A deep recession has ushered in a new era of austerity in much of the west and, in some cases, threatened the solvency of some states. Even so, the direct cost of fixing the proximate cause of the crisis—the near-collapse of the banking sector—is modest by historical standards, argues Deutsche Bank in a recent report.

The initial commitments pledged by governments to support the financial sector reached 20-30% of GDP in major developed markets. Effective outlays, however, have amounted to only 3.5% of GDP for G20 countries, roughly equivalent to the cost of the Swedish banking bailout of the early 1990s.

Of course, the direct fiscal costs of the crisis—equity injections, debt assumed by the state and emergency liquidity support for banks—tell only part of the story. But given the broader economic damage wrought by the financial crisis, any shred of good news is welcome. In short, it could be worse.