tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg November 28, 2021 2:00pm-2:30pm EST
this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. i started interviewing. i have learned from doing my interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked how much he wanted, he said 250. i did not negotiate. >> you don't feel inadequate now as the second wealthiest man in the world, right?
when angela merkel was looking for someone new to head the european central bank, she recruited christine lagarde, then the head of the european monetary fund. as the head of the central bank, christine lagarde has had an enormous impact on how the european union and global economy moves forward. i had a conversation with her on how europe is recovering from the global pandemic and the slowdown in the economy. as we now look at the post-covid environment, but would you say is the situation in europe? is europe recovering more rapidly, or not quite as rapidly as you thought from the covid pandemic? ms. lagarde: europe is recovering more rapidly than we had anticipated, and we have significantly upgraded our projections. our projection for this year is +5%, a significant upgrade. +4.6% next year.
this year is certainly going faster than we had thought, to the point where we would have recovered to pre-covid-19 levels before the end of the year 2021. we had anticipated it would be early 2022 at best. david: are you worried about the delta variant impacting what you just said, or the so-called mu variant, something now on the horizon? ms. lagarde: it is related. we are in a situation where vaccination matters enormously. on that front, europe has done quite well. we have over 70% of the adult population that is completely vaccinated in the euro area, and
some countries are in excess of 80%. that has been a significant boost for growth and has helped governments not go back to these stringent containment measures we had seen previously. david: during covid, were you working remotely, running the bank from one of your homes or from a home somewhere, or were you going into the office? ms. lagarde: i spent quite a few weeks stuck in my frankfurt department during the first wave of covid. the very sizable package we put together for monetary policy purposes was engineered around my kitchen table. subsequently, when things were more flexible and we could move out, i went to the office a bit.
but the by default solution is remote working still today, and probably until the end of january, and then we will see. david: you should take that kitchen table and move it to your office. it was very productive, right? post-covid, do you expect europeans will go back to work at the same levels before in terms of going to work five days a week, or will people work four days a week, one day remotely, or just four days of work? ms. lagarde: first, we should acknowledge that there are people who do not have the luxury of choice. their physical presence is required. you think about hospital staff, construction workers, some people working in shops. they have to be on site and showing up. in offices, i think we are heading towards the hybrid movement where part of the week
will be spent in the office so that people can hold regular meetings and have face-to-face contact, but the rest of the week will likely be working from home. whether it is 50%, 50%, 40%-60%, it is up debate and should be handled that company levels, i suppose, because most of the legal restraints have been lifted. but people have learned during the pandemic, and those learnings will be bundled in and used for the future. david: around the kitchen table we just made famous, you put together a package that was designed to solve economic problems as it dealt with covid. in hindsight, would you say the packets worked as well as you thought, not as well, or better than you thought?
ms. lagarde: when we put it together, we were hopeful it would work, but the truth of the pudding is in the eating. it was a matter of days before we really appreciated the message was received. fiscal authorities began to act in tandem and good coordination. i think the impact of next-generation eu, when all the europeans decided to go on board together jointly, this entire package actually responded well and fast and big to the unbelievable crisis situation we faced. all in all, i think it works well, and we responded better than we had in 2008 and 2011 in the european sovereign debt crisis. david: in the united states -- i cite the united states all the time, but it is the country i am
most familiar with -- we had challenges during covid where people who were minorities, often women, people of low income strata, they could not get access to broadband, and they had childcare problems and so forth, and it was thought that they fell further and further behind. did you find the same phenomenon in europe? ms. lagarde: this has been the case in europe as well, where inequalities in terms of opportunities, in terms of facilities, have been aggravated and probably exacerbated by covid-19 for the reasons you mentioned. the people most had by the pandemic were women, young people, people on fixed contracts, and those were more remote from work than the others. if you look at those who lost their jobs, it is predominantly women and young people in particular, in disproportionate amounts relative to the others.
â david: as you look at the european economy today, what would you say its single biggest challenge is and single biggest opportunity is? ms. lagarde: the challenge is to implement. implementation sometimes is hard. the second difficult area that will need to be tackled is the issue of inequality, because covid-19 has aggravated inequalities. the third is climate change, where we will have to transition probably faster than we think, which will imply transition costs, which will imply a change in the overall structure of our economies. i would say those three -- implementation, inequality, and climate change. david: what has been the impact on the european central bank and the european economy, if any, on brexit? is it as bad as some predicted, or better than people thought? what would you say? ms. lagarde: the conclusion varies depending on which side of the channel you are on. from our perspective, it is a sad development, and we are in excellent cooperation with the bank of finland. we try to continue to maintain a good relationship because we have lots of links between us. but in terms of trade, it has
been certainly a loss for the u.k., more so than for europe. at this point in time, europe is coming out of the crisis without flying colors yet, because a lot of work needs to be done, but more strongly than we had expected. the u.k. is having a more difficult time at the moment. david: a part of the way you helped you with the situation in europe does covid was that you had the package that you referred to, a very large package, financial stability package, but that package really involves countries borrowing money against their own abilities to pay it back. you are not a guarantor, but you are making certain that they will not default. are you worried about too much debt among european countries, france, germany, or italy, or is that not a big problem right now?
ms. lagarde: i think all countries around the world increased and had to increase their debt relative to gdp. when you have this high debt increase and a big fall in gdp, you end up with ratios that look higher and are higher than what they experienced before, but there was no choice but to do that. had it not happened, i think the story of the pandemic would have been a lot worse than we have seen. now it is a question of directing the financing to the right investment, making sure the economies bounce back in the right shape with the right structural reforms that will improve the productivity of those economies, then will position them to be more digital and to be greener. i believe the next-generation eu, which was voted a year ago
now, is going to help with making countries better converge and reduce the gap that existed between some of the southern european countries and the northern european countries, but it has been the intention. david: you said you would like to have a goal, a target, of 2% inflation. why has it been so difficult to get to that level in europe, and how confident are you that you can get to 2%? ms. lagarde: there are several reasons for that, david, but certainly what we decided to do was to have a target which was simple, which was easy to understand, that was focused on the medium-term. instead of having that complicated close to below 2%,
which was uncertain and fuzzy and included an implied bias, we decided we would go for something straightforward, simple, 2%, 2% symmetric. any indication up or down from 2% equally desirable. that is what we agreed on. and we are on this medium-term, which matters most, because we are concerned about inflation expectations. that decision was convincing enough so that markets and analysts and observers have appreciated that we are serious, we mean business. we want 2%. there are a lot of sovereignties around the lower bound which leads to us having a more full
response in some instances, but we need 2%. david: hundreds of central banks have issued currency used to buy things, sell things, and so forth, and to price assets. now some people have come along and invented cryptocurrencies. central banks are trying to adjust what that means for them. do you think cryptocurrencies are a plus for the global economy, or is it too early to tell? ms. lagarde: crypto's are not currencies. cryptos are highly volatile assets. i think we have to distinguish between crypto's that are highly speculative, suspicious occasionally, and high intensity
in terms of energy consumption. they are not a currency. on the other hand, you have stable coins that are beginning to proliferate, which some big techs are trying to push along the way, which are a different animal and need to be regulated. there has to be oversight that corresponds to the business they are conducting, irrespective of how they name themselves. and you have the central banks, powered by demand of customers to produce something that will make the central bank and central-bank currencies fit for the century we are in, which is why we are looking at cbdc, central-bank digital currencies. instead of having banks put cash in our pockets, we can have
exactly the same thing but in a digital form. all of us are working on this, and we are looking to push the cbdc issue on our agenda. david: if the ecb were to have a digital currency, would that be to the exclusion of paper currencies, or would it be side-by-side? ms. lagarde: side-by-side, because we want customers to have their preference. if they still want to hold banknotes in cash, fine, and it should continue to be available. david: at this point in your life, do you feel discrimination to you in your professional life as a woman? ms. lagarde: it is difficult to discriminate against me, but i am aware of discriminations against many women in all parts of the world.
