The other side of Austerity measures

In economics, austerity is a policy of deficit-cutting, lower spending, and a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided.[1] Austerity policies are often used by governments to reduce their deficit spending[2] while sometimes coupled with increases in taxes to pay back creditors to reduce debt.[3] “Austerity” was named the word of the year by Merriam-Webster in 2010.[4]

Reasons for taking austerity measures

Austerity measures are typically taken if there is a threat that a government cannot honor its debt liabilities. Such a situation may arise if a government has borrowed in foreign currencies that they have no right to issue or they have been legally forbidden from issuing their own currency. In such a situation, banks may lose trust in a government’s ability and/or willingness to pay and either refuse to roll over existing debts or demand extremely high interest rates. In such situations, inter-governmental institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may demand austerity measures in exchange for functioning as a lender of last resort. When the IMF requires such a policy, the terms are known as ‘IMF conditionalities‘.

Typical effects

Development projects, welfare, and other social spending are common programs that are targeted for cuts. Taxes, port and airport fees, and train and bus fares are common sources of increased user fees.
In many cases, austerity measures have been associated with protest movements claiming significant decline in standard of living. A case in point is the nation of Greece. The financial crisis—particularly the austerity package put forth by the EU and the IMF— was met with great anger by the Greek public, leading to riots and social unrest. On 27 June 2011, trade union organizations commenced a forty-eight hour labor strike in advance of a parliamentary vote on the austerity package, the first such strike since 1974. Massive demonstrations were organized throughout Greece, intended to pressure parliament members into voting against the package. The second set of austerity measures was approved on 29 June 2011, with 155 out of 300 members of parliament voting in favor. However, one United Nations official warned that the second package of austerity measures in Greece could pose a violation of human rights.[5]

Theoretical considerations

Contemporary mainstream economists consider macroeconomic policy in a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) framework, where fiscal policy is discussed within an optimal taxation framework that assumes a representative agent is optimizing over a long-term horizon. The reasoning behind such models is that the effect of any government deficit is mitigated by compensatory changes in the representative agent’s spending decisions. This occurs because the agent will be responsible for paying off that deficit in the future. Thus, from a modern mainstream macroeconomist’s point of view, reducing government deficit allows the private sector to consume more and support the economy. This viewpoint stems from their belief in the existence of a general economic equilibrium, which predicts that economic fluctuations revert back toward a “normal” state of affairs automatically. For this reason econometric models that are used in economic forecasting are calibrated to show convergence to full resource utilization and employment despite government’s fiscal tightening.
Old-Keynesians, such as Alvin Hansen, had a totally opposite view: they argued that government deficits provide the private sector both with new money for saving (the deficit) and a means to save (government interest-bearing bonds), increasing private sector wealth, and this wealth effect would reduce the need to save from current income. In their view government debt enabled the private sector to continue consuming. It was therefore not a burden, at least when held domestically, but a necessity.[6] This approach has interesting parallels with Richard Koo’s recent concept of balance-sheet recession.
According to modern monetary theory austerity measures by a national government are usually counterproductive because neither taxation nor bond issuance act as a funding mechanisms for the government.[7] Instead, all spending is done by crediting bank accounts, so national governments cannot run out of money unless they have fixed exchange rate to either foreign currency or gold, or they do borrowing in foreign currencies or they are part of a larger currency area like the eurozone where they do not have the right to issue money.[7][8]
“Austerity measures brings health to the balance sheets by reducing debts which is followed by short term credit crunch but is countered by an expansion of credit when goals are met multiplied by the creation of wealth.” – Contributed by Oogle.  


