Daily Archives: January 23, 2009

By Christopher Carroll

A consensus seems to have emerged in the United States that fresh thinking is needed for a targeted stimulus package that will address effectively the many connected problems the economy faces. One piece of the problem is that there has been a near-halt in construction, as it has become clear that too many homes have been built on speculation that house prices could only rise and never fall. Moreover, there has been a large decline in borrowing to finance the construction of homes and commercial buildings, as both households and businesses (even financially sound ones) have hunkered down to weather the storm. 

Is the British government on the right path with its recent package of measures to help the banking sector or, as Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, put it this week, “to protect the economy from the banks”? The question, in truth, is not only whether the measures will work, but whether the UK can afford them.

Here are two frightening statistics: over the past five years, the balance sheets of many of the world’s largest banks more than doubled; and, according to the Bank, the median ratio of debt to equity in big UK banks is more than 30 to one.