Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Financial regulation: west on trial now

Kishore Mahbubani, former foreign minister of Singapore and currently Dean of Lew Kuan Yew, University, makes the point that the quality of regulation in western economies will now be closely watched by Asian regulators.
In the past, Asian governments expected western counterparts to be role models of good governance. One story illustrates how times have changed. This year, a European banker consulted the Reserve Bank of India to learn how to get a banking licence in India. He was briefed on the conditions and told that the Indian authorities would also assess his regulator. The European banker smiled and said: “No problem. We have excellent regulation.” The Indian officer replied: “After subprime, we are not sure of US regulation; after Northern Rock, British regulation; after Société Générale, French regulation and after UBS, Swiss regulation.”
This is very different from the times when banks from Asian economies were considered suspect until proved innocent.

1 comment:

Krishnan said...

Seems like the world is ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater, because of the financial meltdown. There is plenty of glee around the world as everyone watches the US Financial System continue to struggle. It was not easy to find many countries complaining when the going was very good and just about everyone seemed to be making money in anyway they can. Yes, perhaps the banks in India were spared from this current mess, but I cannot believe that no one was itching to get into the action and play those sophisticated games with financial instruments. It may be many years before there is genuine acceptance that it was not simply "deregulation" that caused all this mess, but politics - or I should say the usual politics. If India and other countries that were "insulated" from all this for a long time, and the regulatory environment is superb, then why did it take so long for such countries to expand their economies? Can it be that India started growing because many segments of the economy were in fact deregulated? That it does not take as much paperwork to get things done today as it used to just a few years ago?

Many institutions in the US deserve their fate and many more should fail. I would hope the FBI in the US probes illegalities wherever they may be and perhaps throw some crooks in the penitentiary. I would caution however the jump to conclusion that it's all deregulation and so let's create even more rules and regulations. Unfortunately, the world seems want to do just that and may strangle itself in the process. I am hoping some cooler heads prevail, somewhere, before we travel into the abyss.