BIS: Central banks must end 'whatever it takes' policy

ATM machine dispensing notes
Image caption Time to cut back the support, says the BIS

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) says banks have done their bit to help economic recovery and now governments must do more.

The Basel-based organisation - usually dubbed the "central banks' central bank" - believes it is time to end the "whatever it takes" approach.

It says it wants to see a return to "strong and sustainable growth".

Last week the US central bank said it planned to stop its asset purchase programme, sparking market volatility.

In its annual report, the BIS said the world's central banks had done what they could to offset the worst effects of the six-year long global credit crisis.

As the credit crunch hit, central banks tried a number of tactics to try to keep the money flowing, initially cutting interest rates and later adding in quantitative easing, buying in assets and releasing vast sums into the banking system.

But now that the world was "past the height of the crisis", it was time for such interventionist policies to change.


Governments should oil the economic wheels by reforming labour markets and undertaking a "forceful programme" of "repair and reform" as the only way to bring about a lasting economic revival, the BIS said.

"Although six years have passed since the eruption of the global financial crisis, robust, self-sustaining growth still eludes the global economy", the report said.

"During this time, central banks in advanced economies have been forced to look for ways to increase their degree of accommodation. But central banks cannot solve the structural problems that are preventing a return to strong and sustainable growth."


The BIS said central bank action had borrowed "time for others to act, allowing them to repair balance sheets, to consolidate fiscal balances, and to enact reforms to restore productivity growth".

But Stephen Cecchetti, the head of the BIS monetary and economic department, said this had made it easy for the private sector to put off reforms and for governments to finance deficits more cheaply thanks to the low interest rates their actions had introduced.

Mr Cecchetti said central banks must return their focus to maintaining financial stability and encouraging reforms, rather than "retarding them with near-zero interest rates and purchases of ever larger quantities of government securities".

The BIS was founded in 1930 and is the world's oldest international financial institution.

Its 60-strong membership includes the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the US Federal Reserve, the People's Bank of China and the Bank of Japan.

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