April 02, 2013
Barclay’s was saying that bondholders and big depositors in banks of other troubled eurozone countries may take a second look at where they have stashed their cash and whether their assets may be subject to sudden confiscation. And the monied class may decide, in the wake of the Cyprus slaughter, that security of principal is preferable to a higher rate of return in a risky institution.
When capital controls are lifted in Cyprus, why would any depositor, who had been scorched in the inferno, risk leaving any major deposit in a Cypriot bank? Nicosia’s days as a banking center, where total bank deposits exceeded seven times its gross domestic product, are over.
And facing a dramatic contraction in their economy, what do Cypriots do now?
The effect across Europe is likely to be a gradual selloff of bonds in Italian and Spanish banks and transfers of cash out of these banks into U.S. and European banks where the interest rate offered may be lower but the principal is more secure.
Nor is this an unhealthy development.
If taxpayers in Northern Europe have to rescue mismanaged Club Med banks, why should not bank bondholders be wiped out, just as they were at Lehman Brothers? And ought not uninsured depositors who stuffed cash into these banks to get higher rates of return or evade taxes or launder dirty money get burned as well?
From Asia to Europe, people concerned about the safety of their money are looking at Cyprus, with many surely saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I!” And they likely hear in the anguished cries of Russian, British and Cypriot depositors, who got no warning and failed to get out in time, a fire bell in the night for themselves.
If this persuades depositors to seek security first for their income, pensions and savings, and to transfer funds out of risky banks into more solid institutions, is that such a bad thing?
If Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings, who arrived on Cyprus in March with their terrible swift sword, are back in charge, is this not better than having Western taxpayers forever securing the deposits and investments of the rich and feckless?
Those Russian depositors wiped out in the Cyprus slaughter may not have died in vain.