FTA framework of Asia-Pacific region

PTI | 04:10 PM,Oct 16,2011

Kuala Lumpur, Oct 16 (KYODO) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has prepared a framework of general principles to steer the establishment of an Asia-Pacific free trade agreement. The “ASEAN Framework for a Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership” was discussed by ASEAN trade ministers at a one-day informal meeting in Kuala Lumpur yesterday for adoption by leaders of the 10-member group at their summit meeting in Bali next month. The framework sets out “principles under which ASEAN will enhance engagement with FTA partners” with the aim of “establishing a comprehensive economic partnership,” Kyodo News agency reported. ASEAN has FTAs with Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. The latest move reflects a deep concern among some member countries that ASEAN could be sidelined by the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership that has attracted attention even as it is being negotiated, especially if Japan decides to come on board, ASEAN official sources said. As a result, ASEAN would like to hasten creation of a regional FTA encompassing the ASEAN members and its FTA partners from outside the region, with ASEAN playing a central role in the initiative. Nine countries involved in negotiations for the TPP are Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, United States and four ASEAN members — Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. Japan is considering joining the TPP negotiations. “The purpose (of the framework) is to achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement,” ASEAN’s draft says. “This agreement shall also involve a broader and deeper engagement with ASEAN’s FTA partners and address new and emerging issues.” The general principles in the framework include differential treatment for ASEAN’s less developed members such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Other principles include ensuring the agreements are transparent and made available to the public, provide for economic and technical cooperation, contain measures to facilitate trade and investment and should contribute to ASEAN’s own plan for regional economic integration and economic development. (KYODO) 
Plans in place in case of fallout from Euro Debt Crisis?

1) How will ASEAN contain a firewall in worst case scenerio against a Euro Debt Crisis?
Basel III will require banks to hold 4.5% of common equity (up from 2% in Basel II) and 6% of Tier I capital (up from 4% in Basel II) of risk-weighted assets (RWA). Basel III also introduces additional capital buffers, (i) a mandatory capital conservation buffer of 2.5% and (ii) a discretionary countercyclical buffer, which allows national regulators to require up to another 2.5% of capital during periods of high credit growth. In addition, Basel III introduces a minimum 3% leverage ratio and two required liquidity ratios. The Liquidity Coverage Ratio requires a bank to hold sufficient high-quality liquid assets to cover its total net cash flows over 30 days; the Net Stable Funding Ratio requires the available amount of stable funding to exceed the required amount of stable funding over a one-year period of extended stress.[4]

Macroeconomic Impact of Basel III

An OECD study [2] released on 17 February 2011, estimates that the medium-term impact of Basel III implementation on GDP growth is in the range of −0.05 to −0.15 percentage point per annum. Economic output is mainly affected by an increase in bank lending spreads as banks pass a rise in bank funding costs, due to higher capital requirements, to their customers. To meet the capital requirements effective in 2015 (4.5% for the common equity ratio, 6% for the Tier 1 capital ratio), banks are estimated to increase their lending spreads on average by about 15 basis points. The capital requirements effective as of 2019 (7% for the common equity ratio, 8.5% for the Tier 1 capital ratio) could increase bank lending spreads by about 50 basis points. The estimated effects on GDP growth assume no active response from monetary policy. To the extent that monetary policy will no longer be constrained by the zero lower bound, the Basel III impact on economic output could be offset by a reduction (or delayed increase) in monetary policy rates by about 30 to 80 basis points.[7]
Basel III is an opportunity as well as a challenge for banks. It can provide a solid foundation for the next developments in the banking sector, and it can ensure that past excesses are avoided. Basel III is changing the way that banks address the management of risk and finance. The new regime seeks much greater integration of the finance and risk management functions. This will probably drive the convergence of the responsibilities of CFOs and CROs in delivering the strategic objectives of the business. However, the adoption of a more rigorous regulatory stance might be hampered by a reliance on multiple data silos and by a separation of powers between those who are responsible for finance and those who manage risk. The new emphasis on risk management that is inherent in Basel III requires the introduction or evolution of a risk management framework that is as robust as the existing finance management infrastructures. As well as being a regulatory regime, Basel III in many ways provides a framework for true enterprise risk management, which involves covering all risks to the business.[8]

Bringing forward key dates

Capital Requirements

Date Milestone: Capital Requirements
2013 Minimum capital requirements: Start of the gradual phasing-in of the higher minimum capital requirements.
2015 Minimum capital requirements: Higher minimum capital requirements are fully implemented.
2016 Conservation buffer: Start of the gradual phasing-in of the conservation buffer.
2019 Conservation buffer: The conservation buffer is fully implemented.

