Thursday, 8 September 2011

Swiss USB bank scaremongering about euro breakup

The Swiss bank USB is scaremongering about the effects of a breakup of the euro zone:

A breakup of the euro zone would have grim, long-lasting social and political consequences that extend far beyond its economic costs--an ugly risk that is widely underestimated, according to UBS AG (UBS).
The Swiss bank warned that the economic cost of a breakup should in many ways be the least of investors' concerns.
"The economic costs of breaking up the euro are high, and extremely damaging. The political costs of breaking up the euro, even in part, are too great to quantify in bald cash terms," Stephane Deo, an economist at UBS, said in a note to clients Tuesday.
Following a breakup, euro countries would barely have a whisper on the world stage, Deo said. What is more, past instances of monetary union breakups tend to spark either an authoritarian response from the government or create social disorder and civil war.
While UBS isn't seriously suggesting that euro-zone states will inevitably descend into social chaos and civil war if the currency union were to break up, it warns that "monetary union breakup is not something that can be treated as a casual issues of exchange rate policy."
Sovereign default, corporate default, collapse of the banking system and international trade are just some of the problems a seceding peripheral euro-zone country would have to face, said UBS. That could entail an initial cost of around EUR9,500 to EUR11,500 per person in that country followed by an annual cost of EUR3,000 to EUR4,000 per person.
Even if a stronger country like Germany were to leave, UBS still thinks it is going to set every German back by about EUR6,000 to EUR8,000 in the first year and then around EUR3,500 to EUR4,500 per person in every year thereafter. A stronger euro-zone country wouldn't face sovereign default but it is still vulnerable to corporate default, recapitalization of the banking system and a collapse of international trade.

Read the entire article here

It appears clear that the USB´s Stephane Deo - who is speaking for the endangered banks - is clearly exaggerating the effects of a possible euro breakup. And in addition, nowhere does Deo seem to define what kind of breakup he(she?) is talking about. As there are many scenarios, it is rather populistic e.g. to talk about setting "every German back by about EUR6,000 to EUR8,00".

In this case, I prefer the opinion of the eminent economist/historian, professor Hans-Joachim Voth, who in a recent interview said:

I believe that the consequences of ending the euro have been overstated. Not every dumb economic idea needs to be defended to the bitter end. Europe is infinitely more than the European Union, and the European Union is infinitely more than the euro.

In addition, professor Voth (together with Dr. Jacopo Ponticelli) has a fresh paper out (Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009), which shows that austerity measures have tended to go hand in hand with politically motivated violence and social instability.
This is something we should really be worried about, as the EU leaders continue on the austerity track in dealing with the euro crisis.

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