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By Luke Heighton
FRANKFURT (MNI) - Low interest rates and highly accommodative monetary
policy "won't last forever", the governor of the Bank of Finland warned eurozone
policymakers in an article published Thursday, though past mistakes indicate
that an "early withdrawal" of support should be avoided.
"For now, and apparently in the medium term, the effect of the Covid-19
pandemic is disinflationary rather than inflationary, and the danger of
deflation has re-emerged," Olli Rehn, a member of the ECB's Governing Council
Nevertheless, "one day the member states and their governments should be
prepared to live with less accommodation and higher rates. One should not assume
that central bank policy would then be determined by the fiscal situation."
The European Central Bank's use of negative interest rates, asset purchases
and large-scale refinancing operations is therefore "both proportionate and
necessary," he added.
The question of when to withdraw support is instead driven by central
banks' commitment to maintaining price stability, he continued, though before
withdrawing support "we should verify for a certain period of time that
inflation has solidly reached the medium-term price stability target."
That target, currently defined as close to, but below 2% inflation over the
medium-term, should become a symmetrical point target of 2%, Rehn said, allowing
for some short-term inflation around it.
Turning to the Covid-19 crisis, "excessive precautionary saving by
households, and risk aversion of companies," constitute "the main challenge"
after lockdown restrictions are lifted, Rehn said.
Rehn, writing in the Financial Times, said it was "of paramount importance
to ensure that the new EU funding is used for the intended purposes: healthcare,
employment, sustainable development and digital transformation, and called on
the EU to use the "European Semester" - a framework for the coordination and
monitoring of economic policies across the bloc - to enforce the conditions
agreed upon in the recovery package."
National recovery programmes should be "scrutinised for their effect on
structural reforms, innovation and investment," Rehn continued. "Policies should
be designed genuinely to enhance productivity and competitiveness."
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