Policy Note 2009/3 | March 2009

An Assessment of the Credit Crisis Solutions

All of the various schemes that have been put forward to resolve the current credit crisis follow either the “business as usual” or the “good bank” model. The “business as usual” model takes different forms—insurance or guarantee of the assets or liabilities of the financial institutions, creation of a “bad bank” to buy toxic assets, temporary nationalization—and is the one favored by banks and pursued by government. It amounts to a bailout of the financial system using taxpayer money. Its drawback is that the cost may exceed by trillions the original estimate of $700 billion, and despite the mounting cost, it may not even prevent the bankruptcy of financial institutions. Moreover, it runs the risk of government insolvency, and turning an already severe recession into a depression worse than that in the 1930s.

The “good bank” solution consists of creating a new banking system from the ashes of the old one by removing the healthy assets and liabilities from the balance sheet of the old banks. It has a relatively small cost and the major advantage that credit flows will resume. Its drawback is that it lets the old banks sink or swim. But if they sink, with huge losses, these might spill over into the personal sector, and the ultimate cost may be the same as in the business-as-usual model: a catastrophic depression.

In this new Policy Note, author Elias Karakitsos of Guildhall Asset Management and the Centre for Economic and Public Policy, University of Cambridge, outlines a modified “good bank” approach, with the government either guaranteeing a large proportion of the personal sector’s assets or assuming the first loss in case the old banks fail. It has the same advantages as the original good-bank model, but it makes sure that, in the eventuality that the old banks become insolvent, the economy is shielded from falling into depression, and recovery is ultimately ensured.

Associated Program:
Elias Karakitsos

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