As the European Central Bank (ECB) gears up for a meeting in Malta on Thursday, the country’s finance minister told CNBC that euro zone officials need to do more than pay “lip-service” to growth and competitiveness in the 19-country region.
“At the moment the Eurogroup (of finance ministers) is being taken up with banking regulation and international taxation issues and so on and I’m not sure how good we are at multi-tasking. Therefore growth and competitiveness is still being paid lip-service,” Edward Scicluna told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange” on Wednesday.
Those subjects are expected to top the agenda of the ECB’s next monetary policy meeting, however, which is being held in Malta rather than Frankfurt this month. Specific ally, whether the bank needs to increase its 1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) bond-buying program which it launched in March will be a particular talking point.
Speculation over the possibility of an increase in the program comes after one of the bank’s governing council members, Ewald Nowotny, said the ECB was clearly missing its inflation target (of below, but close to, 2 percent over the medium term) and that additional instruments would be needed.
The euro zone is currently in deflation territory showing that it could do with more of a helping hand from the bank.
The euro zone consumer price index (CPI) fell 0.1 percent in September from a year earlier, falling below zero for the first time since March – when the ECB launched its massive asset-purchase program designed to fuel inflation and growth. It was hope that a weakened euro, as a result, would also help to make exports more competitive.
“Unfortunately the latest statistics show that deflation is still on in many countries and one is not so comfortable with that. We can’t say that for our island, we’ve got the highest (inflation) rate at 1.6 percent which reflects the strong growth of the economy,” Scicluna said.