Quotulatiousness

October 5, 2017

Four Reasons Financial Intermediaries Fail

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Japan — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Marginal Revolution University
Published on 26 Jul 2016

As we’ve discussed in previous videos, financial intermediaries bridge savers and borrowers. When these bridges crumble, the effects can be disastrous. For businesses, credit shortages can lead to bankruptcy, or layoffs. For individuals, they rely on credit to invest in education or a new home or car. These negative effects show you how crucial intermediaries are to our lives.

Still, what exactly causes failed intermediation? Four answers:

First, insecure property rights. Simply speaking, when you save money at a bank, you expect the ability to pull out your funds when needed. But what if your deposits are frozen? Or confiscated altogether? For instance, in 2013 amidst a financial crisis, the government in Cyprus confiscated bank deposits to help pay down the country’s budget shortfall. You can see how insecure property rights can scare away potential savers.

Second, controls on interest rates. Interest rates are the price of borrowing. Thus, controls on interest rates, often called usury laws, are effectively price ceilings—they set the interest rate lower than the market equilibrium interest rate. With this forced lowering of interest rates, borrowers will want to borrow more, but lenders won’t want to lend. The effect? A lending shortage.

Third, politicized lending. Banks profit by assessing risk, and then loaning, based on that assessment. Banks that excel at assessment succeed. Those poor at it die out. Problems arise when the government intervenes to prop up failing banks, resulting in what we call “zombie banks.” In such cases, intervention undercuts normal competition, and intervention tends to favor banks that are politically connected. In fact, it’s been shown that there’s an inverse correlation between government ownership in banks and a country’s GDP per capita and productivity growth.

Fourth, you have runs, panics, and scandals. Remember, trust is vital to the financial system. When trust erodes, depositors may rush to withdraw their money from banks, causing what is known as a “bank run.” This can cause banks to fail, as we saw during the Great Depression. Scandals can also depress market confidence. Enron, WorldCom and Bernie Madoff may come to mind.

So, which of these four factors contributed to the Great Recession of 2008?

We’ll discuss that in our next video.

May 28, 2017

Indochina – Cyprus – Puerto Rico I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, France, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 27 May 2017

What do Indochina, Cyprus and Puerto Rico have in common? They are all featured in our newest episode of Out of The Trenches where Indy answers all your questions about World War 1.

October 9, 2015

Cyprus, the Crusades, and Commandaria

Filed under: History, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Paul Lewandowski on the quite distinctive wine of Cyprus and its place in history:

Cyprus was not just the home of Richard [the Lionheart]’s first victory; it was also the site of his marriage. His fiancé, Berengaria of Navarre, was the daughter of Sancho VI of Navarre. The marriage was a politically beneficial one. Some scholars believe that Richard and Berengaria were actually romantic lovers, since they had met many years prior, and Richard married Berengaria despite his betrothal to the Countess of Vexin. Regardless of the reason for the marriage however, Richard threw a party worthy of a king. Richard, who was unfamiliar with Cyprus, had the local wine variety served at his nuptials. Upon tasting the wine, legend has it the king proclaimed that it was, “The wine of kings and the king of wines.”

Wine in the middle ages was generally awful. The logistical difficulty of preserving wine meant that additives must be used to preserve the wine. This could include marble dust, lye-ash, or pitch. Of course, this made wine awful by today’s standards. To make it slightly palatable, the wine would sometimes be cut with honey, dried fruit, or even salt water. Wine in the middle ages was valuable not only because it could render the drinker intoxicated, but because it was also a source of potable water. Wine only began to improve when it became a commodity, a tradable good that competed with beer and tea. For someone used to a saltwater-and-pitch concoction, an authentic, Cypriot dessert wine must have tasted truly amazing. It comes as little surprise that after the crusader’s time in Cyprus, the island and its wine were deemed valuable.

Richard would go on to sell the island to the Knights Templar not long after departing for the Middle East. In 1192, the Templar Order resold the island to another nobleman. However, the Templars were so smitten with the local wine, they retained a feudal estate where wine could be produced. They named their estate La Grande Commanderie, which roughly translates to “the main command post.” The region soon became known as Commandaria. Wine production increased as the Knights Templar sought to fund their operations through the export of wine. The Templars also provided the wine to pilgrims journeying toward Jerusalem. Soon the wine assumed the name of the region, and Commandaria became famous throughout Europe. Its popularity remained high for centuries, as late as the 1870s, when the region was producing 230,000 liters of wine annually for export to Austria alone.

