“All The Conditions For A Total Disaster Are In Place”
by Charles Wyplos
The Cyprus bailout package tax on bank deposits is a deeply dangerous policy that creates a new situation, more perilous than ever. It is a radical change that potentially undermines a perfectly reasonable deposit guarantee and the euro itself. Historians will one day explore the dark political motives behind this move. Meanwhile, we can only hope that the bad equilibrium that has just been created will not be chosen by anguished depositors in Spain and Italy. The really worrisome scenario is that the Cypriot bailout becomes euro-systemic – in which case the collapse of the Cypriot economy will be a sideshow. This will happen when and if depositors in troubled countries, say Italy or Spain, take notice of how fellow depositors were treated in Cyprus. All the ingredients of a self-fulfilling crisis are now in place: It will be individually rational to withdraw deposits from local banks to avoid the remote probability of a confiscatory tax. As depositors learn what others do and proceed to withdraw funds, a bank run will occur. The banking system will collapse, requiring a Cyprus-style programme that will tax whatever is left in deposits, thus justifying the withdrawals. This would probably be the end of the euro.