German Unease

Draghi's Collision Course

Best foot forward. ECB President Mario Draghi pushes forward with his asset-backed securities buying plan despite nay-sayers.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The ECB is fighting to keep the euro zone’s economy afloat. Critics fear taxpayers could pay the price if the ECB’s new plans to buy up risky assets fail.

  • Facts


    • The European Central Bank’s new program to buy asset-backed securities begins in mid-October.
    • ECB President Draghi has said he plans to add as much as €1 trillion to the ECB’s balance sheet.
    • Annual inflation in the euro zone has fallen to 0.3 percent, well below the ECB’s stated target of close to 2 percent.
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Hans-Werner Sinn, president of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, one of Germany’s most prominent and combative economists, has long warned the ECB is taking unnecessary risks that Germany’s taxpayers will end up having to pay for. Now he has been joined by a chorus of prominent German policymakers critical of the ECB’s latest plan to buy up asset-backed securities – pooled loans that are packaged for investors – from banks.

ECB President Mario Draghi argued that reviving the ABS market is needed to boost lending to small businesses in Europe, but critics said stepping into a market that was partly blamed for the 2008 financial crisis is too risky.

Mr. Draghi said the ambitious plan is necessary to avoid the euro zone from falling into a deflationary spiral that could further harm an already-stagnating economy. He plans to add as much as €1 trillion ($1.26 trillion) to the ECB’s balance sheet, essentially injecting fresh money into European banks in the hopes they will boost lending.

In this exclusive Handelsblatt interview, Mr. Sinn explains why he remains unconvinced.

Handelsblatt: Mr. Sinn, the European Central Bank (ECB) will begin buying asset-backed securities in the middle of this month. What do you think about the idea?

Mr. Sinn: I don’t think anything of it. Why should the central bank add the banks’ risks to its balance sheet, risks for which taxpayers are ultimately liable? It’s an illusion to believe that the burdens of write-offs will simply disappear through the ECB’s purchase of these securities. The ECB has pursued a bailout policy since 2009. It rescues debt-ridden banks and governments, as well as their international creditors. The ABS purchases are just another step.

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