Commandaria is made from two strains of native Cypriot grapes: Xynisteri, a white grape, and Mavro, a red. Both are dried partially in the sun before fermentation and pressing. This concentrates the sugars, giving the wine its sweet character. Following fermentation, the wine is aged a minimum of two years in oak barrels, but high-end Commandaria is often aged longer. The result is a sweet dessert wine with honey, fruit, and toffee flavors. It is often fortified, but even unfortified Commandaria can exceed 15% alcohol by volume.

Commandaria is the world’s oldest continually cultivated wine. Descriptions of the wine and its unique manufacture appear in accounts as early as 800 BC. Some scholars claim the wine is over 3,000 years old. Its long history makes it the stuff of legend. It is supposedly the winner of the first recorded wine tasting in history, held in France in 1224. The Ottoman Sultan Selim II is said to have invaded Cyprus just to get the wine. Still another legend is that the grapes from Cyprus were exported to Portugal and were used in some of the earliest port wines. Before assuming the name Commandaria, it was known as “Mana” because it was considered a divine gift.

April 21, 2013

EU banking governance as situational comedy

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:14

In the Telegraph, Jeremy Warner pokes a bit of fun at the EU’s self-inflicted media pratfalls over the Cypriot banking “bailout”:

For the last time, I never used the word “template”. Thus said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup, at his IMF press conference on Saturday. This is about whether the troika’s disastrous mishandling of the Cypriot bailout should be used as a model for future banking insolvencies in the eurozone. The row shows no sign of abating. OK, so Mr Dijsselbloem never did use the word “template” in originally welcoming the Cypriot defenestration, but that’s what he meant, forcing him quickly to backtrack when it was pointed out to him that his remarks might prompt a run on banks elsewhere in the eurozone.

But hold on a moment. Wolfgang Schauble, the German finance minister, said on Friday that Cyprus did provide a model in terms of bailing in depositors, so who’s right? Well it is sort of a model, Mr Dijsselbloem said at his IMF press conference, in the sense that common principles would in future be applied to banking resolution, but each case would no doubt be different and have its own defining characteristics. All clear now?

April 1, 2013

Canadian government pre-approves Cyprus-style haircuts for bank depositors

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:39

Not only can it happen here, but Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is making it explicit that it will happen here:

The politicians of the western world are coming after your bank accounts. In fact, Cyprus-style “bail-ins” are actually proposed in the new Canadian government budget. When I first heard about this I was quite skeptical, so I went and looked it up for myself. And guess what? It is right there in black and white on pages 144 and 145 of “Economic Action Plan 2013″ which the Harper government has already submitted to the House of Commons.

This new budget actually proposes “to implement a ‘bail-in’ regime for systemically important banks” in Canada. “Economic Action Plan 2013″ was submitted on March 21st, which means that this “bail-in regime” was likely being planned long before the crisis in Cyprus ever erupted. So exactly what in the world is going on here? In addition, as you will see below, it is being reported that the European Parliament will soon be voting on a law which would require that large banks be “bailed in” when they fail. In other words, that new law would make Cyprus-style bank account confiscation the law of the land for the entire EU.

I can’t even begin to describe how serious all of this is. From now on, when major banks fail they are going to bail them out by grabbing the money that is in your bank accounts. This is going to absolutely shatter faith in the banking system and it is actually going to make it far more likely that we will see major bank failures all over the western world.

What you are about to see absolutely amazed me when I first saw it. The Canadian government is actually proposing that what just happened in Cyprus should be used as a blueprint for future bank failures up in Canada.

