Moments ago, ECB governing council member and Bank of Italy governor Ignazio Visco had some very troubling comments.
He said that while helicopter money is not currently part of the discussion in the Governing Council that “no policy tool within our mandate can or should be dismissed a priori.” The reason for this startling admission is “the importance of expectations of low inflation in determining wage outcomes, and thus giving rise to second- round effects, may be increasing.”
He cited Italy’s recently signed collective contracts where “it was agreed that parts of future pay rises will be revised downwards in the event that the inflation rate falls short of current forecasts” adding that a “a generalized adoption of this type of contract would significantly decrease the rate of growth of wages and this would in turn be reflected in the dynamics of consumer prices.”
He went on to defend existing monetary policy which has so far only resulted in savings hoarding, ongoing deflation and a slammed banking sector, saying that “Regarding Italy, the effects are estimated to be somewhat stronger: absent the monetary impulse, the Italian recession would have ended only in 2017; inflation would have remained negative for the whole three-year period.”
But back to helicopter money: Visco also said that: “such an extreme measure would undoubtedly be subject to operational and legal constraints.”
Is the ECB really this cloase to helicopter money? It appears so, because as he notes “the redistributive implications and the close ties with fiscal policy would all make it very complex, all the more so in the euro area given its institutional framework.” He concluded that a discussion on the measure “is noteworthy, not much per se, but because it underlines the concern that monetary policy is left to act in isolation.”
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