The authors emphasize an overlooked raison d’être for public banks. They argue that limiting public banks to filling the gaps left by private banks, the standard argument in economics, neglects a very important dimension of public banks, that is, their capacity to act countercyclically and thereby stabilize access to credit during economic downturns. Taking a cue from Hyman Minsky, they point to the immanent volatility of financial markets dominated by private actors. In order to counter destabilizing tendencies, the presence of institutions with the logic of action that differs from that of the market is necessary. As public banks are not primarily concerned with profitability, they can play this role. To a certain extent, their presence in the market is an automatic stabilizer because public banks provide credit with long maturation. In times of crisis, they can also be used for discretionary intervention, that is, opening up new credit lines.
Ana Rosa Ribeiro de Mendonça and Simone Deos
Simone Deos and Ana Rosa Ribeiro de Mendonça
The authors pick up on Hyman Minsky’s concept of a ‘big bank’, that is, the central bank as a lender of last resort, which together with big government stabilizes the economy. According to the authors, the provision of liquidity in order to avoid the financial crisis can be performed by a group of public banks in coordination with the central bank, thereby jointly playing the role of big banks. Empirically, they show that the impact of the 2008 crisis on the Brazilian economy was rather limited because the Brazilian Central Bank together with the public banks supplied sufficient liquidity for non-financial agents. Specific institutional characteristics of the Brazilian financial system have allowed these big banks to react promptly to the crisis.
Simone Deos, Camilla Ruocco and Everton Sotto Tibiriçá Rosa
The authors empirically explore the claim that public banks can counteract the volatility of financial markets at the hand of public banks in Brazil during the financial crisis of 2008. They provide a historical overview of two important Brazilian public banks, Banco do Brasil and Caixa Econômica Federal. They detail these banks’ anticyclical interventions during the crisis, which did not lower the quality of their respective portfolios. Only the shift to restrictive macroeconomic policies well after the crisis in 2014 has offset the expansion of public credit. The authors draw lessons from this: the anticyclical credit instruments have to be better coordinated with macroeconomic and currency policies.