European monetary system and european currency

Страница: 17/34

Given all of these contingencies, the probability that a modern bank is solvent, but illiquid, and at the same time lacks sufficient collateral to obtain regular central bank funding, is, in my view, quite small. The textbook case for emergency liquidity assistance to individual solvent institutions has, as a matter of fact, been a most rare event in industrial countries over the past decades.

28. What if this rare event were nevertheless to occur and cause a systemic threat? The clear answer is that the euro area authorities would have the necessary capacity to act. This is not only my judgement, but also that of the Eurosystem, whose decision-making bodies have, as you can imagine, carefully discussed the matter. I am not saying that we are, or shall be, infallible; no one can claim such a divine quality. I am saying that there are neither legal-cum-institutional, nor organisational, nor intellectual impediments to acting when needed. In stating this, I am aware that central banks may be the only source of immediate and adequate funds when a crisis requires swift action, while solvency remains an issue and failure to act could threaten the stability of the financial system.

In these circumstances the various national arrangements would continue to apply, including those concerning the access of central banks to supervisors' confidential information. As is well known, such arrangements differ somewhat from country to country.

29. The criticism I have referred to also underestimates the Eurosystem's capacity to act. To the extent that there would be an overall liquidity effect that is relevant for monetary policy or a financial stability implication for the euro area, the Eurosystem itself would be actively involved.

The Eurosystem is, of course, well equipped for its two collective decision-making bodies (the Board and the Council) to take decisions quickly whenever needed, whether for financial stability or for other reasons. This readiness is needed for a variety of typical central bank decisions, such as the execution of concerted interventions or the handling of payment system problems. Indeed, it has already been put to work during the changeover weekend and in the first few weeks of this year.

A clear reassurance about the capacity to act when really needed should be sufficient for the markets. Indeed, it may even be advisable not to spell out beforehand the procedural and practical details of emergency actions. As Gerry Corrigan once put it, maintaining "constructive ambiguity" in these matters may help to reduce the moral hazard associated with a safety net. I know of no central bank law within which the lender-of-last-resort function is explicitly defined.

The question of who acts within the Eurosystem should also be irrelevant for the markets, given that any supervised institution has an unambiguously identified supervisor and national central bank. As to the access to supervisory information, the lack of direct access by the Eurosystem should not be regarded as a specific flaw of the euro area's institutional framework, as has been frequently argued, since this situation also exists at the national level wherever a central bank does not carry out day-to-day supervision.

30. Finally, the criticism reflects an overly mechanistic view of how a crisis is, and should be, managed in practice. Arguing in favour of fully disclosed, rule-based policies in order to manage crises successfully and, hence, maintain market confidence, is almost self-contradictory. Emergency situations always contain unforeseen events and novel features, and emergency, by its very nature, is something that allows and even requires a departure from the rules and procedures adopted for normal times or even in the previous crisis. Who cares so much about the red light when there is two metres of snow on the road? As for transparency and accountability, these two sacrosanct requirements should not be pushed to the point of being detrimental to the very objective for which a policy instrument is created. Full explanations of the actions taken and procedures followed may be appropriate ex post, but unnecessary and undesirable ex ante.

31. So far, I have focused on the provision of emergency liquidity to a bank. This is not the only case, however, in which central bank money may have to be created to avoid a systemic crisis. A general liquidity "dry-up" may reflect, for example, a gridlock in the payment system or a sudden drop in stock market prices. The actions of the Federal Reserve in response to the stock market crash of 1987 is an often cited example of a successful central bank operation used to prevent a dangerous market-wide liquidity shortfall. This kind of action is close to the monetary policy function and has been called the "market operations approach" to lending of last resort. In such cases, liquidity shortfalls could be covered through collateralised intraday or overnight credit, or auctioning extra liquidity to the market. The Eurosystem is prepared to handle this kind of market disturbance.

Реферат опубликован: 12/08/2008