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Resolving the financial crisis: are we heeding the lessons from the Nordics?

  • Claudio Borio
  • Bent Vale
  • Goeth von Peter

How does the management and resolution of the current crisis compare with the response of the Nordic countries in the early 1990s, widely regarded as exemplary? We argue that, while intervention has been prompter, the measures taken so far remain less comprehensive and in-depth. In particular, the cleansing of balance sheets has proceeded more slowly, and less attention has been paid to reducing excess capacity and avoiding competitive distortions. In general, policymakers have given higher priority to sustaining aggregate demand in the short term than to encouraging adjustment in the financial sector and containing moral hazard. We argue that three factors largely explain this outcome: the more international nature of the crisis; the complexity of the instruments involved; and, hardly appreciated so far, the effect of accounting practices on the dynamics of the events, reflecting in particular the prominent role of fair value accounting (and mark to market losses) in relation to amortised cost accounting for loan books. There is a risk that the policies followed so far may delay the establishment of the basis for a sustainably profitable and less risk-prone financial sector.

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Paper provided by Bank for International Settlements in its series BIS Working Papers with number 311.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:311
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  1. Cecchetti, Stephen G & Kohler, Marion & Upper, Christian, 2009. "Financial Crises and Economic Activity," CEPR Discussion Papers 7495, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "Banking Crises: An Equal Opportunity Menace," CEPR Discussion Papers 7131, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Ingo Fender & Nikola Tarashev & Haibin Zhu, 2008. "Credit fundamentals, ratings and value-at-risk: CDOs versus corporate exposures," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
  4. Fabio Panetta & Thomas Faeh & Giuseppe Grande & Corrinne Ho & Michael King & Aviram Levy & Federico M. Signoretti & Marco Taboga & Andrea Zaghini, 2009. "An assessment of financial sector rescue programmes," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 47, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
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