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Obama's Financial Rescue Plan

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced new steps to save banks and loosen credit that could total $2 trillion, some from private investors. But many details are still unknown. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

In Washington this week, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced new steps to rebuild trust in financial markets and restart the flow of credit. The plan, separate from President Barack Obama's economic recovery legislation, could total two trillion dollars.

But Secretary Geithner gave few details of the plan to rescue banks. Investors quickly reacted. Stock markets fell almost five percent after he spoke Tuesday. Financial stocks lost the most.

Some lawmakers criticized the lack of details. Others said the plan was too big. But the secretary called for aggressive action, saying there was more risk in taking small steps.

For banks that need more capital, the plan calls for private investors or the government to provide it. But first, major banks will face a "stress test," a careful examination of their health.

Another step is to create a Public-Private Investment Fund. This will use government and private money to buy housing loans and other troubled assets that financial companies are unable to sell.

The fund may reach one trillion dollars in financing, but start with half that. The idea is to use private capital and private asset managers to help set a market value for the securities. Exactly how is not clear yet.

A third step is to increase the availability of credit for individuals and businesses. Tim Geithner says the government is prepared with up to one trillion dollars to rebuild the market for loan-based securities.

TIM GEITHNER: "Roughly forty percent of consumer lending has typically been made available because people buy loans, put them together and sell them. And because this vital source of lending has frozen up, no financial recovery plan will be successful unless it helps restart securitization markets."

The new lending program will build on one announced last November by the Federal Reserve. And it will expand to markets for small businesses and products like student and auto loans.

In the next few weeks, the administration is expected to announce details of a plan for the housing crisis. But the Treasury secretary has promised fifty billion dollars to help people keep their homes. The money is to come from the second half of the seven hundred billion in TARP funds.

TARP was the Bush administration's Troubled Asset Relief Program. The Obama program is called the Financial Stability Plan. It continues some of last year's measures. But TARP was criticized on supervision. The new administration says it will hold banks responsible for how they use taxpayers' money, and will report details on a Web site.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.