|Super Mario may end up as a loser|
It is becoming more and more apparent that ECB President Mario Draghi's intention to embark on unlimited purchaes of sovereign bonds from crisis stricken euro countries is not only unwise but also illegal. Particularly in Germany the criticism of "Super Mario's" model is growing:
Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann. Weidmann believes that, with its bond purchases, the ECB will help euro-zone governments gain access to funds at attractive rates by pushing down interest rates on those bonds. But that, in Weidmann's view, is fiscal policy rather than monetary policy and is thus outside the ECB mandate.
The duel between Draghi and Weidmann is not new, but it has become more pointed of late. And its importance would be difficult to overstate: It has to do with the future course of the ECB and, with it, one of the world's most important currencies. Does the ECB's bond-buying program fall into the category of monetary policy consistent with the bank's mandate of maintaining price stability? Or does it step over the line into fiscal policy by intervening in countries' efforts to obtain capital, which it is expressly forbidden from doing?
"The ECB's argument that the bond purchases have to do with monetary policy is a pretext," says Jürgen Stark, the central bank's chief economist until the end of last year. "If the transmission mechanism of monetary policy is indeed disturbed, the ECB must intervene, irrespective of whether or not a country has subjected itself to a bailout program."
For Stark, who resigned in protest over the ECB's first bond-purchasing program, a red line has been crossed once again. "We are talking about the financing of governments here," he says. That, he points out, is in violation of European Union treaties. "The ECB is operating outside its mandate," he concludes
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