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Mon, Apr 19, 2010 - Page 10 News List

EU central bankers warn against rushing tax levy

‘PREMATURE’The ECB chief’s new deputy said plans to tax banks, which were the result of anger over huge bailouts, should not be made ‘in isolation’

AFP , MADRID

Three of the leading figures at the European Central Bank (ECB) each warned on Saturday that ideas for a levy on bank profits, pushed as a way to create a buffer against future crises, need much more work.

“We insist very much on the fact that we need proper sequences and a proper respect of the Basel committee,” ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet told reporters after a meeting of EU finance ministers in Spain, referring to the international banking industry’s in-house panel of regulators.

Trichet said that a redrawn banking and financial system had to be “resilient,” underlining that it must not “hamper the recovery” underway and therefore that possible taxation had to be examined in the light of other reforms.

Both Sweden and the European Commission have come up with plans that were discussed informally by the EU ministers.

Portugal’s Vitor Constancio, who takes office next month after being elected as Trichet’s deputy last month by leaders of the 16 euro countries, also told reporters that proposals to tax banks, which emerged amid anger over huge taxpayer bailouts, could not be set up in isolation.

Constancio said levy ideas could only be properly assessed after tests on separate proposals to regulate banks’ capital liquidity, “because we need to assess the overall impact of everything that is now being studied regarding future regulation of the banking sector.”

“It’s a little bit premature,” he said.

“I also think that if governments want to go ahead, that this be linked with deposit guarantee schemes and possibly used only for restructuring and resolution problems of the banking sector itself, not for any other purposes,” he said.

Mario Draghi, who represents the Bank of Italy at the ECB, likewise insisted that the levy’s broader economic impact — with wide variations in suggested levels — had to be examined fully first.

He said banks were already losing “more and more” through writedowns on credit losses.

European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn said after the talks that politicians should not over-regulate.

Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado, hosting the meeting, added that authorities had to “avoid imposing on the financial sector excessive charges that could weigh on the economic recovery.”

Europe’s financial services overlord, France’s Michel Barnier, said on Friday that deals on banking regulation were needed quickly if anything stronger than “artificial” controls are to be put in place.

“I hear ministers and bankers telling me: Go easy, if you ask for capital requirements that are too great, we won’t have any money left with which to finance the economy.”

“I remind them of the costs of the crisis,” Barnier said, adding it was “unacceptable for taxpayers, because we hadn’t drawn up new mechanisms, to be forced to pay for the mistakes and over-the-top actions of certain actors within the financial system.”

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