The anticipation surrounding Mark Carney's installation as the new Governor of the Bank of England is nearing fever pitch, despite the fact that he does not take over until July. It can only be hoped, then, that the Canadian central banker's measured tone at the Treasury Committee hearing will allay the absurd impression that he has easy answers to Britain's economic problems. And it is a message to be heeded by the Chancellor as much as anyone.
Since the announcement of his appointment, in November, Mr Carney has cemented his reputation as something of a radical. He has talked warmly of monetary policy being far from "maxed out", hinted at a role for measures more unconventional even than quantitative easing, and gone so far as to suggest that the Bank's inflation target might be replaced by one focused on GDP growth. For George Osborne, desperate to kick-start the economy yet constrained by politics and debt, such talk is music to the ears. Indeed, given Mr Carney's recent comment that the role of monetary policy is to "ensure economies reach escape velocity", is it any wonder that the Chancellor hails him as "quite simply the best, most experienced and most qualified person in the world to do the job"?
Despite – or perhaps because of – all the fanfare, the Canadian played his cards carefully. He stressed that the existing system targeting inflation is still "the most effective monetary policy framework implemented thus far". He also played down expectations of sudden, radical change, while acknowledging that high-level talks were taking place.
The more sober tone is welcome. There is, of course, room for discussion of both the extent to which the Bank's goals are the right ones and of the use of monetary policy to stimulate growth. But there is no simple answer to Britain's stumbling economy, and no lever in Threadneedle Street just waiting to be pulled. Much as the Chancellor might want to share the load – and pass the buck – recovery still relies on the Treasury more than the Bank.
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