Thursday, March 21, 2013
Cyprus: The Sum of All FUBAR
New York Times
March 21, 2013
At this point the Cyprus situation is pretty clear — and clarity does not bring reassurance. In fact, it looks as if Cyprus has managed to combine in one place everything that has gone wrong elsewhere.
1. Runaway banking. Cyprus has a huge banking system — assets around 8 times GDP — based on a business model of attracting offshore money with high rates and good opportunities for tax avoidance/evasion.
I’ve done some asking around, and cleared up something that was puzzling me. Officially, only about 40 percent of the deposits in Cypriot banks are from nonresidents, which would imply resident deposits of almost 500 percent of GDP, which is crazy. But the answer is that I do not think that word “resident” means what you think it means. Some of the money is from wealthy expats living in Cyprus; much of it is from rich people who have resident status without, you know, actually living there. So we should think of Cypriot deposits as mainly coming from non-Cypriots, attracted by that business model.