Leverage Ratio

Date Milestone: Leverage Ratio
2011 Supervisory monitoring: Developing templates to track the leverage ratio and the underlying components.
2013 Parallel run I: The leverage ratio and its components will be tracked by supervisors but not disclosed and not mandatory.
2015 Parallel run II: The leverage ratio and its components will be tracked and disclosed but not mandatory.
2017 Final adjustments: Based on the results of the parallel run period, any final adjustments to the leverage ratio.
2018 Mandatory requirement: The leverage ratio will become a mandatory part of Basel III requirements.

Liquidity Requirements

Date Milestone: Liquidity Requirements
2011 Observation period: Developing templates and supervisory monitoring of the liquidity ratios.
2015 Introduction of the LCR: Introduction of the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR).
2018 Introduction of the NSFR: Introduction of the Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR)

Ministers also pledged to ensure OTC derivative contracts are cleared centrally although there are doubts that countries will meet the 2012 deadline. “In line with international efforts, we agree to undertake regulatory reforms so that all standardised OTC derivatives contracts are traded on exchanges or electronic trading platforms, where appropriate, and cleared through central counterparties. We will also enact reforms to see that OTC derivatives contracts are reported to trade repositories and non-centrally cleared contracts are subject to higher capital requirements,” the joint statement said.
However a recent poll by found that the vast majority of respondents do not believe G-20 members will meet the end-2012 deadline for all standardised OTC derivatives to be cleared through CCPs.

Disclosure of exposure of Euro debt by ASEAN banks

2) To facilitate even greater trade between members, how the removal of barriers with the establishment of market pricing to determine demand and supply as controls to trade?
3) What will the roles of IMF and ADB for ASEAN members?

– Contributed by Oogle.

A Silver Lining amongst the Dark Clouds

Hours after a creditor and his gang of tattooed thugs hustled Zhong Maojin into a coffee shop in Wenzhou, he says he wouldn’t yield to their demands.
They wanted to take over one of the pharmacies in a chain he’d built by borrowing from private lenders. Instead, he made an offer of traditional retribution in this eastern Chinese city, known for loan sharks who have sometimes meted out violence to bad debtors.
“If you like, you can cut off one of my fingers instead,” Zhong, 42, says he told them.
Giving up the store would have made it impossible to pay back another 130 creditors, Zhong said. He’d borrowed 30 million yuan ($4.7 million) at interest rates as high as 7 percent a month to expand the business. Many of the lenders were elderly neighbors who’d mortgaged their homes.
At least 90 bosses in similar situations to Zhong have fled the city since April, and two killed themselves, according to Zhou Dewen, head of a small business association in Wenzhou. One was shoemaker Shen Kuizheng, who jumped to his death from his 22nd-story home on Sept. 21, he said.
Wenzhou’s 400,000 businesses are facing financial hardship because of rising costs, soaring black market interest rates and a sudden credit squeeze, Zhou said. Similar problems are happening across China because private enterprises in China rely on underground borrowing rather than banks to operate, he said.
Their predicament prompted China’s premier Wen Jiabao to visit the city 230 miles (370 kilometers) south of Shanghai on Oct. 4, where he pledged help for troubled businesses. National and local leaders have since announced moves to help small firms, including offering easier access to bank loans, a cap on private-lending interest rates in Wenzhou and a crackdown on loan sharks that use violence.

