What I learnt about growth policy at the World Bank
Brian Pinto 17 December 2014
Since the Global Crisis, concerns have grown that advanced economies are suffering from secular stagnation. This column discusses the lessons that can be learnt from the economic transition of central and eastern Europe and the emerging-market crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Structural reform is particularly costly in the context of a debt overhang and an overvalued exchange rate. However, the crux is not debt restructuring per se, but whether economic governance changes credibly for the better following it.
Growth concerns have gone global. Advanced economies are beset by fears of secular stagnation, the IMF recently cut estimates of potential growth in emerging markets by 1.5 percentage points relative to 2011, and G20 leaders approved 800 new measures at Brisbane 2014 for raising G20 GDP by an incremental 2.1% by 2018.1
Development Institutions and economics
growth, secular stagnation, emerging markets, World Bank, structural reform, Transition economies, financial crisis, global crisis, debt overhang, exchange rates
Linking banking crises and sovereign defaults in emerging markets
Irina Balteanu, Aitor Erce 12 November 2014
The feedback loop between banking crises and sovereign debt crises has been at the heart of recent problems in the Eurozone. This column presents stylised facts on the mechanisms through which banking and sovereign crises combine and become ‘twin’ crises. The results point to systematic differences not only between ‘single’ and ‘twin’ crises, but also between different types of ‘twin’ episodes. The timing of ‘twin’ crises – which crisis comes first – is important for understanding their drivers, transmission channels, and economic consequences.
The feedback loop between fiscal and financial instability has been at the core of the recent turmoil in Europe (Acharya et al. 2014). In some countries, systemic banking crises triggered fiscal distress due to the magnitude of bank rescue operations (for example, in Ireland). In others, substantial sovereign debt tensions, leading to successive sovereign downgrades, severely weakened domestic financial systems (for example, in Greece).
Financial markets International finance Macroeconomic policy
twin crises, debt, sovereign debt, sovereign default, banking crises, financial crisis, doom loop, Eurozone crisis, emerging markets
The halo of victory: What Americans learned from World War I
Hugh Rockoff 04 October 2014
World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.
World War I had important consequences for the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. This was especially true in the world of finance. The US transitioned from being a debtor nation to a creditor nation, and financial leadership moved from London to New York. But equally important were the lessons that Americans drew from the war. Although the war had much to teach, Americans tended, I will argue below, to learn too much from the war, drawing strong conclusions from a war in which the US was actively engaged for only 19 months.
Competition policy Economic history
World War I, WWI, planning, rationing, New Deal, Great Depression, fiscal policy, monetary policy, stimulus, financial crisis, conscription, inflation, unemployment, price controls, Competition policy, antitrust, National Industrial Recovery Act
Shadow banking and the economy
Alan Moreira, Alexi Savov 16 September 2014
The prevailing view of shadow banking is that it is all about regulatory arbitrage – evading capital requirements and exploiting ‘too big to fail’. This column focuses instead on the tradeoff between economic growth and financial stability. Shadow banking transforms risky, illiquid assets into securities that are – in good times, at least – treated like money. This alleviates the shortage of safe assets, thereby stimulating growth. However, this process builds up fragility, and can exacerbate the depth of the bust when the liquidity of shadow banking securities evaporates.
Shadow banking, what is it good for? At the epicentre of the global financial crisis, shadow banking has become the focus of intense regulatory scrutiny. All reform proposals implicitly take a stance on its economic value.
According to the prevailing regulatory arbitrage and neglected risks views, it doesn’t have any – shadow banking is about evading capital requirements, exploiting ‘too big to fail’, and marketing risky securities as safe to unwitting investors. The right response is to bring shadow banking into the regulatory and supervisory regime that covers insured banks.
Financial markets Global crisis Macroeconomic policy
shadow banking, banking, financial crisis, global crisis, regulatory arbitrage, liquidity transformation, financial stability, externalities, collateral, business cycle, financial regulation, financial fragility, liquidity, liquidity crunch
Quantifying the macroeconomic effects of large-scale asset purchases
Karl Walentin 11 September 2014
Central banks have resorted to various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the Global Crisis. This column focuses on the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities – in particular, through reducing the ‘mortgage spread’ between interest rates on mortgages and government bonds at a given maturity. Although large-scale asset purchases are found to have substantial macroeconomic effects, they may not necessarily be the best policy tool at the zero lower bound.
Central banks have used various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the financial crisis yet the debate continues regarding their efficiency. This column attempts to shed light on the ‘bang for the buck’, or the macroeconomic effects, of one such unconventional monetary policy – the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchases of mortgage-backed securities employed during the Fed’s QE1 and QE3 programs.
