ECB board members need personal finance training

The ECB has released the declarations of interest if its executive and supervisory board members.

You’ll see that the forms are pretty vague when it comes to point IV – Financial interests. Board members should name “Any financial interests holdings in companies/firms listed on a stock exchange”.

Some members have included equity funds and bonds under this item, although one could argue if that’s really required.

However, the declarations of interest do contain some remarkable info:

  • German board members Sabine Lautenschlager-Peiter and Joachim Wuermeling own co-operative shares in banks. The value of these holdings is trivial.
  • Ed Sibley owns some shares in Bank of Ireland. Mr. Sibley adds: “These are the remnants from a share ownership scheme from when I worked for Bank of Ireland (until 2008). They are worth less than €500, and I am in the process of getting rid of them.”
  • Peter Praet owns shares of the National Bank of Belgium, one of the few publicly traded central banks.
  • The spouse/partner of Vytautas Valvonis works at the Lithuanian branch of Dankse Bank.
  • Several board members (Benoît Cœuré, Tom Dechaene, Yves Mersch,
    Gaston Reinesch, Vitas Vasiliauskas, Claude Wampach) teach at universities (see item II – private activities). The earnings from these professorships are trivial.
  • Mr. Wampach owns Turkish lira denominated bonds issued by the European Investment Bank. Let’s hope he hedged the currency risk 😉
  • The financial interests of board members Margarita Delgado (Spain), Catherine Galea (Malta) and Andreas Ittner (Austria) contain only securities from their home countries.
  • Constantinos Herodotou (Cyprus), Madis Müller (Estonia) and Pierre Wunsch (Belgium) have the most diversified investment portfolios – Mr. Müller even owns a gold ETF. They should teach their colleagues about the importance of diversification!

How the ECB can align its monetary policy with the climate targets of the EU

There is a discussion going on about how climate change should influence central banking. The Veblen Institute and Positive Money Europe have published a study which shows that although the European Central Bank (ECB) has acknowledged its responsability, bonds issued by carbon intensive companies make up a large fraction of the corporate bonds held by the ECB.

You can find the report (in French) here.

Update 7 April 2019: for the English version, click here.

Anuna heeft gelijk

Klimaatspijbelaarster  Anuna De Wever stelt voor dat de overheid geld drukt om de klimaatproblemen aan te pakken.

De “serieuze economen” en hun kudde volgers op de sociale media rolden over elkaar om haar voorstel in het belachelijke te trekken. ‘Dat gaat in tegen de wetten van de economie!’ ‘Heeft dat kind nog nooit van Venezuela en Zimbabwe gehoord?’ ‘Hyperinflatie!’

Ironisch genoeg heeft Anuna het bij het rechte eind. Ondanks de lage rente en de massale aankoop van obligaties slaagt de Europese Centrale Bank (ECB) er niet in om haar inflatiedoelen te halen. Het nieuw ‘gedrukte’ geld uitgeven aan groene investeringen zou goed zijn voor de economische groei, werkgelegenheid, concurrentiekracht (goedkopere stroom) en de klimaatdoelstellingen van de Europese Unie.

Het internationaal debat over Green QE is al jaren aan de gang, maar dat hebben de Belgische economen duidelijk gemist.

Media-economen als Geert Noels maken zich graag populair door te klagen over de lage rente, hoge belastingen en het gebrek aan klimaatmaatregelen. Maar doordat ze de mensen bang maken met doemscenario’s over hyperinflatie, zijn ze deel van het probleem.

De Europese politiek heeft de voorbije tien jaar verkwanseld. In plaats van investeringen te doen in het door werkloosheid geteisterde Zuid-Europa, gebeurde er niets.

Het resultaat: de voorbije tien jaar hebben we teveel belastingen betaald, zaten miljoenen mensen zonder werk, haalde de ECB haar inflatiedoelen niet, zal de Europese Unie haar klimaatdoelen niet halen, is er onvoldoende geïnvesteerd in klimaatvriendelijke technologie, betalen we miljarden voor fossiele brandstoffen uit Saudi-Arabië en Rusland…

Iemand met een slecht karakter zou Geert Noels ervan kunnen verdenken een door Poetin aangestuurde onruststoker te zijn. In werkelijkheid ligt het probleem vooral bij de bloedarmoede in de media, waardoor steeds dezelfde kwakzalvers een forum krijgen.