‘Huge Pressure’

The measures have done little to help Zhong, he says.
“I am under huge pressure,” he says, sitting in a warehouse with fast-depleting stocks of medicine. “We don’t have enough money.”
The sudden collapse of informal lending networks reveals the fragility of China’s unregulated financing system when credit tightens and creditors lose confidence, said Tao Dong, a Hong Kong-based economist at Credit Suisse Group AG. Money supply has shrunk as the government tightens lending to try and rein in inflation running near a three-year high.

‘Tip of Iceberg’

“This is a much bigger problem across the country,” said Tao, who estimates outstanding private loans stand at 4 trillion yuan, or 8 percent of total lending in China. “Wenzhou is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Most of the informal lending has been pumped into real estate developers riding China’s property boom that is showing signs of slowing, said Tao. In Wenzhou, it’s driven up home prices to among the most expensive in the country.
Chinese media reports of similar difficulties have emerged in the prosperous mining town Ordos in the north and the industrial heartland of Guangdong in the south.
The risks to China’s wider economy include a potential credit freeze triggered by increased mistrust among informal lenders, also referred to as curb lenders, according to an Oct. 11 report by Wang Tao, a Hong Kong-based economist at UBS AG. That could trigger more widespread bankruptcies, she said.
Wenzhou — a city of 9 million whose private enterprises range from shoemakers in dusty road-side homes to manufacturing plants in new industrial parks — produces 90 percent of China’s eyeglasses and exported lighters. The city’s wealth is reflected in the Porsches and Land Rovers parked in the streets and the emergence of downtown shopping arcades selling Hugo Boss clothes and Omega watches.

Embraced Deng’s Reforms

It was the first city to widely embrace private enterprise in the early 1980s under the economic reforms of then leader Deng Xiaoping, developing the most advanced private lending networks in the country. Businesses in Wenzhou used family and hometown networks because bank loans were hard to come by.
The local government helped foster that by taking a lenient approach to private lending, according to Huang Yasheng, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. A previous credit squeeze in Wenzhou 25 years ago affected 200,000 lenders, resulting in 523 kidnappings and more than 30 deaths, according to a local government website.
As the clacking from a nearby shoe factory drifts through the window of his warehouse on Wenzhou’s industrial outskirts, Zhong tells how he relied on money lenders to build Blue Sky Pharmacy into a chain of 27 shops in just three years.
A doctor from a mountain village, Zhong borrowed money to pay medical bills he ran up caring for his wife who died at 23 of liver disease. After he remarried, to a woman with debts of her own from running a money-lending business, he opened up a pharmacy in Wenzhou to try to pay back their combined debt.

Network of Lenders

The couple took on more debt to fund their expansion, Zhong said. He couldn’t get money from the banks, he said, so he first borrowed from elderly neighbors from his home county.
Small and medium-sized businesses account for 80 percent of jobs in China, according to the country’s industry ministry. Yet they’re largely unable to get loans from banks, which prefer collateral to cash-flow, according to an Oct. 17 report by Sydney-based investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd.
By tapping into his hometown network, Zhong was the final link in a long chain of debt.
“For usual lending, Bank A lends to a customer and sees the cash flows,” said Tao, the Credit Suisse economist. “With informal lending, it goes from A to B to C, all the way to XYZ. Once it’s beyond C, you have no idea where this money went to.”
In Zhong’s case, the trail of debt can be traced to rows of four-story cement housing not far from the Wenzhou airport 40 minutes outside of town by car. Men play pool beside the ground- floor storefronts near a darkened mahjong parlor.

Cottage Industry

The residents turned money lending into a cottage industry, according to interviews with six of them. They built a lattice of interlocked credit, often borrowing from banks and other private lenders to arbitrage interest rates. Taking out bank loans at 1 percent a month, many lent out their cash for 2 percent or higher a month. They pocketed the difference to supplement meager income from odd jobs.
Sitting on a small stool, gray-haired Jin Xiaoyu fills a wooden box with the electrical clamps she makes to earn 10 yuan a day. Her left eye is the milky-white color of a cataract and she says she has difficulty seeing.
She lent Zhong 50,000 yuan and charged 1,000 yuan a month in interest, she said.
“I worry that I cannot get the money back,” Jin says. “I hope the government will help him out.”
Some used their housing as collateral. Among them was Wu Suihua, who borrowed against her five-story home, she says.

