The strategy of European banks ever since the Global Financial Crisis has been to focus on profitability1. How do you achieve a higher return on equity? There are two commonly followed options. Either you cut costs, e.g. by merging banks in the same geography and closing down the redundant branches. Or you sell the business, especially when you’re an also-ran outside of your home market.
Cliché ideas of how the international economy works (see the work of Brad Setser and many others):
Companies use “financial centers” aka tax havens to minimize their tax bills.
Financial institutions in surplus countries invest the money abroad, but are not good at it.
Let’s have a look at how the aircraft leasing business works in reality.
Financial center? Check: “Ireland is one of the biggest centres for airline leasing in the world. Many of the world’s biggest and best airline leasing companies are based in the Republic”, which explains why Ireland has 17,000 aircraft orders. [To be fair, financial centers also benefit from the concentration of specialized workers and firms.]
Financiers from Germany, Japan and China investing in low-margin, high risk businesses? Check: Between 2010 and 2014, [Dublin-based aircraft leasing company] Avolon also raised US$6.1 billion in debt from the capital markets and a range of commercial and specialist aviation banks including Wells Fargo Securities, Citi, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, UBS, DVB, Nord LB and KfW IPEX-Bank. In 2017, Avolon entered the public debt markets and raised a total over US$9 billion in debt finance. In November 2018, Avolon announced that Japanese financial institution, ORIX Corporation had acquired a 30% stake in the business from its shareholder Bohai Capital, part of China’s HNA Group. (source: Wikipedia)
What is the inflation rate during and after lockdowns?
Inflation is already hard to measure in normal times, as I discussed in Bankers are people, too (page 126-129).
But the corona crisis adds further complications. Some services are unavailable due to the corona lockdown, for example restaurant visits and air travel. To discourage hoarding, supermarkets stopped offering discounts.
The abrupt shock causes headaches for statisticians.
There are plenty of financial proposals for dealing with the corona crisis.
More government debt! Eurobonds! Helicopter money! Eliminate sovereign debt held by the ECB! Create a European investment fund!
One thing that greatly annoys me is that people don’t go into the details.
So if you want to convince me of your financial panacea, show me what it means in practice. Who are the winners and losers? What are the consequences of your plan for households, companies, banks, government finances, inflation, employment?
Two stories dominated popular economics over the past years. Both of them turn out to be useless in the current corona crisis.
Story 1: “Robots will take our jobs!”
Fact check: people lost their jobs due to shutdowns. But no robot is taking those jobs. Partly because of the nature of the crisis. We don’t want to go to crowded restaurants right now, not even if they have robot waiters. But also because robots aren’t ready. We still rely on (badly paid) people to pick fruit and to slaughter animals.
Story 2: “Crypto will replace fiat money and banks!”
Fact check: firms need cash. They don’t want bitcoin, but dollars and euros. Central banks and governments backstop the economy. This would be impossible with a cryptocurrency with a fixed supply, as I already pointed out in Bankers are people, too.
So instead of educating voters and policy makers about money, economic influencers have wasted years of popular discourse on these two sideshows.