La Banque centrale européenne et le risque déflationniste

BERKELEY – Assistons-nous à une nouvelle mutation de la crise économique européenne ? Si comme les derniers chiffres le suggèrent, le danger déflationniste remplace celui de l'endettement, la BCE a les moyens d'agir. Mais rien n'indique qu'elle y est prête.

Les indicateurs sont inquiétants. Dans la zone euro l'inflation sous-jacente (l'indice des prix à la consommation sans tenir compte des produits dont le prix est volatil comme les produits frais ou celui de l'énergie) a chuté pour atteindre le taux annuel de 0,8% en octobre - un record sur 47 mois - tandis que les prix à la production ont baissé de 0,5%, ce qui permet de penser que le train de la déflation est déjà en marche en Europe. De septembre à octobre, la croissance annuelle de la masse monétaire M3 a chuté de la valeur déjà faible de 2% à 1,4%, tandis que le crédit en faveur du secteur privé a subi une contraction de 2,9% d'une année à l'autre. Dans ce contexte, il est remarquable que le mieux que la BCE ait pu faire lors de sa réunion de décembre a été de ne rien faire.

Dans ce contexte, que devrait faire une banque centrale efficace ? Tout d'abord elle devrait maintenir les conditions monétaires appropriées et arrêter de négocier avec les Etats la conditionnalité d'application des mesures qu'elle propose. Le cœur de mandat d'une banque centrale lui impose de maintenir l'inflation à un niveau approprié et non de négocier des réformes structurelles avec des pays comme la Grèce - une responsabilité qui incombe à la Commission européenne et au FMI.

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