17 March 2013

Cyprus: Beginning of the end?

Apologies for a very long silence here... been ridiculously busy with work, partly because it's the lead-up to the Budget. Hopefully I should have a lot more time after Easter and will be getting back to regular posts.

There is a lot to catch up on - Eastleigh and UKIP, the Pope, plottings against Dave Cameron... but right now, the most important story appears to be the Cyprus bailout - the first bailout where ordinary savings account holders (as opposed to large institutional investors) have taken a haircut.

And it's a relatively large hit: a 6.75% savings tax on deposits under €100,000, with 9.9% on deposits over €100,000. (It's being described as a "one-off" savings tax... but then all the other bailouts were meant to be "one-off" and the European banking system has gobbled them all up and is asking for more. As long as austerity is shrinking the economy, there will be plenty more need for bailouts.

If the economy lasts that long... my feeling is this could be the beginning of the endgame. Savers in other southern European countries (and probably some of the northern European countries as well) will be rushing for the exit doors. If the ECB can ride roughshod over small depositor insurance schemes to grab large chunks of people's savings, then - given that most savings interest rates are close to zero anyway - what's the point in having money in the bank? At which case we get Northern Rock x about £1m.

Any of you kids remember Space: 1999? In the pilot episode, "Breakaway", Nuclear Waste Disposal Area 1 burnt itself out quickly, with little collateral damage. That was Northern Rock, if you like. Nuclear Waste Disposal Area 2 was thousands of times larger than 1 - and when that blew up it took half the moon with it. Well, the European banking system is Nuclear Waste Disposal Area 2. And the Cyprus bank savings raid could well be the fuse that sends the whole system up. Time to stockpile tinned food again...

No comments: