Germany warns on 'crisis after crisis'
By Bertrand Benoit in Berlin, 12 Apr 2009 10:57pm
The world could face high inflation and a "crisis after the crisis" when the global economy recovers, Peer Steinbrück, German finance minister, has warned.
The comments, in a weekend interview, are the latest sign of concern from Germany at the extra-loose monetary policies conducted by central banks around the world and the ever-larger fiscal stimuli being unveiled by governments.
"I am concerned that the countermeasures we are seeing around the world, financed by enormous amounts of debts, could be paving the road to the next crisis," Mr Steinbrück told Bild, a tabloid daily.
"So much money is being pumped into the market that capital markets could easily become overwhelmed, resulting in a global period of inflation in the recovery.
Mr Steinbrück's warning comes after Angela Merkel, chancellor, told the Financial Times last month that pumping too much money into reviving global growth would create an unstable recovery.
German officials fear the liquidity being injected into financial markets could prove difficult to reabsorb, creating long-term inflationary pressure and, possibly, new asset price bubbles. "We do not have a short-term inflation problem," Mr Steinbrück said. "But in the medium term we must start thinking about how to pull the billions we are pumping into our economies out of the system again. This will be a special challenge for the central banks, including for the European Central Bank."
Because of its strong reliance on exports, the German economy has been one of the worst affected in Europe by the global economic downturn. It is set to shrink by 4.5-7 per cent this year and statistics published last week showed Germany had its lowest inflation in 11 years.
Peter Bofinger, one of the five top academics who advise the government on economic policy and, like Mr Steinbrück, a member of the Social Democratic party, said that Berlin's concerns about inflation were unwarranted. "Germany faces no risk of inflation for the foreseeable future. On the contrary, I see a clear danger of deflation," he told the Handelsblatt.com website.
Rising unemployment in the coming months would put wages under pressure, said Prof Bofinger, creating a potential downward spiral in wages and prices. Asked about how to fight the crisis, Mr Steinbrück conceded that there were "no intelligent alternatives" to higher public investments programmes. Unlike in the US, he said, there were no signs yet the German economy had turned the corner. "We are not through yet. Nobody can say if the worst is behind us."
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