Greek central bank chief sees QE participation at end of 2016

ProtoThema / Bank of Greece

Reuters — Greece expects to take part in the European Central Bank’s bond-buying program at the end of the year, Greek Central Bank Governor Yannis Stournaras said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday.

Participation in the ECB’s massive quantitative easing (QE) scheme would mark another key step toward normalizing Greece’s battered economy, which remains in recession, weighed down by capital controls and austerity measures linked to its third multi-billion euro bailout program.

“Realistically, I could see something like that at the end of the year,” Stournaras, who is also a member of the ECB’s Governing Council, was quoted as telling Avgi newspaper.

“Most of the governors wish to see a sustainability analysis for the Greek debt first,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we have to wait for the Eurogroup to do it. The ECB can do the debt analysis.”

About 35 billion euros in Greek debt would be eligible for the eurozone’s central bank purchase program. The bulk of the remaining 290 billion in sovereign debt is held by its official lenders.

The ECB reinstated Greek banks’ access to cheap funding operations last moth after more than a year on an emergency lifeline.

The banks lost their access to the ECB’s regular funding operations early last year when Greece came close to being ejected from the eurozone.

Greek banks saw a 42 billion euro deposit outflow from December to July last year. Capital controls imposed on June 28 helped contain the flight.

Referring to the relaxation of capital controls, which limit cash withdrawals to 420 euros per week, Stournaras said the next step would be to free up transactions for “new money” entering the banking system.

“What applies to money from abroad will (also) apply to the money that is being kept under mattresses,” he said.