11Onze Check: Banks complain – are they right?
On 21 of June 2020, the European Council approved an economic stimulus package known as the European recovery fund or Next Generation EU (NGEU), with the aim of reviving the economies of member states affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Banks are complaining that they will not play the same role as they did with the ICO during the pandemic, but are their complaints sufficiently substantiated? We cross-checked the information.
Six months ago, the Spanish government and the banks initiated formal contacts to explore ways of collaboration and to specify the role that financial institutions will play in the distribution of the European fund. Negotiations are still ongoing, but it is becoming clear that the role of the banks in channelling this fund will be different from the one they developed with the ICO credits during the pandemic, since in this case, the state has the money at its disposal. The ICO is a public bank with the function of distributing credit to stimulate the economy and depends on funds provided by the Spanish government. During the pandemic it had no liquidity, and it was the private banks that provided the money for the ICO loans, making it a business for the sector. Now, it seems that the Spanish government does not need private banks because it has the 140 billion coming directly from Europe.
The banks’ outcry did not take long, and it seems that they have all agreed to publicise their grievances. An extensive media offensive that we analyse today by looking at an article published by Economía Digital, “Enfado de la gran banca por su exclusión de los fondos europeos”, but which serves as an example of how other media has dealt with the issue. Is this information biased? Yes, according to the 11Onze Check Bias Method, it has a bias of 70%. We analysed it.
We only hear the voice of the banks. There is only one unidentified source from the Spanish government. There is no reference for all the data provided. It is not possible to trace where this data comes from.
There is no representative of the ICO, nor of the Ministry of Economy, nor any alternative voice to the view of the traditional banks. We only read the opinion of the banks’ representatives. Moreover, unverified statements from the banks are taken for granted. For example: “The president of Banco Santander, Ana Botín, recalled this week that banks have played an important role in the pandemic by protecting businesses, and now they need to strengthen public-private collaboration to do the same with the recovery funds”. If we know that, according to the INE, in nine months of the pandemic 207,000 businesses closed… Are we sure that, as Botín says, the banks have protected companies?
The information is foggy because the bankers seem angry, but, at the same time, they assure that the arrival of the funds will increase their turnover by 10%. The mechanisms that the banks are proposing to participate in the Next Generation Fund are also unclear and seem to be focused on accompanying the client. In reality, however, it could be a manoeuvre to make sure the public funds go to their clients’ accounts (and not to other entities) in order to be able to count on these funds.
We are not talking about a single news item but about a compilation of articles in the same media outlet, some of them linked to each other, which contain the same rhetoric clearly aimed at discrediting the government’s management and spreading the bank’s vision: 1, 2, 3. Therefore, we can deduce that there is an intention to establish the narrative according to which the banks have to participate, no matter what, in the allocation of public funds.
The information is simplified, and key elements are missing. For example, it is not explained that the ICO’s function is specifically to provide credit to stimulate the economy. It seems that it cannot function without private banks, and this is not true. Nor is it explained how this aid has been channelled in other countries. And finally, there is a crucial piece of context that is omitted: banking has already recovered pre-pandemic profit levels thanks to the closure of branches and massive lay-offs. Nine billion net since the start of the pandemic. This, coupled with the fact that the price of money is at historic lows, removes any impediment for banks to lend and stimulate the economy. What is stopping them? What do they need Next Generation Funds for?
The article talks about the good role played by banks in channelling the ICO funds and the role they can play in the Next Generation fund, but makes no mention of the benefits obtained by the financial sector through the management of the ICO, nor of the abusive practices that were uncovered during its management. Nor is there any mention of the commercial interests behind this desire to play a key role in the distribution of these new resources. The basic idea is to play the role of intermediary. The money comes from Europe (and therefore does not have to be mobilised by the banks), but it is still channelled through private banks. Why should it be this way? What is the point?
The public interest is not represented at all. While it talks extensively about how private banks and investment funds are key in advising companies and distributing this fund, no public alternatives, which are there, are given when it comes to channelling this aid. The article does not take into account the consumer’s point of view: is it in the interest of the ordinary citizen that ICO loans are managed by large Spanish private banks?
Therefore, we conclude that this information is 70% biased and shows a partial view of the management of the Next Generation Funds. If you want to know the Bias Method, which we have followed to contrast this information, you will find it here. If you would like to send us economic information to verify, you can do so by writing to us at [email protected]
If you liked this article, we recommend you read:
Traditional banks: congratulations!3 min read
4 December marks International Banking Day, designated by the
Education, the vaccine against disinformation4 min read
We have all been victims and even contributed to it without