Blog Post

Cyprus deal: the right intentions but major flaws

On Saturday morning, after a marathon meeting of the Eurogoup, it was decided to impose a one-time wealth tax on deposits in Cypriot banks: 6.75% on deposits below €100,000 and 9.9% on deposits above this threshold. Involving depositors was a wise decision and a wealth tax is a mild form of bailing-in, as I argued in a post last week.

By: Date: March 18, 2013 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

On Saturday morning, after a marathon meeting of the Eurogoup, it was decided to impose a one-time wealth tax on deposits in Cypriot banks: 6.75% on deposits below €100,000 and 9.9% on deposits above this threshold. Involving depositors was a wise decision and a wealth tax is a mild form of bailing-in, as I argued in a post last week.

The intentions are right, because, as a first principle, taxpayers should not foot the bill for private-sector losses. In Cyprus, there is a special aspect related to suspected money-laundering, but in any case, tax rates were so low in Cyprus that the return over a longer period, even considering the one-time wealth tax on deposits, will likely exceed the return in other countries. Also, without a bailing-in of depositors, a publicly funded bank rescue in Cyprus would have seriously endangered fiscal sustainability. Without a bank rescue, Cypriot banks would have collapsed, leading to much worse outcome for all involved.

However, the agreement has two major deficiencies.

The first is that it involves deposits below the €100,000 amount guaranteed by deposit insurance. This was not necessary and can undermine the trust in deposit guarantee systems throughout Europe. A simple calculation: assuming that the total amount of deposits in Cyprus declined from €68bn in January to €65bn today, the announced tax rates and the amount of money to be collected (€5.8bn) imply that the amount of deposits below the €100,000 line is €20bn and the amount above the €100,000 line is €45bn. To protect deposits below €100,000 in full, the tax rate had to be 12.9% on the deposits above €100,000 in order to collect €5.8bn. This is a back of the envelope calculation, yet the difference between the decided 9.9% tax rate and this implied 12.9% tax rate is so small that I cannot find a justification for involving deposits below the guaranteed amount.

The second major drawback is the silence about senior bank bondholders. The Eurogroup statement only mentions the involvement of junior bondholders. Unfortunately, reliable information is not available on the number of bank creditors beyond the amount of bank deposits; latest reports suggest that there is not much there. Yet taxing small depositors, while exempting senior bondholders, is unjust.

The Cypriot parliament has not yet passed the tax deal and therefore there should be a scope for revision. Yet the damaged has already been done.

Let us turn to some broader questions. Will bailing-in depositors, especially small depositors, be the new norm in Europe? Extremely unlikely. While the contours of the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM), the second major plank of the European Union’s banking union project, are not known, the SRM will most likely be in line with the Bank Recovery and Resolution (BRR) Directive, which was proposed by the Commission in June 2012 and is expected to be adopted in summer 2013. One of the aims of this directive is to protect depositors.

Should depositors in other countries worry until the BRR and the SRM are adopted? They should not. The bank rescue programmes in other countries with weaker banks, such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, are fully funded by the financial assistance programmes and there is no intention to involve depositors. Governments should tell their citizens that Cyprus was an exceptional case due to its gigantic banking system (relative to GDP). At the same time, they should speed up efforts to shore-up their banks.

It is a pity that the Cyprus deal had some major drawbacks, despite the good intentions, and the lack of adequate information on the details of the financial assistance programme raises a large number of concerning questions. Markets have not reacted forcefully so far: the euro slid a bit and the yields on government bonds of southern euro-area members slightly increased (much less than after the February Italian elections). So let us keep fingers crossed that it is not too late to correct the Cyprus deal’s drawbacks.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.


Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/bruegelo/public_html/wp-content/themes/bruegel/content.php on line 449
View comments
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Europe must seize this moment of opportunity

As the EU enjoys a period of growth and relative stability, there is finally room to undertake long-needed reforms. But it is vital to act soon, and priorities must be set. There are three pillars of reform for the coming months: completing a robust euro area; building a coherent EU foreign policy; and harnessing the single market’s potential to deliver strong and inclusive growth.

By: Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Michael Hüther, Philippe Martin and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 12, 2017
Read about event

Upcoming Event

Sep
7-8
09:00

Bruegel Annual Meetings 2017

The Annual Meetings are Bruegel’s flagship event. They offer a mixture of large public debates and small private sessions about key issues in European and global economics. In a series of high-level discussions, Bruegel’s scholars, members and stakeholders will address the economic policy challenges facing Europe.

