First published: Financial Times, 18/12/2008
After the Minsky Moment – where euphoria tips into crisis, named after Hyman Minsky – the capitulation of economic activity has been rapid and severe. The outlook is as dark as the doomsayers assert. The only thing that stands between today’s dire economic prospects and a lost decade similar to Japan’s in the 1990s is the competence and authority of macroeconomic policy. We have a long way to go, but for five reasons, even doomsayers can start to feel the force, so to speak.
First, governments have already acted decisively to preserve the integrity of the formal banking system, while the so-called shadow banking system is collapsing. Over $8,000bn (€5,650bn, £5,150bn) of programmes to stem the collapse in credit and housing have been announced but it is too soon to declare victory. To strengthen banks in the recession and sustain lending, European banks will need a further $100bn-$150bn of capital, while US banks, including regional banks, should quickly be allocated most of the unspent Tarp money of $350bn.
Second, governments must continue to facilitate the enormous task of sustaining credit flows and restructuring debt. Bankruptcies are inevitable but additional direct lending programmes, asset purchases and government guarantees are needed to keep liquidity flowing to good corporate and residential borrowers, especially while bank balance sheets are constrained by the need to…more