I am in Slovenia today, talking to bankers, entrepreneurs, managers, politicians, government officials and academics. The story is the same here as in every country I have visited since mid-September 2008: the banks aren’t lending. They don’t lend to each other. They don’t lend to non-financial businesses and they don’t lend to households....The macroeconomic consequences of this lending paralysis are potentially disastrous. It could turn a global recession into a global depression, with many years of stagnation and cumulative declines of GDP of 10 percent or more.
I propose the following form of forced lending by banks to non-financial businesses. Every loan that matures during the coming year gets extended/renewed for another year on the same terms as the maturing loan. This applies to both secured and unsecured loans. Likewise every credit line or overdraft facility that expires during the coming year gets extended/renewed for another year. Expiring loans, credit lines or overdraft facilities that had an original maturity of less than a year or more than a year will have the same interest rate for the one-year extension/renewal as the original arrangement.
Yes, force them to lend. This is a rather blunt instrument, I would say. It would roll over some loans that should absolutely not be renewed, and it would not direct financing to new, previously unfinanced projects. I think bankers won’t like it. They wouldn’t like my “Plan B”, creating a public competitive financial entity, either. So which one should it be?
Buiter’s approach has the advantage of using the existing institutions: the same personnel, the same chains of command, the same office layouts—nothing new that could create friction or delay at a time when we particularly don’t need it. My approach would be vastly less expensive for the public (and therefore more feasible in direct financial terms) and would be capable of making more rational distinctions at the micro level. But one way or the other, we have to shift the narrative quickly. What needs to be rescued are not the financial markets but the real economies, the incomes and employment, that are the substance of our standard of living.