March 31, 2013

The deep strangeness of the Cyprus bank haircuts

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:36

At Forbes, Tim Worstall has some thoughts on the oddities now apparent in how the Cyprus banking crisis has played out so far:

Now that we’re seeing the real numbers coming out about who loses what in the Cyprus haircut/bank consolidations there’s something very strange about the numbers. Whiffy even, and that’s not with a good odour to it either. For, as far as I can tell at least, the haircuts are far larger than they need to be in order to make good the damage that we were told about. I’m therefore coming around to the idea that this wasn’t what we’ve been told it was, a story of Russian offshore deposits and tax avoidance. Rather, it’s two banks which invested regular domestic deposits into just terrible opportunities and then lost it all.

I don’t think I can make the case absolutely but I think it’s a case worth at least investigating.

[. . .]

But back to the point I’m trying to work through here. We’ve been told that the immediate cause was all about all that foreign money which flooded the country’s banking system. Yet when we look at the amount that is being raised by the haircuts it doesn’t look as if the two bankrupt banks had all that much of those foreign deposits. It looks very much like the banks which had the deposits didn’t invest badly and thus didn’t go bankrupt. So the problem isn’t therefore one of all that foreign money.

Rather, it’s a problem of where those two banks invested their deposits. And it looks as if this was largely in Greek Government and Cypriot Government bonds. Which is why they are bust.

March 29, 2013

Cyprus has become the EU’s “lab rat”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:59

In sp!ked, Bruno Waterfield talks about the EU’s most recent involuntary experimental subject, Cyprus:

Every negative European political trend has deepened in the latest round of the Eurozone crisis, as Cyprus has been treated by the EU with a disdain for self-determination worthy of the high age of imperialism. It is this which is really troubling, not the haircuts for depositors or the bank closures. In effect, an entire island nation has been made a laboratory rat for a new Eurozone experiment in rebalancing economies in the EU single currency — whether the Cypriots like it or not.

Cyprus is the perfect fall guy for the EU and IMF experts who, despite the mess in Greece and elsewhere in southern Europe, still believe they know best how to run a nation’s affairs. That’s because, as well as being too small to count, especially for the markets, Cyprus is easily painted as a bad guy, a swarthy, even Levantine crook which launders dirty Russian money (nearly a third of Cypriot bank deposits) for ‘dodgy’ oligarchs. This whiff of corruption (nothing new to Cyprus, or other European banks for that matter) provides the perfect pretext for treating Cyprus as a case apart. This is meant to soothe the fears of senior northern European debt holders — it is corrupt Cyprus, and not failed private risk in general, that has been targeted.

So, because it is small, and in the eyes of the Eurozone social engineers, easily contained, Cyprus has been selected to be an experiment, potentially a model for Portugal or Spain. And if it all goes horribly wrong… well, Cyprus is small and a dodgy special case, so who cares? The EU doesn’t.

March 25, 2013

The Cyprus “deal” decoded

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:04

With a blog post entitled “THE CYPRUS HEIST GOES THROUGH: And it’s an Orwellian masterpiece“, you could say that this is an unfair summary of the situation:

Somewhere, George Orwell is spinning in his grave — although he wouldn’t be even remotely surprised by the 1984-style nonsense being hailed as a compromise by the Troikanauts and Nicosia’s embarrassed leaders.

This is the deal: the levy is called something else scrapped, and none of the deposits below €100,000 will be stolen included.

The new lunacy idea sees Laiki Bank closed. The entirety of its €4.2bn in deposits over €100,000 will be placed in a “bad bank”: why you would put healthy deposits in a bad bank eludes me, but we’re really just moving the stash around here: the bad bank’s resources will be confiscated. We’re talk a 100% haircut for all these savers.

And don’t be fooled by the Berlin propaganda about Russian money-laundering. First up, being a rich Russian doesn’t automatically make you a crook; and secondly, nowhere near all — possibly under half — are Russian anyway: UBS, several Israeli banks, a number of French banks will have depositor’s money taken out of them to pay for the ambitions of Brussels-am-Berlin.

There’s more: all the bondholders in Laiki also take a 100% haircut.

[. . .]

Entirely appropriate however was the choice of Wolfgang Schäuble to face the cameras and ‘explain’ why none of this would need the approval of the Cypriot Parliament. Just “approved by the 17 eurozone finance ministers comparatively quickly, after about two hours of further deliberations”. As to why it needed FinMin approval (but not that of the citizens’ representatives) get a load of this for jargonised bollocks:

“This plan will not require the approval of the Cypriot parliament because the losses on large depositors will be achieved through a restructuring of the island’s two largest banks and not a tax.”

