Bundesbank's Weidmann casts doubt on effectiveness of ECB's QE

January 25
4:05 AM 2015

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, an unabashed critic of the European Central Bank's quantitative easing (QE), told a German newspaper on Sunday he had doubts about the effectiveness of the ECB bond-buying plan.

Weidmann, who is on the ECB's Governing Council, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that he voted against the move and said the sluggish growth in Europe was largely due to high levels of debt and a lack of competitiveness in some individual countries.

"It's hard to predict what the effects will be, but in Europe they will probably be less than they were in the United States," Weidmann said, referring to QE used by the U.S. Federal Reserve following the global financial crisis in 2008.

"The interest rate level was much higher there when it started. Moreover, U.S. companies use capital markets more for financing, so central bank purchases can have a much more direct impact there than in an economy financed (more) by banks."

The European Central Bank announced on Thursday it was launching a government bond-buying program to pump hundreds of billions of new money into a sagging euro zone economy.

Weidmann first used Germany's top-selling Bild daily on Saturday to let Germans, already wary of the ECB move, know of his doubts, saying he feared it would take reform pressure off Italy and France

Weidmann raised the pressure further in the Welt am Sonntag interview. When asked if the ECB's decision meant that the Bundesbank was no longer a "role model" for the ECB, Weidmann said: "I wouldn't blow it up to a historical turning point, but for me this was nevertheless a grave decision."

He reiterated his view that the ECB's bond-buying decision was "not a normal instrument of monetary policy" because it contained "disadvantages and risks" for the currency union. "That's another reason that I didn't vote for it," he said.

"Certainly, the inflation rates are very low right now, but that has been pushed down by the low oil prices. There are many indications the extraordinarily low inflation rates are only a temporary phenomenon."

ECB President Mario Draghi has said that by September next year, more than 1 trillion euros will have been created under quantitative easing, the ECB's last remaining major policy option for reviving economic growth and warding off deflation.

But Weidmann said euro zone governments had to tackle high levels of debt and a lack of economic competitiveness.

"The sluggish growth in Europe is mainly due to the high level of debt and a lack of competitiveness in some of the countries," he said. "It's up to the governments there to work against that, as Mario Draghi has once again pointed out."

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