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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 23 febbraio 2012 alle ore 18:26.


WSJ: Do you think Europe will become less of the social model that has defined it?
Draghi: The European social model has already gone when we see the youth unemployment rates prevailing in some countries. These reforms are necessary to increase employment, especially youth employment, and therefore expenditure and consumption.

WSJ: Job for life…
Draghi: You know there was a time when [economist] Rudi Dornbusch used to say that the Europeans are so rich they can afford to pay everybody for not working. That's gone.

WSJ: With Greece there was a lot of focus on achieving numeric targets. Now if you take countries like Portugal or Spain, if they get these big structural economic reforms right, should they have to be so focused on meeting specific deficit targets?
Draghi: There is no feasible trade-off between the two. Fiscal consolidation is unavoidable in the present set-up, and it buys time needed for the structural reforms. Backtracking on fiscal targets would elicit an immediate reaction by the market. Sovereign spreads and the cost of credit would go up. We've experienced all this.

WSJ: Do you think Portugal will need another bailout?
Draghi: No. We consider the program on track.

WSJ: Where do you see the interbank market now? Is it healing? Is it still dysfunctional?
Draghi: What we saw is that after the first (Longer-Term Refinancing Operation) the senior unsecured bond market reopened. In the last two months we had something like EUR40 billion of new issuance, which is as about as much as it was in the previous six months or more. We also saw EUR30 billion in new covered-bond issuance. But for the interbank markets to function we need a return of full confidence in the counterparty. We can address only the liquidity side of the problem. But then growth prospects have to pick up. After a very weak fourth quarter, economic activity in the euro area is progressively stabilizing at low levels.

WSJ: It still seems as though credit has dried up in Spain, Italy and elsewhere.
Draghi: Our last bank lending survey was done in between the time the first LTRO was decided and when it was executed, so it gives only a partial picture of what is happening. That picture was not positive. Credit was tightening all over the euro area in different degrees of intensity, more dramatically in the southern regions. We have to ask ourselves why this is so. The LTRO allotment [in December] was EUR490 billion. The return of shorter-term liquidity from the banking system before the LTRO was about EUR280 billion, so that the net injection was only EUR210 billion. And the bank bonds coming due in the first quarter were also about EUR210 billion. Therefore, it is likely that banks simply repurchased their own bonds coming due. We have avoided an even worse credit crunch.

WSJ: Would you be open to doing more, or longer, LTROs if needed?
Draghi: You know how we answer these questions. We never pre-commit.

WSJ: The ECB protected its Greek bond holdings from losses by swapping the bonds for new ones. Critics say the ECB should suffer the fate that private-sector bondholders have suffered. What's your response to that?
Draghi: The Securities Market Program bought these bonds because the monetary policy transmission channels were broken. The purchase of these bonds was done for public interest reasons. Also people tend to forget that this money the ECB has spent is not private money. It is public money, it is taxpayers' money and the ECB is committed to protect the taxpayers' money.

WSJ: Will that lessen the impact of future purchases, or are you willing to wind down the SMP?
Draghi: The SMP holdings are small if compared to the size of the European bond markets, and the interventions have become smaller and smaller in recent times.

WSJ: Can you rule out future debt restructurings? Some analysts would say that a country like Portugal would benefit from this.
Draghi: We have confidence that the program countries are taking appropriate actions and that the targets of their programs are achievable and realistic.

WSJ: There's been a lot of discussion on whether the Chinese will get involved, whether China will buy bonds. What do you see on Chinese institutional involvement in European financial markets?
Draghi: So far I don't see any official public involvement in European financial markets. There have been lots of talks and conversations. I hear about them but I haven't seen any official investment in European financial markets.

WSJ: Over the past year two top German officials at the ECB resigned. The current Bundesbank president opposed the bond swap and has spoken about risks associated with the three-year LTROs. Is there a risk Germany becomes isolated within the ECB?
Draghi: The vote for the three-year LTROs was unanimous. Given the peculiar nature of the ECB, one of my objectives is that we have as much consensus as possible. We have to do the right things, and we have to do them together.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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