FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Central banks are largely powerless to revive euro zone economic growth, and the responsibility instead lies with governments, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said on Friday, warning against overburdening monetary policy.
Trying to solve Europe’s structural problems with loose monetary policy risks not only failure but a repeat of the mistakes of the 1970s, a period characterized by high unemployment and high inflation, said Weidmann, a long critic of the European Central Bank’s unprecedented stimulus.
Weidmann’s comments highlight the long-standing rift between the ECB and Germany, the euro zone’s biggest economy, which argues that stimulus achieves little and low borrowing costs actually reduce the urgency of painful but necessary reforms.
“We are not primarily dealing with weak demand but with slow growth,” Weidmann, who sits on the ECB’s rate-setting Governing Council, said. “Monetary policy is largely powerless in battling that.”
“Politicians hold the key to stronger growth, not the central bank,” Weidmann said in Frankfurt. “I have been pointing out for a while now that we cannot demand too much of monetary policy.”
Since the start of Europe’s economic and debt crises, an increasing burden has been placed on the ECB, and in some countries the bank is the only player working on reviving growth, Weidmann said.
For years he has opposed the bank’s bond buying program, known as quantitative easing, and voted last week against expanding it to 2.3 trillion euros.
Weak growth is mainly due to structural issues, Weidmann said. Productivity growth has halved since before the bloc’s economic crisis, and high debt levels are still forcing both households and governments to deleverage.
Weidmann also warned that giving central banks too many responsibilities, including over banking supervision and financial stability, could create tensions between conflicting objectives.
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)