Taking Home Loans

“We don’t have much income,” said Wu. Her home is one building away from a Blue Sky pharmacy which opened a few months ago, selling ginseng and other traditional Chinese herbal remedies as well as Western medicines.
The collateralization of homes means Zhong’s problems may stretch back to the banks. One-third to a half of money used for private lending originally comes from banks, said Lu Ting, an economist with Bank of America Corp.’s brokerage unit.
Tightening cash flow for businesses continues to raise the risk of bank loans going bad, according to a statement from Wenzhou’s Financial Office given to Bloomberg News on Oct. 21. The current non-performing loan rate in Wenzhou is controllable and below the national average, it added.
The informal lending network worked until the summer of 2010 when some of Zhong’s villagers were unable to get new loans from the banks as government tightening kicked in, he said.

Rising Costs

Wenzhou’s businesses were already facing tougher times because of declining exports to Europe and the U.S. and rising labor costs, Chen Yuyu, associate professor at the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, said. Minimum wages in Zhejiang province, where Wenzhou is located, have risen 19 percent in 2011 from last year, according to London-based Standard Chartered Plc.
Zhong needed cash to keep paying his suppliers, rent and employees. Scanning the local paper one day, he saw an ad for loans without collateral. He dialed the number and arranged to borrow 600,000 yuan for one month, from what Zhong called a “gaolidai,” a Chinese term for a loan shark. He borrowed again and started to just pay interest and roll over the principal, he said. Rates rose to 7 percent a month.
Black market rates have doubled this year, far exceeding the return of companies in Wenzhou that typically have wafer- thin profit margins, according to Ren Xianfang, a Beijing-based economist with IHS Global Insight Ltd.

High Interest Rates

Curb lenders demand annual interest of between 20 percent and 40 percent or higher, many times the official lending rate of 6.56 percent a year, UBS’s Wang said. The rate rose as China’s new bank loans decreased, down to a 21-month low of 470 billion yuan in September.
Zhong thought his problems would be solved in August after two friends agreed to act as guarantees and he finally secured a loan from the local branch of Fuzhou-based Industrial Bank Co. It was for 15 million yuan at 1 percent a month, divided into two tranches. One of the guarantors put up his downtown apartment as collateral in exchange for 60,000 yuan a month from Zhong, he said.
There was a snag. By now, Zhong said he owed the “gaolidai” 4 million yuan. The first tranche of the bank loan mostly went to paying that debt. The lender said Oct. 20 he was no longer in the business when reached by phone, declining to comment any further.
The Industrial Bank’s Wenzhou branch wouldn’t comment on Zhong’s case.

Warehouse Mobbed

When word of Zhong’s shortfall spread, angry creditors converged on his warehouse demanding their money back, Zhong and villagers said. Zhong says he struggled to calm them down as they started tossing cups on the floor and grabbing boxes of medicines.
In September, the alarm spread across Wenzhou after newspapers reported businessmen had fled or killed themselves because they couldn’t pay debts.
“Everyone was nervous and insecure,” said the mustachioed Zhong, sockless in leather shoes, standing near a darkened conference room with a bust of Chairman Mao. “Panic was everywhere. Blue Sky is famous now — for owing debt. No one is going to lend me money.”

Lobster Dinner

Zhong’s problems are shared by many other business owners. A few weeks ago, a group of about 20 gathered in one of the marbled private rooms to feast on lobster and steak at Hai Yan Lou, a Cantonese restaurant across the street from the local offices of China’s banking regulator.
The mood was grim. They talked about the recent suicide of shoe factory owner Shen because he couldn’t repay debts, and the disappearance of another boss who owed them money, according to Yang Xi, the owner of a company that makes dyes for shoes and textiles, who was there.
Each man present downed a bottle of Moutai, an expensive brand of Chinese liquor made from sorghum, because they feared they may never be able to afford the luxury again, she said.
By October, the deteriorating situation in Wenzhou prompted the visit by the premier, which triggered a raft of initiatives to help private businesses.
“After Premier Wen’s visit, I sent text messages to friends all over the world that Wenzhou will be rescued,” Yang said.

