Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The most dangerous and silly move by the Cypriot government

In one fell swoop, the government has managed to undermine the economy and our standing in international credit rating agencies. The government has moved the jurisdiction of the national debt out of the central bank, which is independent, and into the ministry of economics, which is not.

This is exactly the type of thing that led to the mess in Greece. The appointment of Dr. Orphanides as the director of the central bank was an inspired choice that affirmed the independence of the central bank from the government for the first time. This independence upheld the standing our our banking system at times when real political pressure was placed on the Bank by the government to accommodate a looser regulatory framework for banks (remember the pressure applied to the Central bank of Cyprus by the Minister of Economics in order for the Central Bank to give in to Marfin's demands for it not to move out of Cyprus?).

Yet the government now is sick and tired of having an independent authority challenging its decision and has devised a scheme to remove the handling of debt from the central bank. Once under the jurisdiction of the ministry of economics it is easier to place political pressure on the ministry than the bank. It a very short step from being able to place pressure to trying to fiddle the books - once the debt servicing is removed from an independent authority and it goes to a political authority where you boss is a politician the incentive to massage the figures is very large.

This decision takes us back 20 years. This government has now completely lost my confidence in being able to handle the economy of Cyprus - rather than tackling the issues that have led to a structurally unsound economy, the government is browbeating the defenders of sound monetary principles. Alas, I get the feeling that more poor decisions are on their way...

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