Speakers: José Antonio Álvarez Álvarez, Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Pervenche Béres, Grégory Claeys, Zsolt Darvas, Jean Luc Demarty, Maria Demertzis, Anna Ekström, Lowri Evans, Sandro Gozi, Peter Grünenfelder, Patrick Graichen, Reiner Hoffmann, Levin Holle, Kate Kalutkiewicz, Steffen Kampeter, Peter Kažimír, Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Matti Maasikas, Steven Maijoor, Nathalie Moll, James Murray, Julia Reinaud, Carlos Sallé Alonso, André Sapir, Dirk Schoenmaker, Mateusz Szczurek, Marianne Thyssen, Reinhilde Veugelers, Nicolas Véron, Liviu Voinea, Johan Van Overtveldt, Ida Wolden Bache, Guntram B. Wolff and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Square - Brussels Meeting Centre
Read about event

Upcoming Event

Sep
28
12:30

Unfinished business: The unexplored causes of the financial crisis and the lessons yet to be learned

At this event Tamim Bayoumi will present his upcoming book on the financial crisis, showing how how the Euro crisis and U.S. housing crash were, in fact, parasitically intertwined.

Speakers: Tamim Bayoumi, Maria Demertzis and Aerdt Houben Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Italian economic growth and the Euro

While the Euro has frequently been blamed for the poor growth performance of Italy over the years, a long-term analysis shows deteriorating growth before the introduction of the Euro. Additionally, Italy has shown worse performance than other euro-periphery countries, such as Spain, implying deeper structural reasons for Italy’s economic malaise.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 26, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The international effects of ECB’s monetary policy

What’s at stake: the literature on monetary policy spillovers is abundant of studies investigating the impact of the US Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcements and actions on emerging market economies. More recently, economists have been investigating the effect of the ECB’s credit easing as well.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 24, 2017
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Perspectives on Universal Basic Income

At this event, we discussed the possible benefits but also the possible disadvantages of Universal Basic Income.

Speakers: Grégory Claeys, Olli Kangas, Professor Philippe Van Parijs and Prof. Dr. Hilmar Schneider Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: July 12, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The forward guidance paradox

What’s at stake: the term “forward guidance” is used in economic jargon to describe central bank communications about the likely future path of policy rates. Standard monetary models imply that far future forward guidance has huge effects on current outcomes, and recent literature has been trying to reconcile this with reality.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 10, 2017
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

Is there a way out of non-performing loans in Europe?

At this event we looked at the issue of non-performing loans in Europe. The event also saw the launch of the latest issue of "European Economy – Banks, Regulation and the Real Sector."

Speakers: Emilios Avgouleas, Giorgio Barba Navaretti, Giacomo Calzolari, Maria Demertzis, Martin Hellwig, Helen Louri and Laura von Daniels Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: July 6, 2017
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

External Publication

Review of EU-third country cooperation on policies falling within the ITRE domain in relation to Brexit

What is the possible future relationship between the EU and the UK in light of Brexit? The report provides a critical assessment of the implications of existing models of cooperation between third countries and the European Union on energy, electronic communications, research policy and small business policy.

By: J. Scott Marcus, Georgios Petropoulos, André Sapir, Simone Tagliapietra, Alessio Terzi, Reinhilde Veugelers and Georg Zachmann Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 5, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Eurozone or EU budget? Confronting a complex political question

This week’s European Commission reflection paper is the latest document to ponder a distinction between EU and euro-area budgets. But do we need to split the two, and what would each budget be used for? In this post, I present an analytical framework for assessing this ultimately political question

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 29, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Raising the inflation target: a question of robustness

In an unexpected move, the Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has recently brought up the issue of raising the inflation target. This blog argues that an increase in inflation targets may prove to be beneficial in achieving price stability in the long run. This would increase the credibility of central banks in achieving inflation goals and stave off the distortionary effects of deflation.

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 22, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Can EU actors keep using common law after Brexit?

English common law is the choice of law for financial contracts, even for parties in EU members with civil law systems. This creates a lucrative legal sector in the UK, but Brexit could make UK court decisions difficult to enforce in the EU. Parties will be able to continue using English common law after Brexit, but how will these contracts be enforced? Some continental courts are preparing to make judicial decisions on common law cases in the English language.

By: Uuriintuya Batsaikhan and Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 22, 2017
Load more posts