Update: I think Tyler Cowen gets it exactly correct here:

The capital controls will have to be strict. What will the price of a Cypriot euro be, relative to a German euro? 50%? I call this Cyprus leaving the euro but keeping the word “euro” to save face. And yet they fail to reap most of the advantages of leaving the euro, such as having an independent monetary policy.

March 24, 2013

The domestic economy of Cyprus is slowing to a stop

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:09

In the Telegraph, Colin Freeman looks at how the banking crisis is impacting ordinary Cypriots and retired EU citizens in Cyprus:

Last weekend, the small Mediterranean island was plunged into the epicentre of the eurozone crisis when Brussels finance chiefs, led by Germany, demanded a levy of up to ten per cent of savers’ deposits in return for a 10bn euro bail-out of the country’s ailing banks. The move left many of Cyprus’s 60,000-strong British community facing heavy losses on retirement nest eggs — and as the week rolled on, that looked like being just the least of their worries.

On Thursday, unhappy at the Cypriot parliament’s rejection of the deal, Europe’s Central Bank then threatened to cut financial life support for the island altogether, a move that would have led to its banking sector collapsing, and savers losing not just a percentage of their money, but all of it. It was only thanks to a last-minute agreement hammered out on Friday night, which is expected to restructure the country’s banks and restrict the levy to deposits of more than 100,000 euros, that all-out chaos was averted. For now, anyway.

[. . .]

Since last weekend, when all of Cyprus’s banks were shut to stop a run on withdrawals, work has ground to a halt, as the repair man has been unable to buy in the materials he needs from suppliers, who are all now demanding cash. The job symbolises the malaise of the wider Cypriot economy, built on shaky foundations, and now in a state of paralysis, with thousands of shops, businesses and restaurants unable to operate properly because of the financial uncertainty.

“None of my food and drink suppliers are taking bank payments any more,” said Yiota Vrasida, 43, who owns a café in the winding streets of the capital, Nicosia. “We can keep going until this weekend, but that is about it.”

[. . .]

“Nobody will want to leave so much as 10 euros in any Cypriot bank any more,” said Dino Karambalis, 49, an IT worker, standing at the end of a 30-people-long queue at the Laiki Bank, where he had 90,000 euros in savings. “They say this levy is only for Cyprus, but why should anyone believe that? This is undermining confidence in the euro as a whole, and in the whole EU project itself. I was pro-European before, but not now.”

This weekend, the Cypriot parliament sought to reassure smaller savers, saying those with less than 100,000 euros would face at most a levy of less than one percent. State television also talked of a one-time charge of up to 25 percent on savings of over 100,000 euros held at the Bank of Cyprus. With that in mind, capital controls will be imposed to stop a run on the banks when they reopen next week.

But whatever new measures come in, some damage has already been done by declaring savers’ accounts to be fair game in the first place. Britain’s Business Secretary, Vince Cable, warned on Friday that it could lead Northern Rock-style runs on banks all over the eurozone in future.

March 22, 2013

Cyprus: the state of play on Friday

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:35

In the Telegraph, Thomas Pascoe summarizes the situation in Cyprus as of Friday morning:

As it stands this morning, there is a Plan B on the table after parliament voted down the proposal that every bank deposit in the country be subject to a deduction. The new plan only affects those with deposits over €100,000; however, it will require those depositors to take a loss of up to 40pc. As part of this package, the nation’s two large banks will be saved. However, the structure of the deal requires that one of the pair, Laiki, will be split into “good” and “bad” banks, with large depositors left to chance it in the bad bank.

A word on the thinking behind it. While you and I perceive deposits as secure money (and I have argued that to touch them is an abuse of power), technocrats in Brussels take a different view. They tend to view deposits in the technical sense of being loans to banks. You give the bank your money in exchange for interest, and can call the loan at any time (provided not everyone else is doing the same thing, which is the situation now). The bank loans most of your deposit on again. When countries struggle with too much debt, those who have loaned them money get “haircuts”, or less back than they gave. Following this thinking, the EU’s argument is that if we lend money to failing banks, we too must take a haircut to keep them solvent.

