Introduction: Developing countries navigating global banking standards

International banking standards are intended for the regulation of large, complex, risk-taking international banks with trillions of dollars in assets and operations across the globe. Yet they are being implemented in countries with nascent financial markets and small banks that have yet to venture into international markets. Why is this?

This website presents the results of a five-year research project (2015–2020) exploring the politics of banking regulation in developing countries, with a focus on Low and Lower-Middle Income Countries (LMICs). The project is led by Dr Emily Jones (Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford) in collaboration with Professor Ngaire Woods (Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford) and Professor Thorsten Beck (Cass Business School, University of London). It brings together a team of researchers with expertise in political economy of banking regulation in eleven countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Research team

Emily Jones (Principal Investigator), Thorsten Beck, Pritish Behuria, Florence Dafe, Rebecca Engebretsen, Hazel Gray, Ousseni Illy, Peter Knaack, Natalya Naqvi, Seydou Ouedraogo, Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Que-Giang Tran-Thi, Radha Upadhyaya, Tu-Anh Vu-Thanh, Toni Weis, Ngaire Woods, Alexandra Zeitz

Funding

Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (Grant ES/L012375/1) under the DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme.

The puzzle

There is surprisingly little evidence that compliance with international standards – the Basel banking standards - actually improves financial stability or the wider performance of the banking system in developing countries. Developing countries are chronically under-represented in the international standard-setting bodies that govern global finance. This leads to international standards that are ill-suited for regulating banks in many developing countries, particularly those with nascent financial markets, resource-constrained regulators, and relatively small banks.

The international policy advice to regulators in low-income developing countries has been to proceed cautiously with the implementation of international banking standards, particularly with the most recent and complex standards (Basel II and III). When we embarked on this research project, we had initial evidence to suggest that regulators in many LMICs were implementing Basel standards to a greater extent and at a faster pace than the evidence appeared to warrant.

Research questions

We set out to answer several questions:

  • How are regulators in LMICs responding to international banking standards? To what extent are they implementing them?
  • If international banking standards are ill-adapted to the needs of many developing countries, why do some regulators choose to adopt them? What leads others not to adopt them? What domestic and international factors explain this variation?
  • What are the policy implications? Do changes need to be made to international standard-setting processes?

Methods

We answer these questions through a mix of quantitative and qualitative research. In two journal articles, we examine patterns of implementation across one hundred countries outside of the Basel Committee (Jones and Zeitz 2017; Jones and Zeitz 2019). In our book (OUP, 2020) we present in-depth case studies on the politics of bank regulation in eleven countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Angola, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, the WAEMU and Vietnam). We look specifically at why regulators have taken different approaches to Basel standards and how their responses have changed over time, drawing on interviews with more than 200 regulators, bank employees and experts, and extensive analysis of policy documents.