Meer weten?

Actually, lobbyists are good

Lobbyists are often mistrusted. Special interest groups use them to influence politicians.

However, what’s the alternative? Policy makers cannot know everything. They need input from industry and non-profit groups. Through personal contacts with officials and by publishing articles, lobbyists can get new ideas on the agenda.

Take the responsibility of central banks in the green transition to phase out carbon-based fuels.

European Central Bank (ECB) board member Benoit Cœuré recently declared that the ECB should actively support the transition to a low carbon economy. Continue reading “Actually, lobbyists are good”

Stop bike-shedding, ECB

Last week, Positive Money Europe celebrated its launch with an event in Brussels: Time to rethink the European Central Bank.

Several speakers noted that it is important for central banks to communicate with society, not only with the financial sector.

One of the people in the audience remarked that it is not enough that the ECB explains what it is doing. It also needs to respond to the needs of society.

The representative of the ECB replied that his institution has become more transparent in response to feedback from the public. For example, the meeting notes of its board are published.

However, this is a classic case of bike-shedding. Publishing notes is a trivial gesture. The real problems in the euro area are massive unemployment in the southern countries and the poor performance of the European economies compared to the US. A genuinely responsive central bank should do much more to support the well-being of Europe’s citizens.

The ECB should care about boosting economic growth, not the color of its bike shed.

So I agree, it is time to rethink the ECB. Let’s break some political taboos and rev up the engines.

Central banking analogies

Economists are fond of analogies to describe technical ideas.

Most of those analogies are confusing and/or useless. As I wrote in the introduction of Bankers are people, too:

Economists and journalists writing for lay audiences tend to use metaphors when explaining financial concepts. For example: ‘Cheap credit is like heroin. It’s addictive, and the economy can overdose from it.’ That may sound nice, but what does it even mean?

Continue reading “Central banking analogies”

Grazie mille, dottore Draghi!

ECB President Mario Draghi has answered a number of questions from the public. People could tweet #AskDraghi to join.

I’m honored that the ECB also picked one of mine 🙂

The website Debating Europe has listed all the replies of Dr. Draghi.

I only wish the ECB President would have responded to this question as well 😀

Banken zijn nu veel veiliger dan in 2008

“Bankiers hebben niets geleerd uit de crisis.”
“Er is niets veranderd in de financiële sector.”
“De risico’s zijn nu nog veel groter dan in 2008.”
“Er komt een nieuwe bankencrisis aan.”

De bankencrisis van 2008 heeft diepe sporen nagelaten. Bij velen leeft het gevoel dat er niet veel veranderd is. Dat is ook de teneur van een recent opiniestuk van professor Ewald Engelen in Trends. De banken zijn nu echter veel veiliger dan tien jaar geleden. Continue reading “Banken zijn nu veel veiliger dan in 2008”

Negative rates: a massive transfer from savers to bank shareholders and governments with little impact on economic growth. (Post in response to Miles Kimball)

This post explores the consequences of deeply negative interest rates set by the ECB, as proposed by professor Miles Kimball. It’s a shorter version of my previous post, plus an estimation of the economic stimulus of the proposal. Continue reading “Negative rates: a massive transfer from savers to bank shareholders and governments with little impact on economic growth. (Post in response to Miles Kimball)”

Green infrastructure bonds with macro strings attached: How the ECB could fulfill its mandate by fighting climate change

This is the paper I submitted to the Central Banking and Green Finance workshop organized by the Council on Economic Policies (CEP) and De Nederlandsche Bank. I wrote it to stimulate a discussion about how central banks can contribute to the fight against climate change. The text does not necessarily reflect my personal opinion. Continue reading “Green infrastructure bonds with macro strings attached: How the ECB could fulfill its mandate by fighting climate change”