[. . .]

So the compromise deal is an ugly one, involving a precedent (confiscation of deposits) which will cast a pallor over the entire European banking system. But the problems are equally great with any other solution. If the banks are left to fail, depositors lose everything except the scraps recovered by administrators. To argue that they, and the country, must be funded directly by the EU, requires the continued willingness of Germany to act against its own economic interests and support an entire continent on its shoulders, impossible without fiscal and political consolidation which no electorate would assent to at present (not that they are asked, usually).

In my opinion, there is no faster way to destroy confidence in your retail banking sector than stealing the money from depositors with no recourse. I have no idea why the European Union is so hell-bent on crushing the banks, but perhaps they have some looney-tunes notion that they can supplant the existing bank system with something directly operated by the ECB or the EU itself.

March 21, 2013

The choices for Cyprus don’t seem to include saving the banks

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:04

In Forbes, Tim Worstall sums up the real problem facing Cypriots:

There’s a very large portion of the European political elite who believe, take on faith (for there’s certainly no convincing real world evidence about it) that the creation of the euro is part of the inevitable creation of the European State. And as such it is entirely irreversible. It’s not just that people once in the euro shouldn’t leave it: it’s that it is simply inconceivable that anyone ever would leave it. Either wish to leave it or be allowed to leave it.

Wherein lies the danger to said European dreams and it’s tiny Cyprus that poses said danger.

As both Krugman and Yglesias point out, the Cypriot banking system is bust, gone. Even if it needn’t have happened this way having the system closed for at least a week is going to lead to bank runs when they finally reopen. The economy is most certainly going to stutter if not be deeply depressed as a result of that banking system going. Given that a substantial part of the economy is about offshore finance, and that that’s not going to survive the banking system crash, there will also, whatever else happens, be substantial declines in GDP.

It’s most certainly true that leaving the euro will cause all of those things to happen. But if they’re going to happen anyway then why not leave the euro? Why not bring back the Cyprus Pound? That is, do an Iceland?

[. . .]

But here’s the thing: there’s still that religious insistence among the federasts that the euro is irreversible, a part of the future of the politics and economy of the continent. And if Cyprus does leave and does recover without too much paid then what reason for Greece, or Spain, Portugal, to stay in? If going bust and going back to one’s own currency is, as Iceland showed (although they kept, rather than went back to), less painful that the austerity required to stay in the euro then, well, why stay in the euro?

March 18, 2013

Cyprus to offer small depositors a slightly less nasty haircut

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:05

Megan McArdle on the most recent “concession” by the Cypriot bank regulators:

Cyprus seems to have realized what I wrote yesterday: violating your deposit insurance guarantees is a better way to start a bank run than to stabilize a banking crisis. After Cypriots rushed to withdraw their money ahead of the new rules, the Wall Street Journal reports that the government has cobbled together a new proposal: small depositors will pay a 3% “tax” on their accounts (instead of 6.75%); medium depositors (those with between €100,000 and €500,000 will be taxed at the same 10% they were supposed to pay before; and those with more than €500,000 will pay 15%.

That may check the runs on the small accounts. Now the question is: what about the big ones? Will the foreign depositors view 15% as the simple cost of stashing their money out of the watchful eye of their own government? Or will they seek a new haven?

If the foreign money runs, it seems unlikely that Cyprus will be able to bail out the banks again; this desperate bank levy is, after all, what they were forced to do just to raise the $5.8 billion that the EU and the IMF demanded they contribute to the bank rescue. But the higher Cyprus raises the levy on large accounts, the more likely it is that the foreign money will flee to somewhere less shaky.

By “less shaky”, one has to assume a non-European bank…

Update: Cyprus has extended the “bank holiday” to Thursday.

Will the Cyprus bailout set the fuse to a new Great Depression?

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

History may not repeat itself, but it’s quite likely that it paraphrases itself instead:

So, this is going to be a very sour reading of what has happened in Cyprus this weekend. It will also be a very partisan one, possibly even a partial one. But if Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz were right in their insistence that it was actually the Federal Reserve that caused the Great Depression (which is something that Ben Bernanke himself has insisted that the Fed will not repeat) then one way of interpreting what has happened is that the European Central Bank has just set us all up for another Depression. The trigger is that “tax” of a little over 6% on all depositors.

