Europe’s Secret Bailout
MUNICH – While the world worries about Donald Trump, Brexit, and the flow of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries, the European Central Bank continues to work persistently and below the public radar on its debt-restructuring plan – also known as quantitative easing (QE) – to ease the burden on over-indebted eurozone countries.
Under the ECB’s QE program, which started in March 2015 (and will likely be extended beyond its scheduled end in March 2017), eurozone members’ central banks buy private market securities for €1.74 trillion ($1.84 trillion), with more than €1.4 trillion to be used to purchase their own countries’ government debt.
The QE program seems to be symmetrical, because each central bank repurchases its own government debt in proportion to the size of the country. But it does not have a symmetrical effect, because government debt from southern European countries, where the debt binges and current-account deficits of the past occurred, are mostly repurchased abroad.