Monday, March 25, 2013

25/3/2013: Cyprus 'deal' - notes from the impact crater

What are the true 'innovations' of the Cypriot 'bailout' deal?
  1. At this junction one must face the realisation that European 'leadership' vacuum has reached alarming proportions. Cyprus was pushed to the brink, literally hours away from ELA cut-off, with a deliberate and mechanical precision. This is hardly consistent with any spirit of subsidiarity and/or cooperation that the EU was allegedly built on. In a further affirmation of the mess that is EU policy-making, the markets must now be aware that the EU has no defined approach to dealing with debtors and creditors, nor with issues of assets or liabilities. In other words, five years into the crisis and numerous 'white papers' later, with acronym soup of various 'solutions' and new 'institutions' thicker than pasta fagioli - there is still no clarity, no legal or institutional commitment, no formula, no predictability, but rather politically-motivated swinging from one extreme (no bail-ins in Ireland) to the other (all bailed-in in Cyprus).
  2. We now have bailed in uninsured bank deposits within the so-called 'open' economy with 'common currency' and 'common market' based on rules and laws. In other words, unlike in Ireland, Portugal and Greece, the EU has crossed another line.
  3. We now have bailed in senior bank bondholders (and the sky did not fall)
  4. We now have capital controls within 'common currency' area and within the 'common market' - kind of equivalent to Louisiana declaring its dollars purely domestic to Louisiana. 
  5. Bail-ins under the Cypriot deal are non-transparent and not defined, showing that the entire package was put together is a half-brained fashion at the last minute. Surely this, if not the first but very much the most exemplary indicator of the complete mess in policymaking. It further reinforces the view of PSI measures - both in Greece and in Cyprus - as being politically motivated, rather than systemically and legally structured.
  6. The fact that the Cypriot banking system will now be completely shut out of the funding markets reinforces my view that unwinding the 'emergency' measures deployed by the ECB during the crisis will be: a) risky, b) costly and c) protracted. As the result, the monetary policy risks missing the window for optimal interest rates reaction and either over-reaching on the inflationary side or over-tightening to the detriment to future growth. either way, peripheral countries will be the likely victims.

Overall, from the EU-wide point of view, Cypriot 'deal':
  • Does not reduce the risk of contagion or re-amplification of the crisis in other peripheral states;
  • Does not create or even enable a break between sovereign and bank crises; 
  • Adds to the overall quantum of policy uncertainty; 
  • Raises even more doubts as to the functionality of the cornerstone crisis-related institutions (ESM and OMT); and
  • Acts to strengthen the hand of eurosceptic, nationalist and populist political movements and parties in the Euro area 'periphery'.

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