Is Cyprus the Sarajevo of 21st century?
Normally I limit my blogs and writings to the topics I am very passionate about – business models, supply chains, strategy and business outcomes. I do not worry too much about the markets, especially the short term gyrations that occupy the minds of speculators, brokers and the cheer squads. Despite holding credentials of a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and securing a rare 100% mark in MBA subject International Finance, I do not write much on market movements because of my tendency to think rather longer term – which would be of limited interest to most speculators or investors, the main consumers of market information. However, when we approach a perilious bend in the road it becomes important, even mandatory to point out a few things. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian nationalist forces in 1914, Europe and the world military powers were already sitting on a tinderbox. There are plenty of sources that explain the full series of events going back to the Ottoman empire and its conflict with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as the other worlds powers of the time. After the event, as per Wikipedia:
The murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife produced widespread shock across Europe, and there was initially much sympathy for the Austrian position. Within two days of the assassination, Austria-Hungary and Germany advised Serbia that it should open an investigation… After conducting a criminal investigation, verifying that Germany would honor its military alliance, and persuading the skeptical Hungarian Count Tisza, Austria-Hungary issued a formal letter to the government of Serbia. The letter reminded Serbia of its commitment to respect the Great Powers' decision … The letter contained specific demands …This letter became known as the July Ultimatum, and Austria-Hungary stated that if Serbia did not accept all of the demands in total within 48 hours, it would recall its ambassador from Serbia.
The long term consequences of Sarajevo event were far more disastrous than foreseen at that time. Of course now we all know about it as the First World War. In today’s world the military power has given way to the monetary power and the trenches in today’s warfare are the monetary trenches. The next great war could well end up being a currency war. Without knowing full facts of the case I will not comment on the settlement of Cyprus crisis so far. As reported in the press by Bloomberg today (25th March 2013):
Cyprus qualified for its 10 billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout by agreeing to close Cyprus Popular Bank Pcl, also known as Laiki Bank, the island’s second largest lender, the EU said in a statement. Uninsured depositors and senior bondholders will be “bailed in,” staying in a so-called bad bank.…
The Wall Steet Journal today (25th March 2013) reported:
The bank restructuring doesn't need approval by the Cypriot Parliament. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Monday that the legislation needed to complete the restructuring of the Cypriot banking system is already in place…
… Mr. Schäuble said the troika of official lenders—the euro zone, the IMF and the European Central Bank will be "in contact with the Russian government.”
There-in lies the nub of the problem. With monetary trenches being dug now, it will be interesting to see how all this pans out. Already there are capital controls coming in place as per the Wall Street Journal:
Border guards at Cyprus’s crossing with the Turkish-controlled north aren’t searching people to see if they’re taking large sums of currency from the country. But at air and seaports, officials are confiscating amounts over €10,000 ($13,000), says WSJ's Joe Parkinson.
The key question now is what will be the unintended consequences of this settlement? How far reaching will be the capital controls, and the precedent of bank restructuring? Is this the first domino in the global currency war? Only time will tell the answers – meanwhile, all of us, individuals, businesses and managers, should keep our powder dry and be prepared for the unintended consequences and unforeseen events.