Emergency Fund

China’s banking regulator said later it would let banks sell bonds to raise money for loans to small enterprises and tolerate higher rates of non-performing loans among other measures to encourage bank lending.
In Wenzhou, the local government set up an emergency 1 billion yuan fund. Its anti-loan shark campaign led to the Oct. 27 arrest of a couple suspected of illegally raising 1.3 billion yuan, according to the China Daily.
A few businessmen who had fled Wenzhou have returned since Wen’s visit, according to Zhou of the small business association. Others have been tracked down and arrested, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Analysts are trying to ascertain how effective the measures are and how widespread the fallout from Wenzhou will be across China. The city is now the country’s biggest source of private capital, marshaling about 800 billion yuan, equivalent to 2 percent of China’s total economic output, according to Ren of IHS Global. Money from Wenzhou is invested in everything from real estate in Dubai to coal mines in Shanxi province, in China’s northwest.
After a research trip to Wenzhou, Bank of America’s Lu said in an Oct. 25 report that the chances of a nationwide liquidity squeeze were low.

Broader Problems

Others see Wenzhou as symptomatic of broader problems, such as an over-reliance on investment to grow the economy that steers money toward state-owned companies, said Michael Pettis, the Beijing-based chief strategist at Guosen Securities Co.
“You can solve Wenzhou, but you’re simply transferring the problem someplace else,” he said.
Zhong, the pharmacist, says he’s filed a report to the local government hoping to benefit from the bailout plan.
He spends his days and nights in the warehouse of his crumbling dream. He’s sold off his BMW and lives in a company dormitory. His wife sleeps in one of their stores and they’ve sent their daughter to live at school.
Zhong recounted his night at the coffee shop.
Alerted to the incident by Zhong’s wife, a more sympathetic creditor came by demanding his release, saying the pharmacist owed him even more money. The ruse worked, Zhong said. His offer for a finger was declined.
He says he’ll probably still lose his business. He’s negotiating to transfer it to his 130 creditors. They would keep him on as a paid manager.
“My wife and I will probably have nothing left,” he said.
–Fan Wenxin and Shai Oster. Editors: Neil Western, Melissa Pozsgay.
To contact the reporters on this story: Fan Wenxin in Shanghai at Shai Oster in Hong Kong at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at
Drastic situations warren drastic measures

“His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
 Matthew 25:23

 It has been decreed since the beginning of time when the invention of money separated the divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have not, but have we been ever accountable to GOD? Have people in high places been ever held accountable for the shepherds they lead? In these times where the allocation of scarce resources is threaten by the collapse of the financial markets, can we find a better solution without money? Can US and EU debt crisis be forgiven? Will confidence ever return to the financial markets? Will politicians ever learn to properly manage their country’s money? Do they ever care about the bottom 20% of their populations and create jobs for everyone? Only when Our Saviour comes with unlimited resources will HE have all the answers. 
The more critical EU problems is that it doesn’t have fiscal union. EU must amend its treaty to allow it member states to fail, but not letting them fail via EFSF bailouts with the ECB acting like the FEDs for the US to print more money when required. Debts can then be rewritten with longer tenures to ease short term borrowing requirements by issuing bonds which is guaranteed by the ECB instead of member states. Fiscal monitoring by IMF ensures member states adhere to reforms to allow them greater access to financing by ECB, the present situation is like a bottomless pit with no end with the EU divided, a concrete union with the political will to defend the euro come what may will confidence return to the financial markets. 
– Contributed by Oogle.