such as Portugal, Spain and Italy. The hope is that, by granting Ireland loans, the message would be that similar support would be made available to other countries as necessary. ‘Contagion’ would thereby be halted.
Podcasts and webcasts
Ireland’s €85bn bailout is best deal available, says PM Guardian webcast (29/11/10)
Interview with Jim O’Neill BBC News (29/11/10)
Irish deal ‘better than market rate’BBC Today Programme, Ajai Chopra (29/11/10)
Ireland bailout ‘doesn’t stop pressure building’ BBC Today Programme, Tony Creszenzi and Brian Hayes (29/11/10)
EU/IMF Irish bailout – the details FT Alphaville, Neil Hume (28/11/10)
Ireland rescue is not a game changer Financial Times, Mohamed El-Erian (29/11/10)
IMF insists Ireland got a ‘good deal’ Irish Times (29/11/10)
Can the eurozone afford its banks? BBC News blogs: Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (29/11/10)
Irish bailout leaves markets nervous for good reason CNN Business 360, Peter Morici (30/11/10)
Eurozone debt crisis deepens Times of Malta (30/11/10)
Will the Irish crisis spread to Italy? Vox, Paolo Manasse and Giulio Trigilia (29/11/10)
- Distinguish between liquidity and solvency solutions to sovereign debt problems.
- Is Ireland’s debt problem purely a sovereign one? Explain.
- What will determine whether the bailout for Ireland will halt contagion to other countries?
- Why might the implementation of an austerity package make the sovereign debt problem worse in the short to medium run?
- Will the Irish crisis spread to Italy?
Under the Basel II arrangements, banks were required to maintain particular capital adequacy ratios (CARs). These were to ensure that banks had sufficient capital to allow them to meet all demands from depositors and to cover losses if a borrower defaulted on payment. Basel II, it was (wrongly) thought would ensure that the banking system could not collapse.
There were three key ratios. The first was an overall minimum CAR of 8%, measured as Tier 1 capital plus Tier 2 capital as a percentage of total risk-weighted assets. As Economics 7th edition page 509 explains:
Tier 1 capital includes bank reserves (from retained profits) and ordinary share capital, where dividends to shareholders vary with the amount of profit the bank makes. Such capital thus places no burden on banks in times of losses as no dividend need be paid. What is more, unlike depositors, shareholders cannot ask for their money back. Tier 2 capital consists largely of preference shares. These pay a fixed rate of interest and thus do continue to place a burden on the bank even when losses are made (unless the bank goes out of business).
Risk-weighted assets are the value of assets, where each type of asset is multiplied by a risk factor. Under the internationally agreed Basel II accord, cash and government bonds have a risk factor of zero and are thus not included. Inter-bank lending between the major banks has a risk factor of 0.2 and is thus included at only 20 per cent of its value; residential mortgages have a risk factor of 0.35; personal loans, credit-card debt and overdrafts have a risk factor of 1; loans to companies carry a risk factor of 0.2, 0.5, 1 or 1.5, depending on the credit rating of the company. Thus the greater the average risk factor of a bank’s assets, the greater will be the value of its risk weighted assets, and the lower will be its CAR.
The second CAR was that Tier 1 capital should be at least 4% of risk weighted assets.
The third CAR was that equity capital (i.e. money raised from the issue of ordinary shares) should be at least 2% of risk weighted assets. This is known as the ‘core capital ratio’.
Before 2008, it was thought by most commentators that these capital adequacy ratios were sufficiently high. But then the banking crisis erupted. Banks were too exposed to sub-prime debt (i.e. debt that was excessively risky, such as mortgages on property at a time when property prices were rapidly declining). Much of this debt was disguised by being bundled up with other securities in what were known as collateralised debt obligations (CDOs). On 15 September 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy: the largest bankruptcy in history, with Lehmans owing $613 billion. Although its assets had a book value of $639, these were insufficiently liquid to enable Lehmans to meet the demands of its creditors.
The collapse of Lehmans sent shock waves around the world. Banks across the globe came under tremendous pressure. Many held too much sub-prime debt and had insufficient capital to meet creditors’ demands. As a result, they had to be bailed out by their governments. Clearly the Basel II regulations were too lax.
For several months there have been discussions about new tighter regulations and, on 12 September 2010, central bankers from the major countries met in Basel, Switzerland, and agreed the Basel III regulations. Although the overall CAR (Tier 1 and 2) was kept at 8%, the Tier 1 ratio was raised from 4% to 6% and the core Tier 1 ratio was raised from 2% to 4.5%, to be phased in by 2015. In addition there were two ‘buffers’ introduced.
