La BCE et ses critiques

PARIS – La décision de la Banque centrale européenne (BCE) de se lancer dans une politique d’assouplissement quantitatif (quantitative easing, QE) a suscité une vague de critiques en Europe du Nord et en particulier en Allemagne. La plupart de ces critiques sont dénuées de fondement, certaines sont confuses, et d’autres accordent plus de poids à des dangers hypothétiques qu’aux risques réels. Certaines abordent les véritables problèmes, sans pour autant indiquer de solution viable. Voici de quoi y voir plus clair.

1.      Une inflation nulle est une bonne chose. Faux. Si c’était vrai, les banques centrales du monde entier se seraient fixé cet objectif. Or elles ont toutes défini la stabilité des prix comme une inflation faible, stable mais positive. Une inflation nulle présente trois inconvénients majeurs : premièrement, elle érode l’efficacité d’une politique monétaire classique (les taux d’intérêt ne peuvent tomber en dessous de zéro au risque de voir les déposants retirer leurs liquidités des banques et les garder dans des coffres) ; ensuite cela rend plus rigides les salaires relatifs entre les secteurs (par exemple, ceux de l’industrie par rapport à ceux des services), car les contrats de travail définissent généralement les salaires en euros ; et enfin cela augmente la charge des dettes passées et rend plus difficile une sortie de crise des dettes souveraines ou privées.

2.      La faiblesse actuelle de l’inflation n’est pas préoccupante car elle est uniquement due à la chute des prix du pétrole. Faux. L’inflation des prix à la consommation de la zone euro est inférieure à l’objectif depuis 22 mois consécutifs – soit bien avant que les prix du pétrole ne commencent à baisser. Un pétrole bon marché est une aubaine pour la croissance, mais affecte également ce qui est la véritable cible des politiques monétaires : les anticipations d’inflation pour les années à venir.

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