Mr. Andy M. Wolfe, Mr. Jeffrey M. Davis, and Mr. James Daniel
Current guidelines and practice for classifying government bank assistance operations inadequately capture in the fiscal balance some of the most common, and important, operations. The shortcomings result from the focus on the general government, the exclusion of non-cash operations, and divergences between the timing of cash outlays and the economic impact of assistance operations. Complementing the standard measures of the fiscal balance with an “augmented” balance would provide a definition that is transparent, comprehensive, and reasonably comparable across countries. The augmented balance would explicitly incorporate the major quantifiable fiscal costs of bank assistance operations that are not already included in current definitions of the overall balance.
Governments frequently assist troubled banks. This paper examines the fiscal aspects of such assistance: rationale, design criteria, methods, and macroeconomic implications. It concludes that (1) banks should be assisted only when there is a clear systemic risk; (2) assistance should be tied to a comprehensive restructuring program, minimize fiscal cost, be equitable and transparent, prevent recurrence, and facilitate a sound macroeconomic environment; (3) debt-based assistance will worsen public sector debt sustainability and will probably increase aggregate demand; and (4) assistance may require a substantial fiscal response (especially given the possible need for a looser monetary stance), which should feed iteratively into the choice of restructuring strategy.