Sunday, October 28, 2012

28/10/2012: ECB and technocratic decay?

Some interesting comments from BNP on ECB and Mr Draghi's tenure to-date. The note is linked here.  But some quotes are enlightening [comments are my onw]:

"While the ECB justifies the OMT as being to improve the functioning of the monetary system, the fact it has done nothing to help the monetary system in Ireland or Portugal suggests the scheme is about fiscal financing." [I fully agree]

"The balance-sheet implications of buying in the secondary market are the same as if bonds had been bought in the primary market. Mr Draghi’s adherence to the spirit of the Treaty is in question. We support his flexibility, however." [In the short run - yes, Draghi's flexibility is a necessary compromise. Alas, in the long run it is of questionable virtue. Hence, as I remarked ages ago, it's not the measures the ECB unrolls in the crisis that worry me, but the impossibility of unwinding them without wrecking havoc on the economy.]

"...Mr Draghi did [cut rates] in November and December [2011], taking rates back to where they started the year before the two misguided mid-2011 hikes. Mr Draghi cut rates again in July 2012, not only taking the refi rate below the 1% barrier (to 75bp), but also cutting the deposit rate to zero, apparently in an attempt to reinvigorate the interbank market (so far, fruitlessly). Mr Draghi should be praised for cutting rates and for overcoming the 1% barrier, in our view." [I agree.]

"However, he seems to be reluctant to take the deposit rate below zero, which looks timid. Moreover, he has failed to stimulate private credit supply. The LTRO has facilitated the expansion of credit to governments, but to some extent, this has crowded out private-sector credit, where growth is now down 0.8% y/y (-0.4% adjusted for sales and securitisation). The line that this is due to weakness in credit demand is a feeble excuse for the ECB failing to do enough to stimulate supply or to circumvent the lack of credit supply, for example, through credit easing. This has been the major failure of Mr Draghi’s tenure." [I am not so sure on BNP rejecting the idea of weak demand. Most likely, both weak supply and demand are reinforcing each other. More on this once we have our paper on SMEs access to credit published in working paper format, so stay tuned].

And the last blast, the potent one: "If central bankers don’t want politicians to mess with central banking, central bankers would be wise not to mess with politics. Mr Draghi was intimately involved in Italian politics and the demise of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s tenure in the summer of 2011. More recently, his plans for the OMT were reportedly shared with the German chancellor’s office well in advance. The ECB is a very political animal under Mr Draghi. As the only institution with pan-eurozone power, a prominent role for the ECB in crisis resolution and a strong link to politics
may be unavoidable, and even desirable. But ultimately, such links may return to haunt it." [Yep, I agree. Mr Draghi's competence in office comes with a typical European price tag - get a technocrat and surrender checks and balances. This both signifies to the sickness at the heart of Europe (technocracy displacing democracy) and the inability of the 'patient' to develop institutional path for dealing with this sickness (with EZ potentially/arguably facing either a collapse in the hands of democracy or decay in the hands of technocracy).]

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