Draghi Laments That No Matter What, Some Critics Won't Listen

(Bloomberg) -- Few things get under the skin of Mario Draghi more than the constant barrage of criticism that meets his stimulus policies in Germany, the country where the European Central Bank is based.

Asked about those attacks on Tuesday in Frankfurt -- as he hosted Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney in a discussion on communication -- the ECB president shrugged, and blamed the national press.

“There are some newspapers which have been shielded from international scrutiny because they’ve been using their domestic language and they’ve been sending constantly the same message for years and years and years -- no matter what the reality was. And so the readers of this newspaper, if they have no other access to any other sources of information think that reality is one color while it’s a different color.”

German publications have long lambasted the ECB for quantitative easing and negative rates -- policies they see as expropriating savings -- but they’re not alone. The panel moderator, David Wessel of The Brookings Institution, also cited Draghi’s homeland of Italy which has pushed back against actions by the ECB’s bank-supervision arm.

When pressed to identify the media culprits, Draghi diplomatically declined, and said the only option is simply to stay on message.

“That is a fact of nature. There’s nothing you can do about that other than continuing to send a message that you think is right, that reflects reality, to be transparent, and use all possible channels.”

The panel accepted that some criticism can be precious. Fed Chair Yellen said a healthy debate is important for effective policy making and to avoid “group-think.”

At the same event, Bank for International Settlements research head Hyun Song Shin said that in the age of enhanced communication and accountability, central bankers should make sure they don’t forget to listen -- even if they don’t like what they hear.

“They could find themselves in an echo chamber of their own making, acting on market signals that are echoes of their own pronouncements.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.