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Who Should Safeguard Financial Stability?

NEW HAVEN – Central bankers around the world failed to see the current financial crisis coming before its beginnings in 2007. Martin Čihák of the International Monetary Fund reported in July 2007 that, of 47 central banks found to publish financial stability reports (FSRs), “virtually all” gave a “positive overall assessment of their domestic financial system” in their most recent reports.

And yet, although these central banks failed us before the crisis, they should still play the lead role in preventing the next crisis. That is the conclusion, perhaps counterintuitive, that the Squam Lake Group [http://squamlakegroup.org/], a think tank of 15 academic financial economists to which I belong, reached in our recently published report,Fixing the Financial System.

Macro-prudential regulators (government officials who focus not on the soundness of individual financial institutions, but rather on the stability of the whole financial system) are sorely needed, and central bankers are the logical people to fill this role. Other regulators did no better in predicting this crisis, and are even less suited to prevent the next.

David Cameron’s new government in the United Kingdom apparently came to the same conclusion when it announced plans to transfer regulatory authority from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to the Bank of England.