As well as having to maintain a core Tier 1 ratio of 4.5%, banks would also have to hold a ‘conservation buffer’ of 2.5%. “The purpose of the conservation buffer is to ensure that banks maintain a buffer of capital that can be used to absorb losses during periods of financial and economic stress. While banks are allowed to draw on the buffer during such periods of stress, the closer their regulatory capital ratios approach the minimum requirement, the greater the constraints on earnings distributions.” In effect, then, the core Tier 1 ratio will rise from 2% to 7% (i.e. 4.5% minimum plus a buffer of 2.5%).
The other buffer is a ‘countercyclical buffer’. This will be “within a range of 0% – 2.5% of common equity or other fully loss absorbing capital and will be implemented according to national circumstances.” The idea of this buffer is to allow banks to withstand volatility in the global economy. It will be phased in between 2016 and 2019.
The Basel III agreement will still need to be ratified by the G20 countries meeting at Seoul on 10 and 11 November this year. That meeting will also consider other elements of bank regulation.
So will these extra capital requirements be sufficient to allow banks to withstand any future crisis? The following articles discuss this question.
Global bankers agree new capital reserve rules BBC News (12/9/10)
Q&A: Basel rules on bank capital – who cares? BBC News, Laurence Knight (13/9/10)
Basel III and Sound Banking New American, Charles Scaliger (17/9/10)
Wishy-washy rules might come back to haunt regulators Financial Times, Patrick Jenkins (18/9/10)
Basel III proposal released Newsweek, Joel Schectman (17/9/10)
New Bank Rules May Not Prevent More Meltdowns FXstreet, Henrik Arnt (16/9/10)
Basel III CBS Money Watch, Mark Thoma (14/9/10)
Basel III: To lend or not to lend Investment Week, Martin Morris (16/9/10)
Taming the banks The Economist (16/9/10)
Basel’s buttress The Economist (16/9/10)
Do new bank-capital requirements pose a risk to growth? The Economist, guest contributions
Myners: New rules ‘ignore bank liquidity’ BBC Today Programme, Robert Peston and Lord Myners (18/9/10)
Official press releases and documents
Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision announces higher global minimum capital standards Bank for International Settlements Press Release (12/9/10)
The Basel iii Accord Basel iii Compliance Professionals Association (BiiiCPA)
Details of the new capital requirements Bank for International Settlements
Details of the phase-in arrangements Bank for International Settlements
- What impact will a higher capital adequacy ratio have on banks’ behaviour?
- For what reasons may the Basel III regulations be considered too lax?
- When there is an increase in deposits into the banking sector, banks can increase loans by a multiple of this. This bank deposits multiplier is the inverse of the liquidity ratio. Is there a similar bank capital multiplier and, if so, what determines its size?
- Why will Basel III be phased in over a number of years? Is this too long?
With the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats now in power in the UK and with the Labour Party, having lost the election, being now in the midst of a leadership campaign, politicians from across the political spectrum are balming Gordon Brown for the ‘mess the country’s in’. The UK has a record budget deficit and debt, and is just emerging from a deep recession, when only a few years ago, Gordon Brown was claiming the end of boom and bust. But is the condition of the UK economy Mr Brown’s fault? Would it have been any better if others had been in charge, or if there had been even greater independence for the Bank of England of if there had been an Office of Budget Responsibility (see)?
The following podcast by Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, considers this question. He argues that:
Everybody would like to blame Gordon Brown for the financial crisis. But he was only acting in line with the national consensus on economic policy.
The economic legacy of Mr Brown FT podcasts, Martin Wolf (13/5/10)
The economic legacy of Mr Brown Financial Times, Martin Wolf (13/5/10)
- Explain what is meant by ‘the great moderation’.
- Should regulation of the banks be handed back to the Bank of England?
- Why may controlling inflation not necessarily result in stable economic growth? Is this a case of Goodhart’s Law?
- Why was the UK economy especially fragile during the banking crisis and its aftermath?
- What, according to Martin Wolf, was Mr Brown’s biggest mistake?
- Could a mistake be now being made by following the conventional wisdom that cutting the deficit is the solution to achieving sustained recovery?
Well no-one can say that Gordon Brown has had an easy ride: the war in Iraq, MPs’ expenses, flooding, strikes, unemployment, and of course a recession. Will the banking crisis and its knock-on effects prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Only time will tell.
