Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Closed to new borrowing!!!!!

More tripe being spouted from government circles about why we need to stay committed to pouring more and more of taxpayers' money into Irish banks in order to prevent them going into insolvency and default on their liabilities.

The cry goes out "if there is a default on bank bondholders now, nobody will lend to us in the future".

OK, let's put aside the obvious point that nobody has been willing to lend to either Irish banks and now the Irish government at an affordable rate of interest for some time now and think about that alarmist statement. It is nonsense of course.

The fact is that default on bondholders today will not in itself mean lenders or potential buyers of bonds will be scared off in the future. In fact, the result could be expected to be quite the opposite if we finally manage to do the right thing policy wise.

Why would that be?

It is pretty obvious. Nobody will lend now at anything less than completely unacceptable (unaffordable) interest rates because they believe that the massive financial burden of the current and prospective size of Ireland's debt (government + bank losses assumed by government) will make it increasingly unlikely that they will get repaid.

However, if we quickly and it needs to be quickly stop the rot now we might have one last chance to write down a mass of bank assets and liabilities (which will mean bond holders), restructure them, likely with debt to equity swaps, and emerge with smaller banks with little concern over potential additional assets and liability write downs and a cap on the additional government borrowing that would be needed to fund the banks.

In effect draw a line right now under any potential future capital demands on taxpayers from the banks by putting them into nationalised administration (which I have mentioned before) and forcing the risk capital lenders to those banks to take the losses.

If we do that we then only (only!!) need to address the smaller (smaller!!) issue of general government finances in order to put a lid on government debt at a high, but not disastrous level - something around 130-140% of GNP.

And do you know what? People will lend to us again. They won't be looking back and thinking "well, they burned those bondholders last year", they will be looking forward and thinking "the losses have clearly been taken now and Irish banks and the Irish government are much better risks now". That is how markets work. Yesterday's loss is gone and irrecoverable. Markets look forward.

It still isn't too late, but it nearly is for Ireland.

Our banks need to be put under nationalised administration using special emergency legislation and restructured by defaulting on enough of the tier 1 and tier 2 capital (that includes senior bondholders) as required to make them unambiguously well capitalised with impairment free balance sheets.

No comments: