reichlin18_Wilfried Krecichwost_euro sign Wilfried Krecichwost/Getty Images

What the ECB’s Strategy Review Must Do

The European Central Bank’s new strategy review must recognize that economists are still a long way from understanding the dynamics of low inflation. Given this uncertainty, the ECB should aim to adopt robust policies that cause the least damage under a broad range of scenarios.

LONDON – With her recent announcement of the European Central Bank’s long-overdue strategy review, new ECB President Christine Lagarde has generated high expectations. The review’s outcome will be the first important signal of how Lagarde intends to lead the institution – and of how the ECB is likely to address persistently low inflation in the eurozone.

The world is very different than it was in 2003, when the ECB’s strategy was last revised, and the institution has itself undergone deep changes since the 2008 financial crisis. Faced with a global recession and then the 2011-2012 eurozone debt crisis, the ECB abandoned the traditional approach of passively meeting banks’ demand for liquidity – its initial response to the financial crisis. Instead, the ECB started actively managing its balance sheet in order both to ease monetary policy and stabilize the financial system.

Furthermore, the ECB has radically expanded its operational tools. In 2014, it introduced negative interest rates on banks’ deposits with national central banks, and began providing the market with “forward guidance” concerning its future policies. And, since 2015, the ECB has engaged in asset purchases (known as quantitative easing, or QE), causing its balance sheet to double compared to 2008. Finally, the ECB has assumed larger prudential supervisory responsibilities vis-à-vis European banks under the Single Supervisory Mechanism.

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