Wednesday, March 25, 2020

An equitable way to support business

The Herald reports that the government is planning to lend billions of dollars to large businesses to keep them operating during the pandemic. As with mortgage relief, this is necessary: we need companies to stay in business, to reduce the economic damage and help things get restarted again when this crisis ends (and it will, eventually). But like mortgage relief, its also inequitable - a socialisation of losses when profits have been privatised. And that really doesn't taste good.

So what's the solution? The same as has been used for Air New Zealand: loans, convertible to equity. If a company pays it back, no problem. If it looks like they might not, the government takes an ownership stake, and shares in the profits when it is rebuilt (either in dividends, or as a higher price if it sells out). That way, businesses still get to keep working, shareholders still carry the can, and the public doesn't get rorted.