Since 2009, the World Bank has been conducting financial crisis simulation exercises and learning valuable lessons on where institutional vulnerabilities lie. These exercises are intended to test, or simply to practice, the use of existing or proposed legal instruments, interagency and/or cross-border agreements, and other crisis management arrangements. More than 20 exercises in all world regions have been executed so far, focusing either on the interaction among top national authorities (typically between the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, the Bank and non-bank Supervisors, and the Deposit Insurance Agency), or on the interaction among bank supervisors of different national jurisdictions dealing with cross-border issues.
Will any government be brave enough to let a big bank fail? (Credit: Ian Kennedy, Flickr Creative Commons)
Five frightening years after the meltdown of the global financial system – with the world’s advanced economies stuck in a painful slump – policymakers are still struggling to reinvigorate job growth. If the unemployed were awaiting some tangible initiative from this summer’s G8 summit, they were surely disappointed: Last week’s G8 summit communiqué offered only boilerplate assertions that “decisive action is needed to nurture a sustainable recovery and restore the resilience of the global economy.”
The financial fiasco of 2008 left human wreckage in its wake. An additional 120 million people worldwide were plunged into poverty at the nadir of the crisis, wiping out years of development progress. According to the World Bank's most recent World Development Report, there are now about 200 million unemployed worldwide; 1.5 billion only marginally employed in tenuous jobs; and 2 billion dropouts from the workforce.
The financial crises has entered a new, difficult phase (Credit:©iStockphoto.com/Photomorphic)
The Thirteenth Annual Financial Sector World Bank/Federal Reserve/International Monetary Fund Seminar on Policy Challenges for the Financial Sector was held on June 5 to 7th, attracting more than 90 participants from over 60 countries. There were many distinguished speakers, including World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. One of the highlights was a provocative lunchtime address on The Contradictions of System Stability: One Asian View by Andrew Sheng, the President of the Fung Global Institute.
A financial crisis is a difficult time to start a business. Credit is tight, demand is low, and the future is uncertain. Even in recovery periods, entrepreneurs may be skittish about making the enormous sacrifices necessary to launch a new enterprise and lenders may be unwilling to lend to new borrowers. New data from the Entrepreneurship Database – a collaborative effort between the Bank's Development Economics Group (DEC) and Doing Business - provide an interesting look at the relationship between new firm creation and the recent financial crisis and ongoing recovery. The main indicator is new firm entry density, defined as the ratio of new registrations of limited liability companies to the working age population. The data show that new firm entry density (“entry density”, for short) dropped sharply in response to the 2008-09 financial crisis but by 2011 had recovered to pre-crisis levels in many economies.
New firm entry density over time: Percent change in entry density as compared to 2004 levels (Source: Entrepreneurship Database, 2012)
In a previous installment, we explored one particular past financial crisis which resembles the current tensions in the Euro Zone in key aspects—specifically, the 2001 collapse of Argentina’s currency board. Taking history as our guide, we discuss the lessons that can be learned from past crises and potential steps policymakers can take.
Implications for the euro zone
Until even as short as a month ago, the possibility of a breakdown of the European monetary union triggered by an exit of one or more of its members had been considered no more than a tail risk scenario. The odds of such an outcome are now seen to have grown, as market concerns continue to focus on economic and financial fundamentals of the peripheral Euro Area members that, similar to Argentina, failed to satisfy the preconditions of a sustainable membership in the currency union. Given the significant economic and financial interlinkages within the Euro Area, and the key role of Europe in the global economy (Figure 1), potential fallout from such a breakdown would be much more profound for the region as a whole and the rest of the world, compared to any crisis experienced in the past.
Figure 1. Exposure to Peripheral European Countries
The very foundations of the European monetary union have been severely shaken by the ongoing financial crisis and doubts surrounding its future have intensified. In this two part series, we explore the following issues: What are the key vulnerabilities underlying a shared currency union? What can we learn from past experiences and what would the impact be if the crisis escalates? And what policy measures should be taken?
Fragility of “hard” exchange rate pegs
A monetary union can bring large benefits in terms of trade, low inflation, and lower borrowing costs, but it comes with tight strings attached. As an extreme form of a hard exchange rate peg, it is vulnerable to “sudden stops” (De Grauwe, 2009 ). History is full of illustrations of the demands placed on an economy by hard exchange rate pegs, such as dollarization and currency boards. To be sustainable, a hard peg must be accompanied by fiscal discipline and labor and product market flexibility, since monetary and exchange rate policies can no longer be used to respond to shocks and safeguard competitiveness. The lack of these preconditions not only undermines the sustainability of the regime, but also impedes the recovery from an ensuing crisis in the wake of its collapse.
The most recent ILO estimates—from January of this year—put global job losses between 2007 and 2009 at 34 million. This, of course, is on top of the many people who continue to have a job but have seen their hours (and wages) slashed. Some persuasive research indicates that reduced hours was more of an issue than outright job losses in middle-income countries.
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