The G-7 calls it an action plan. Well, let’s see the action then.
The group of leading finance ministers and central bank governors has produced an admirable five-point plan to resolve the financial crisis. This even includes a welcome commitment to transparency in the valuation of assets, as well as promises to stop big banks failing, unfreeze funding markets and recapitalize the industry. But so far we have only seen the plan, not the action.
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Here is the text of the G-7 finance ministers’ and central bank governors’ plan of action.
“The G-7 agrees today that the current situation calls for urgent and exceptional action. We commit to continue working together to stabilize financial markets and restore the credit flow, to support global economic growth. We agree to:
1. Take decisive action and use all available tools to support systemically important financial institutions and prevent their failure.
2. Take all necessary steps to unfreeze credit and money markets and ensure that banks and other financial institutions have broad access to liquidity and funding.
3. Ensure that our banks and other major financial intermediaries, as needed, can raise capital from public as well as private sources, in sufficient amounts to re-establish confidence and permit them to continue lending to households and businesses.
4. Ensure that our respective national deposit insurance and guarantee programs are robust and consistent so that our retail depositors will continue to have confidence in the safety of their deposits.
5. Take action, where appropriate, to restart the secondary markets for mortgages and other securitized assets. Accurate valuation and transparent disclosure of assets and consistent implementation of high quality accounting standards are necessary.
The actions should be taken in ways that protect taxpayers and avoid potentially damaging effects on other countries. We will use macroeconomic policy tools as necessary and appropriate. We strongly support IMF’s critical role in assisting countries affected by this turmoil.
We will accelerate full implementation of the Financial Stability Forum recommendations and we are committed to the pressing need for reform of the financial system. We will strengthen further our cooperation and work with others to accomplish this plan.”
Even the UK hasn’t actually recapitalized its banks and provided them with medium-term funding.
The biggest hole is the US. Hank Paulson has finally coming round to the need to inject capital directly into banks. He has promised a “standardized programme” for taking non-voting shares that will also encourage private capital to come forward. But he hasn’t given any details nor spelt out plans to ensure banks also have access to medium-term funding.
What’s more, the US faces a critical test in ensuring that Morgan Stanley does not go under. The global financial system cannot absorb the collapse of another systemically important institution. If Paulson allows Morgan Stanley to fail, he will deserve a place in history’s hall of shame.
Outside the US, the key test is Germany. Here there has also been progress. Over the past week, Angela Merkel’s government has accepted that the state will have to provide banks with an “umbrella” to weather the storm. The umbrella’s exact dimension is expected to be disclosed on Sunday.
There has been a sea change in government thinking. Unfortunately, the market madness has also got worse in the past week. That means speed is of the essence. Unless the G-7 countries translate their plans into action rapidly, confidence could continue to ebb and panic mount.