Friday, July 4, 2008

How good will be Slovakia's monetary policy?

When Slovakia adopts the euro, monetary policy decisions affecting its economy will no longer be taken in Bratislava. Many think that is good news since the European Central Bank is an enormously credible institution that has been performing really well - so well, in fact, that even EU's critics lack facts to criticize it. Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president and a well-know "EU skeptic" wrote this in June: "Ten years have passed since the founding of the European Central Bank ... a major celebration of this anniversary is being planned by ECB and I admit that there is a reason for it."

There is little doubt that ECB's success has a lot to do with its independence but recent developments show that not all are happy with the present arrangements. Clearly, politicians must care about the short-term state of the economy (even at the expense of medium-run price stability) if they seek popularity and reelection. But, for some, it now includes "a more open discussion about the motivations behind i
nterest rate decisions" (Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the European affairs minister of France). Another French official said that Paris only wants "a voice on monetary policy" and José Luis Zapatero, prime minister of Spain, asserted that he expects the ECB to "behave responsibly." No, he didn't mean the was ECB is paying too little attention to rising prices, he merely hinted at the bleak state of the Spanish housing market.

When the financial crises is over (or becomes less severe), one might hope that attempts to undermine ECB's independence will evaporate. Strong euro and higher-than-America's interest rates will hopefully no longer be big, politically attractive issues. Slovak officials now have an opportunity to impress: all they have to do is to look at some of their western colleagues and not repeat their comic behavior.

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