Global crisis Monetary policy
monetary policy, unconventional monetary policy, large-scale asset purchases, central banking, financial crisis, Federal Reserve, quantitative easing, mortgage-backed securities, term premia, zero lower bound, interest rates, US, UK, Sweden, mortgages, global crisis
What were they thinking? The Federal Reserve in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis
Stephen Golub, Ayse Kaya, Michael Reay 08 September 2014
Since the Global Crisis, critics have questioned why regulatory agencies failed to prevent it. This column argues that the US Federal Reserve was aware of potential problems brewing in the financial system, but was largely unconcerned by them. Both Greenspan and Bernanke subscribed to the view that identifying bubbles is very difficult, pre-emptive bursting may be harmful, and that central banks could limit the damage ex post. The scripted nature of FOMC meetings, the focus on the Greenbook, and a ‘silo’ mentality reduced the impact of dissenting views.
Financial crises are caused by imprudent borrowing and lending, but as former Federal Reserve chairman William McChesney Martin noted, it is ultimately up to regulators to ‘take away the punch bowl’ when the larger economy is at risk. Indeed, many have criticised regulators for failing to anticipate and prevent the 2008 crash (Buiter 2012, Gorton 2012, Johnson and Kwak 2010, Roubini and Mihm 2010). Little work has been done, however, on why regulatory agencies failed to act despite warnings from prominent commentators (Borio and White 2004, Buffett 2003, Rajan 2005).
Financial markets Global crisis Monetary policy
financial crisis, Federal Reserve, FOMC, global crisis, collateralised debt obligations, Credit Default Swaps, LTCM, CDOs, CDSs, central banking
Political booms, financial crises: Why popular governments are not always a good sign
Christoph Trebesch, Helios Herrera, Guillermo L. Ordoñez 06 September 2014
Financial crises are often credit booms gone bust. This column argues that ‘political booms’, defined as an increase in government popularity, are also a good predictor of financial crises. The phenomenon of ‘political booms gone bust’ is, however, only observable in emerging markets. In these countries, politicians have more to gain from riding the popularity benefits of unsustainable booms.
Financial crises: the search for early warning indicators
Financial crises are a recurrent phenomenon in the history of emerging markets and advanced economies alike. To understand the common causes of these crises and to prevent future ones from developing, economists have a long tradition of studying early warning indicators. Two well-documented predictors of financial crises are credit booms and capital flow bonanzas.
Financial markets Politics and economics
credit booms, financial crisis, politics, emerging markets, capital flows, public opinion, popularity
The impact of capital requirements on bank lending
Jonathan Bridges, David Gregory, Mette Nielsen, Silvia Pezzini, Amar Radia, Marco Spaltro 02 September 2014
Since the Global Crisis, support has grown for the use of time-varying capital requirements as a macroprudential policy tool. This column examines the effect of bank-specific, time-varying capital requirements in the UK between 1990 and 2011. In response to increased capital requirements, banks gradually increase their capital ratios to restore their original buffers above the regulatory minimum, reducing lending temporarily as they do so. The largest effects are on commercial real estate lending, followed by lending to other corporates and then secured lending to households.
The financial crisis has led to widespread support for greater use of time-varying capital requirements on banks as a macroprudential policy tool (see for example Yellen 2010 and Hanson et al. 2011). Policymakers aim to use these tools to enhance the resilience of the financial system, and, potentially, to curb the credit cycle. Under Basel III, national regulatory authorities will be tasked with setting countercyclical capital buffers over the economic cycle.
Macroprudential policy, capital requirements, regulation, bank regulation, BASEL III, Bank of England, financial crisis, bank lending, UK
Lessons from history for the European Financial Crisis
Selin Sayek, Fatma Taskin 05 July 2014
The European Monetary Union is unprecedented, but the Eurozone Crisis is not. This column draws upon the experiences of previous banking crises, and compares the Eurozone Crisis countries. Like Japan before the 1992 crisis, Spain and Ireland had property bubbles fuelled by domestic credit. The Greek crisis is very distinct from crises in other Eurozone countries, so a one-size-fits-all policy would be inappropriate. The duration and severity of past crises suggest the road ahead will continue to be very rough.
As of July 2014, we continue to debate whether the European economy is out of the woods. The effectiveness of policies and the prospects of full recovery are under scrutiny. The unique nature of Europe’s monetary union begets further questions of whether policies should be designed to resolve a single euro crisis, or whether they should be designed to resolve multiple European crises occurring simultaneously. A discussion of whether the sui generis European project has led to a sui generis set of financial crises would provide a framework for these policy discussions.
Economic history Europe's nations and regions Global crisis
eurozone, financial crisis, EZ crisis, GIIPS