Panelists Discuss Need for European Leadership in Financial Crisis

While keeping an optimistic view of the current financial instability in the Euro Zone, a panel of experts at an Institute of Politics panel last night agreed that more international coordination—especially of regulation—is needed prevent future economic crises.

Still, panelist David S. Muir, previously director of political strategy for former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, questioned whether Europe would stabilize.

“Are the Europeans going to sort this out? The more I look into it, the more I think don’t think it will happen,” he said.

While European leaders passed €400 billion of funding in July to address the Greek debt crisis, the measure did not deal with economic issues of Spain and Italy.

“The revealed preference of the European leader is to talk tough, but act weak,” Muir said.

As for American understanding of the Greece crisis, Harvard Kennedy School Lecturer Richard Parker noted that many Americans misunderstand the economic problems Greece faces.

“I am constantly stunned at the shallowness of market commentators on the Greek economy,” he said. According to Parker, the key issue is servicing the accumulated debt, a cost that exceeds total civil service wages and creates tensions by necessitating government job cuts.

“If you can calm the market down and deal with the debt crisis in Greece and Portugal ... I think you got a good chance that you will get past the problems in Spain and Italy,” Parker added. “I’m guardedly optimistic.”

Still, a package to address these issues will likely need to not only address issues with private bonds but also bank recapitalization, the panelists said.

“The important thing is globally coordinating a response to [the crisis],” Muir said. “Unless we can deal with this on a global basis, we are likely to continue seeing financial crisis.”

Still, some panelists argued that the basis for further global cooperation is already underway. John C. Dugan, former U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, argued that policies such as raising capital requirements for banks involved global coordination.

“These made very significant changes that made banks safer on a go-forward basis,” Dugan said.

A possible step further along global cooperation in the crisis would involve international regulation of businesses.

“If we can coordinate capital, we should be able to coordinate oversight,” said Barbara A. Rehm, editor at large of American Banker magazine.

Parker said that the European Union summit in Brussels later this week will be important, as European governments are capable of providing a backstop for banks and sovereign debts.

Last night’s panel was entitled “Financial Crisis Déjà Vu,” but one panelist took issue with the implications of the name.

“It’s not déjà vu because [the crisis] never really went away,” Muir said.

Though many policies have targeted immediate symptoms and the need for more safety nets against future crises, the fundamental drivers of economic crisis remain, Muir argued.

In this financial crisis, Muir said “There’s too much focus on the ‘safety belt’ and not enough focus on the car.”

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