Banques centrales : la fin de la virginité !

FLORENCE –Le 9 mai dernier, la Banque centrale européenne (BCE) a annoncé qu'elle rachèterait les obligations d'Etat des pays méditerranéens en grande difficulté budgétaire. Les critiques ont alors clamé que la Banque perdait sa "virginité", car cette mesure est en violation flagrante de l'article 21 des statuts de la BCE qui lui interdisent d'accorder des facilités de crédit aux Etats ou aux institutions de l'UE.

On a entendu des remarques du même acabit en 2008, lorsque la Réserve fédérale s'est lancée dans des achats à grande échelle d'actifs non conventionnels, notamment des agency debts (obligations émises par des institutions soutenues par l'Etat) et des titres adossés sur des crédits hypothécaires, ceci pour éviter l'effondrement complet du marché immobilier américain. Ainsi, Paul Volker, l'ancien président de la Fed, soulignait que l'institution fonctionnait aux limites de la légalité.

Dans les deux cas, la banque centrale sortait du cadre de sa politique monétaire traditionnelle. Lors des 30 dernières années, un fort consensus s'est crée autour de l'idée que la responsabilité essentielle des banques centrales, si ce n'est la seule, est de veiller à la stabilité des prix. De plus en plus depuis le début des années 1990, la mode consiste à définir cette stabilité en fixant un taux d'inflation à ne pas dépasser.

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