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ECB must try harder

In the six months since taking over as its president, Mario Draghi has done much to restore the ECB's battered reputation. He quickly undid the misguided interest rate increases of his predecessor Jean-Claude Trichet and, by unleashing €1 trillion of emergency liquidity, staved off a eurozone banking crisis that had the potential to destroy the entire single currency experiment.

That's the good news. The bad news is that most of the European economy remains mired in deep recession. Indeed, such is the depth of the slump that many peripheral eurozone economies are experiencing something close to a 1930s-style depression. While the measures taken by Mr Draghi since last November may have prevented things from getting even worse they are still very, very bad.

Yesterday, Mr Draghi missed the opportunity to provide some much-needed stimulus to the eurozone's weaker economies when he left official ECB interest rates unchanged at 1pc. This was a serious mistake. He should have followed the example of the United States Federal Reserve and the Bank of England which have reduced their official interest rates to 0.25pc and 0.5pc respectively. Merely leaving official ECB rates unchanged was not enough.

Of course Mr Draghi is hamstrung by the ECB's flawed architecture and the determined opposition of Germany's Bundesbank, the central bank of the eurozone's largest economy, to anything resembling the quantitative easing (basically printing money) that has been practised by both the Fed and the Bank of England. Indeed it could be argued that, given the constraints that have been imposed upon him, what Mr Draghi has achieved in such a short period of time is remarkable.

Unfortunately it hasn't been enough. With one in four of all Spanish workers now jobless, it is becoming clear that we are rapidly approaching the political limits of austerity. To say, as Mr Draghi did yesterday, that it was possible for eurozone member countries to cut spending even further without impacting on economic growth was at best misguided.

Over two-and-a-half years into the euro crisis it should be obvious that unless the eurozone economies can be made to grow once again then there is no way that they can begin to reduce their indebtedness and budget deficits. Without growth the situation will get worse rather than better -- no matter how severe the public spending cuts and tax increases.

While one can have no objections to Mr Draghi's assertion that "we have to put growth back at the centre of the agenda", actions speak louder than words. The ECB must do more to help revive Europe's faltering economies.