Biggest Polish Rate Hawk Says June Hike Needed to Stem Inflation
Poland should swiftly raise interest rates from a record low to curb surging inflation, according to the central bank’s most outspoken hawk.
Eugeniusz Gatnar, a member of the 10-strong Monetary Policy Council, said the bank should stop worrying only about economic growth and return to its primary focus of price stability. In what would be the European Union’s first interest-rate increase since the pandemic, he recommends a 10 to 15 basis-point hike next month.
The MPC “can no longer afford to watch growing prices passively,” Gatnar said Wednesday in an interview. “Normalization doesn’t mean a return to higher rates only, but also a clear signal that the council’s focus is being shifted from gross domestic product to inflation.”
Gatnar is a minority voice on the MPC, where Governor Adam Glapinski’s call for stable rates through mid-2022 to underpin the economic recovery is prevailing. But he echoes the concerns of nearby nations like the Czech Republic, which is also mulling a rate hike in the coming months to tackle soaring prices. Poland last raised its benchmark rate, which has been at 0.1% for the past 12 months, in 2012.
Read more: Economy More Important ‘Than Anything’ for Polish Central Banker
Polish inflation has jumped to a one-year high, surpassing the upper limit of the 1.5%-3.5% target range. It’s likely to continue accelerating and may reach 5% in June, according to Gatnar, who sees a variety of factors at work:
- Vaccines are helping the economy bounce back
- Huge fiscal support from the government that will soon be enhanced by billions of euros of EU stimulus
- A weaker zloty boosting imported fuel and energy costs
- Higher service prices as companies try to compensate for lockdowns
- Upward wage pressure amid low unemployment
- The start of a consumer rebound after months of restrictions on retail
For Gatnar, there’s already sufficient evidence the economy is back on a growth path, and the central bank should raise this year’s average inflation forecast from 4.2%, which he deems “too cautious.” First-quarter GDP data due Friday are likely to show a 1.1% advance from the previous three months, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts.
When greeted with rising prices on their return to everyday shopping, Poles will come to see inflation as more important than economic expansion, Gatnar said. To maintain support for growth, he recommends continuing quantitative easing beyond the first rate hike -- unlike Glapinski -- and until EU stimulus money starts to arrive.
“We should change our rhetoric as soon as possible by stressing that with the economy returning to normal, monetary policy should actually do the same,” he said.
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