The UK economy will be voting within the next few months and the elected party will play a crucial role in our economic recovery. Public debt reached £829.7 billion at the end of October (59.2% of GDP) and with falling tax revenue and rising government spending, it could get considerably higher. “State borrowing grew by £16.1 billion last month (August) – almost twice the entire budget for the 2012 Olympics.”
The outcome of the election will not only play a role in determining how the UK fares over the next few years in terms of our economic recovery, but it will also indicate the likely direction that policy will take towards areas such as education, healthcare, poverty, pensions, etc. The housing market is also likely to be significantly affected and not just by the election. With the end of the stamp duty holiday approaching, demand for housing may begin to fall in the new year, which could spell a fall in house prices.
No matter what happens, it will be interesting to see the direction of government policy over the next few years, given the spending cuts we are likely to experience.
Public debt hits £800 billion – the highest on record Times Online, Patrick Hosking (19/9/09)
Labour polls fuel talk of early election date Mirror News, James Lyons (14/12/09)
Pre-election politics dictate the Bank of England’s economic policy The Independent, Stephen King (14/12/09)
David Cameron and Labour ready for ‘snap election’ BBC News (13/12/09)
So who said what to whom? The truth about the cuts debate Independent, Steve Richards (15/12/09)
Is UK government debt really that high? BBC News, Richard Anderson (22/12/09)
For data on public-sector finances, see:
Public Sector National Statistics Office for National Statistics
For a lighthearted look at the relationship between elections and the economy (in the context of the Philippines), see:
Election and other economic boosters Manilla Bulletin Publishing Corporation, Fred Lobo (14/12/09)
- How are economics and politics related? Think about how the up-coming election is likely to affect government policy and why.
- What are the main economic policies proposed by the Labour government? How do these aim to help the UK economy recover?
- What are the main economic policies proposed by the Conservative government? Will these policies be any more effective than Labour’s?
- The Conservative party is ahead in the polls at the moment: why do you think this is? To what extent has Labour’s popularity been affected by the way the government has dealt with the banking crisis?
The leaders of the G20 countries gathered in Pittsburgh on 24 and 25 September 2009 to discuss a range of economic issues. These included co-ordinated action to ensure the world economy maintained its fragile recovery; reforming the IMF; agreeing action on bank regulation and the limiting of bankers’ bonuses.
The following is a selection of podcasts and videos looking at various aspects of the summit and its outcomes. The first one, to set the scene, is a webcast from the IMF looking at the state of the world economy and the role of macroeconomic policy and banking regulation. There are also some articles looking at the achievements of the summit. (See here for G20 draft communiqué)
World Economic Outlook, September 2009 (video) IMF Webcast (22/9/09)
G20: Who will feel the pain and when? (video) BBC Newsnight (25/9/09)
G20 leaders meet in Pittsburgh BBC Today Programme (25/9/09)
‘Little change’ in bank regulation BBC Today Programme (25/9/09)
World Bank’s Zoellick on G20 Summit (video) CNBC News (25/9/09)
G20 ‘was a successful meeting’ BBC Today Programme (26/9/09)
Obama on G20 plans for financial reforms (video) BBC News (25/9/09)
Greater role for emerging powers BBC News, Amartya Sen (25/9/09)
Preventing Another Global Crisis (video) CBS News (25/9/09)
Obama hails progress at G20 (video) Reuters (26/9/09)
World map of deficits and stimulus spending
The cost of the financial meltdown: Deficits and spending BBC News
G20: Banks to be forced to double capital levels Telegraph (25/9/09)
Will tough new G20 measures work? BBC News (26/9/09)
Analyst View: G20 ends reign of G7 in Pittsburgh Reuters (25/9/09)
Leaders bury differences over bonuses to agree standards FInancial Times (26/9/09)
Same tune, different fiscal instrument on bank bonuses Times Online (25/9/09)
G20: History and fudge Peston’s Picks, BBC News (25/9/09)
What the G20 said on bonuses (and why it didn’t say much at all) eFinancialCareers (27/9/09)
Hamish McRae: G20 communiqué signals transfer of power to the emerging world Independent on Sunday (27/9/09)
The G20 fantasy Guardian (27/9/09)
- Explain the issues faced by the G20 countries.
- To what extent is trying to reach international agreement on co-ordinated action a prisoner’s dilemma game? Is it, nevertheless, a positive sum game?
- What was agreed at Pittsburgh and to what extent will it lead to action as opposed to being mere rhetoric?
- The G8 is effectively dead, having being replaced by the G20, plus Spain, The Netherlands and various international bodies, such as the IMF. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this move?