This isn’t an analysis that you’ll be able to get all economists to sign up to. But the basic story told by Friedman and Schwartz in A Monetary History of the United States was that the 1929 crash was indeed a serious crash. But it would not have led to the Great Depression without the Federal Reserve making some serious mistakes. Two of which were to allow the intertwined collapses of both the money supply and the banking system. Given that it is the banks that create credit and thus the wider money supply they are, to a great extent, the same thing.

[. . .]

But please note the central part of Friedman’s argument. Yes, there was the crash. Yes, there would have been a deep and painful recession as a result. But the tipping of that recession into depression was a result of the cascading series of bank failures in the absence of deposit insurance: that led to the calamitous shrinking of credit and the money supply.

So let us now look at Europe and the eurozone. Certainly there’s been a crash (or even a Crash). We’ve so far avoided the depression part (although not everywhere. Greece is certainly in one, Spain possibly and looking out my window at rural Portugal I see certain signs of a reversion to a non-cash economy.) but the important question is whether we manage to continue to do so?

[. . .]

Yes, I do know, they’ve called it a tax: but here we’ve got to make reference to that duck thing. The difference between a 6% or more “tax” on your bank deposit and a failure of the previously agreed deposit insurance to protect your deposit is quackery enough that it’s a duck.

As I’ve said before the importance of this is moot at present. It depends on who believes what. If the citizenry believe that they don’t have deposit insurance any more (whether we call this a tax or a duck) then we will see more mass withdrawals from banks and we will see more bank failures. And cascading bank failures are exactly the thing that will tumble us into a new depression.

March 17, 2013

Cyprus delays emergency parliamentary session over banking haircut

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:50

Apparently not all the politicians in the Cypriot parliament are on-board with the mandatory levy on savings accounts:

Cyprus’s parliament has postponed until Monday an emergency session to vote on a levy on bank deposits after signs that lawmakers might block the surprise move agreed in Brussels to help fund a bailout and avert national bankruptcy.

In a radical departure from previous aid packages, euro zone finance ministers want Cyprus savers to forfeit up to 9.9 percent of their deposits in return for a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout to the island, which has been financially crippled by its exposure to neighboring Greece.

The decision, announced on Saturday morning, stunned Cypriots and caused a run on cashpoints, most of which were depleted within hours. Electronic transfers were stopped.

[. . .]

Many Cypriots, having contributed to bailouts for Ireland, Portugal and Greece — Greece’s second bailout contributed to a debt restructuring that blew the 4.5 billion euro hole in Cyprus’s banking sector — are aghast at Europe’s treatment.

Cyprus received a “stab in the back” by its EU partners, the daily Phileleftheros said.

But it and another newspapers highlighted the danger of plunging the banking system into further turmoil if lawmakers sat on the fence.

March 16, 2013

More on the Cyprus banking situation

Filed under: Business, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:44

At Forbes, Tim Worstall explains why the mandatory levy on bank accounts is an epic facepalm:

There’s nothing particularly bad about making depositors carry some of the load of a bank failure. Indeed, it has something to recommend it: if it happens occasionally then people will take more care over where they put their money and what the banks do with it.

However, there’s a very great difference between allowing depositors without government insurance to take losses and actually reneging on the previously promised government insurance. And it’s that second that they’re actually doing here. [. . .]

Under the system until yesterday all depositors in Cypriot banks were insured up to the value of €100,000 with any one bank. Today that solemn and governmental promise has been shown to be false. And not even the European Union nor the European Central Bank are going to make them stick to it. Indeed, very much the other way around. The EU and ECB are insisting that the Cyprus authorities breach this deposit insurance provision.

As I say, there’s nothing wrong with making uninsured depositors take some of the pain. Certainly nothing at all wrong with making those with large deposits take a haircut. The problem is when government has said “we’ll insure this” and when push comes to shove they say “err, no, we won’t”. And the problem with this is that it makes all future EU deposit insurance worth that much less.

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