independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Scandinavian Central Bank brain tells some cold truths

Lars Frisell, the Central Bank's new chief economist, published a sombre review of the economy yesterday.

The semi-annual Macro-Financial Review does not have signed articles, but the tone is markedly more downbeat than the last review, which was released in May before Dr Frisell moved here from Sweden, where he worked at the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority.

The Central Bank doesn't usually do pessimism. No matter how bad things are, the bank almost always seems to be predicting higher growth in the years ahead.

There have been reasons to be cheerful of late. The appetite for Irish debt has been robust, while employment and consumer demand appear to have stabilised at very low levels. The euro also looks more secure than usual.

Despite these green shoots, there are also many reasons to be very afraid.

Mr Frisell and his team have done us some service by reminding us that we have a long way to go before we can repeat Sweden's success and put this recession behind us.

The Central Bank may not be used to such directness but it can hardly be surprised.

Dr Frisell has form; he warned last year that Sweden's banks needed to "do more" to improve their funding profile – comments that prompted the Swedish Central Bank's deputy governor Lars Nyberg to publicly reassure markets that Sweden's banks weren't facing a liquidity crisis.

Clearly, Dr Frisell is a man who has no problem speaking his mind.

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