Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Carmen Reinhart 
On Financial Repression
"Experience teaches that countries reduce debt relative to their income in five ways: economic growth, substantive fiscal adjustment or austerity plans, explicit default or restructuring of private and/or public debt, a surprise burst in inflation, and a steady dose of financial repression that keeps real interest rates low (usually negative). The last two options -- inflation and financial repression -- are only viable for debts denominated in domestic currency .. As they have historically in the aftermath of financial crises or wars, central banks have been increasingly resorting to a form of 'taxation' that helps liquidate the huge overhang of public and private debt and eases the burden of servicing that debt. Such policies, known as financial repression, usually involve a strong connection between the government, the central bank and the financial sector. One of the main goals of financial repression is to keep nominal interest rates lower than would otherwise prevail. This effect, other things being equal, reduces governments' interest expenses for a given stock of debt and contributes to deficit reduction. However, when financial repression produces negative real interest rates (yielding less than the rate of inflation) and reduces or liquidates existing debts, it is a tax on bondholders and a transfer from creditors (savers) to borrowers and, in most cases, governments. Other features of financial repression vary across countries and time. In the past, measures also included directed lending to the government by captive domestic entities (such as pension funds or banks), explicit or implicit caps on interest rates, regulation of cross-border capital movements, and generally a tighter coordination between governments and banks -- either explicitly through public ownership of some institutions or through heavy 'moral suasion' by officials. In connection with keeping interest rates low, regulatory policies with financial repression features aim to create or expand a captive audience for government debt; Basel III rules fit this mold, as they provide for the preferential treatment of government debt in bank balance sheets."
LINK HERE to the essay

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