European Officials Play the Blame Game

We’re nearing the end of 2011, but sadly, it looks like European officials aren’t making any progress in finding a solution to the ongoing debt crisis. In fact, it seems that the tension is getting on everyone’s nerves as officials are starting to play the blame game and point fingers at each other.

On one hand, newly appointed ECB President Mario Draghi has been pushing European governments to put on their work boots and finally begin implementing the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF).

When you think about it, Draghi does have a point. The EFSF has actually been in the pipeline for quite some time now, with little concrete steps being taken to implement it.

It was created over a year and a half ago, and since then, the euro zone has voted to guarantee the entire fund, as well as to maximize its impact through leverage. Currently, European officials want to strengthen the EFSF, and they have given themselves until December to do so. The problem is that rising borrowing costs (via higher yields) and the lack of investor interest are delaying any progress.

This has irked Draghi and the rest of the European Central Bank (ECB), who feel that if European governments are going to talk-the-talk, they should be ready to walk-the-walk as well. Draghi says that government officials have failed to get the program rolling and that the time to act is now.

However, Draghi and the ECB have been on the receiving end of criticism as well. Euro zone officials from Greece and France have been pointing fingers at the central bank, calling for it to step up and play a bigger role in resolving the debt crisis.

What these governments want is for the ECB to bump up its bond purchases in the secondary market and adopt a policy of quantitative easing. Apparently, these governments aren’t alone in their stance either.

In a recent survey conducted among bond strategists in Europe and the U.S., a whopping 48% said that the ECB will have no choice but to take on quantitative easing, just as the Fed and the Bank of England have done.

So how has the ECB responded to all of this pressure? Well, basically by saying “That’s not our job!” The ECB believes that adopting quantitative easing would be going beyond or possibly even AGAINST its mandate of delivering price stability. Remember, euro zone inflation, which is currently hanging at 3.0%, is still well above the ECB’s 2.0% target ceiling.

My take on all of this is that pointing fingers doesn’t bring us any closer to finding a resolution. Not only is it a fruitless act, but it also shows the markets the European officials are confused and desperate, which doesn’t exactly help market confidence.

Besides, at this point in time, I think the situation has become so grave that it will take a concerted effort to shore up the euro zone.

With the clock ticking, Europe can’t afford to keep going on like this. Someone will need to bite the bullet, man up, and get the ball rolling. Will it be the ECB?