Ireland Nominates Lane for ECB to Succeed Chief Economist

(Bloomberg) -- Ireland put forward its central-bank Governor Philip Lane to become one of the European Central Bank’s top officials as the institution prepares to exit crisis-era stimulus.

The Irish finance ministry, at a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday, proposed that Lane join the ECB’s six-member Executive Board when Peter Praet’s eight-year term ends in May.

Should he win the post, he would likely also take on Praet’s role as chief economist, a powerful job that entails overseeing economic forecasts and writing policy recommendations.

Lane, 49, is a respected economist with a doctorate from Harvard University, and is widely considered the frontrunner for the job. He was nominated last year for the ECB vice presidency before the government withdrew his candidacy in support of Spain’s Luis de Guindos.

Ireland is the only founding euro member never to have had a board seat, and missed out on another high-level position last year when Deputy Governor Sharon Donnery unexpectedly lost her bid to lead the ECB’s bank-supervision arm.

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told reporters in Brussels that Lane is an “eminently qualified economist.” Asked whether the current position is the best fit, given that other ECB posts including the presidency will come up later this year, he said: “I believe this is the role Philip is best qualified for.”

While Lane is the first person to be nominated for the board post, he could yet run into opposition. Euro-zone finance ministers are poised to give governments until the end of the month to put forward names, with a final choice envisaged for mid-February.

No other candidatures were announced during Monday’s meeting of euro-area finance ministers, two people familiar with the matter said. This doesn’t exclude the possibility that other bids will be filed before the deadline expires at the end of the month.

The ECB capped its asset-purchase program last month and has signaled that it could start raising interest rates late this year, though most investors are betting the first hike will be pushed into 2020. Policy makers are due to meet on Thursday.

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