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The articles in Financial Market Trends focus on trends, structural issues and developments in financial markets and the financial sector.
This article argues that the expansion of existing and the introduction of new guarantees for financial institutions has been a key element of the policy response to the recent financial crisis. Essentially, the government expanded its role as the provider of the safety net for banks by adopting the function of a guarantor of last resort. Among the various policy response measures, the expansion of guarantees has the benefit of entailing lower upfront fiscal costs relative to other options. Guarantees are not without cost however. Even if they do not generate significant upfront fiscal costs, they create contingent fiscal liabilities. Other potential costs include those arising from distortions to competition and incentives (moral hazard). For example, there may be a perception that similar guarantees will always be made available at low costs. The fact that the expansion of guarantees has not been as closely co-ordinated across borders as might have been desired has resulted in additional costs. To avoid additional costs arising from inconsistencies in exit strategies, close communication and coordination regarding pricing and timing issues is required, especially as a more formal framework for the public provision of insurance would still need to be developed.
Financial markets have recovered substantially but vulnerabilities remain significant. Ample liquidity may lead to new bubbles, particularly in some emerging markets, and uncertainties about government exit strategies and regulatory changes threaten a fledgling upswing. Co-ordination and communication of exit policies will be important, and exit from policy stimulus should not be precipitated at the current juncture. While financial institutions have increasingly obtained market financing and paid back state aid, the sector remains fragile; thus, such voluntary pay-backs should meet preconditions aimed at ensuring the soundness and sustainability of the concerned institutions’ balance sheets. At the same time, expectations of future writedowns and more stringent capital rules put pressure on bank lending more generally. Restarting securitisation to support lending would be important and could be fostered by government initiatives focussing on standardisation, transparency and due diligence to restore investor confidence. Regulatory reforms currently being proposed concern accounting rules, capital requirements and compensation issues. However, further reforms are required to address such systemic issues as moral hazard created by public support. Measures would include resolution mechanisms for large and systemically important banks as well as appropriately fire-walled business structures for the financial sector. Peer pressure via co-operation in international standard-setting and relevant bodies should help to keep the reform momentum, overcome political impediments to reform and maintain a level playing field.
The crisis has forced us to think hard about the financial system: how it works, the objectives it should fulfil, and the tools and policies to help shape it.
The Policy Framework for Effective and Efficient Financial Regulation, supported by General Guidance and a High-Level Checklist, is a tool that can support ongoing efforts by policymakers, regulators, and supervisors to achieve a stronger, more resilient financial system. It is not meant to substitute for the more focused, micro-prudential principles and guidelines of international standard-setting bodies. But it can guide our strategic thinking and promote governmental leadership and action so that the financial system can play its vital role in the functioning of the economy, both domestically as well as globally. The Policy Framework, including the General Guidance and High-Level Checklist, is the product of work by the Committee on Financial Markets and the Insurance and Private Pensions Committee, and was the subject of a broad public consultation. The Policy Framework challenges policy makers to think about the fundamentals of financial regulation in a globalised financial system. It also invites them to improve their understanding of the financial system and work in close cooperation with other countries to develop proper tools and instruments so that public policy objectives are met. I hope that policymakers will use the Policy Framework in setting national policy and in working with international partners.