Draghi says “more ambitious” reforms needed in euro zone

ECB says it is “confident” about Spanish government’s ability to deliver

ECB President Mario Draghi at the press conference he held in Barcelona on Thursday. / ALBERTO ESTÉVEZ (EFE)

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday called for more “ambitious reforms” in the euro zone, an exhortation that might well apply to Spain, particularly as regards its efforts to strengthen its banking system and rein in the public deficit.

“We note that progress is being made in many countries, but several governments need to be more ambitious. Ensuring sound fiscal balances, financial stability and competitiveness in all euro-area countries is in our common interest,” the ECB chief said.

Draghi was speaking at a news conference after the ECB monthly monetary policy meeting had taken place in Barcelona, a city that was heavily policed yesterday in response to fears of further protests against the government’s spending cuts and tax hikes, which experts fear will fail to achieve the aim of cutting the budget deficit from 8.5 percent of GDP to 5.3 percent this year because the economy has already slipped back into recession. There were no serious incidents reported as students marched in the city against cutbacks in the education sector.

Asked on the need for growth, Draghi said: “I certainly agree with your question when you say we have to put growth back at the center of the agenda, without any contradiction with the need to persevere in fiscal consolidation.”

Speaking specifically about Spain, the ECB chief said he had “full confidence” in the Spanish government’s ability to cut the deficit and strengthen its banking system but in central-bank speak let it be known that he would like things to be speeded up. “The track record is good,” he said. “We have no doubt whatsoever that the action will be taken and will be as speedy and transparent as in other countries.”

As expected, the ECB left its key intervention rate on hold at 1 percent, but did not rule out further easing. “The economic outlook continues to be subject to downside risks,” he said.

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