â david: in recent years, the central bank has been worried about something called climate change. you are making comments about it. why should central makers be worried about climate change? is that within your purview? ms. lagarde: to me, it is a no-brainer consideration. think about it. drought. famine. pandemic. floods. massive fires. all of that is going to have an impact on prices, hence on inflation, on price stability. you look at risks, not only do we talk about assets, but we have to talk about the transition costs that many
companies are going to face in order to move from the business today to how they should conduct their business tomorrow. david: historically, ceo's have just worried about their shareholders. increasingly, some ceo's are dealing with public policy issues. should ceo's be talking about climate change or gender discrimination, or should they stick to worrying about stockholder returns? ms. lagarde: i think they should worry about all the matters you have discussed. corporates are not a physical person, but they are acting in people's lives and in the environment. they should care, and more and more of them actually do, which is good.
â david: you served two terms as head of the imf, and you could have served another term if you wanted. how do you compare the pleasure of running the imf with the pleasure of running the european central bank? is one less enjoyable, or are they basically both great jobs and you are happy you had both of them? ms. lagarde: i am extremely privileged to have had the roles i have had with the imf. we saw each other quite often in those days, and you know how much i put my heart, brain, and whole energy into the job, and have enjoyed it tremendously. i am doing the same thing with the ecb. in times where you see geopolitical opposition, in times where you see energy withdrawn behind borders, it is important to unite and bring consensus to the table and to
convince people that what we are doing together united is going to be stronger than but we will do individually in our little corners. i am enjoying what i do. it is hard, but i enjoy it. david: when you were the head of the imf, you were the first woman to hold that position. now you are the first woman to hold the position of the head of the european central bank. you are also the first woman to head your law firm, a large international law firm. at this point in your life, do you feel discrimination against you in your professional life as a woman, or do you think discrimination has generally receded against women in the professional workplace? ms. lagarde: i think discrimination has not receded, david. i don't want to take my personal situation, because when you have traveled the journey i have, it is difficult to hold open discrimination against me, let's face it.
but i am very much aware of discrimination against many women, many young women, many women in all parts of the world, and i am particularly thinking of the afghan women at the moment, who clearly are suffering the worst possible nightmare and setback in their lives. it is a constant struggle. it should be a constant fight of all of us to make sure that everybody has a chance to develop their activity in the way they want. this is certainly not the case yet. when i sit at my governing council table and i look around, i see 23 men and one woman, in addition to me. two to 23 is not a good ratio, and in the finance world, i do not know whether you would call
it discrimination, but there is certainly a disparity between men and women. if you look at the venture capital world, it is the same. if you look at ceos of large international banks, it is the same. if you look at parliament, you have a much lower representation of women and all women in society. something is not working. david: central bankers are famous for not talking in language that the average person can understand, generally. sometimes they have done that on purpose. you talk in a language that everyone seems to understand. it is very simple. is that a conscious policy you have, making what you are doing understandable to the average person? ms. lagarde: yes. it is extremely important that people understand what we are doing. a lot has to do with trust. if somebody talks to you in a completely obscure language, how are you going to trust that person? to me, it is critically
important to agree with the governing council members that we will communicate in a more understandable, clearer and simpler way. after each governing council, we implement a monetary policy statement where we commit to keeping sentences short, to have one idea in a sentence, to make sure the words that we use are understandable by you, of course, but a normal person as well. we measure that and try to stick to those principles, and we will be held accountable. david: do you think your ability to do that, and the federal reserve chairman, jay powell, is interested in that as well -- both of you are trained as lawyers, and i am trained as a lawyer too -- do you think there is a future for central bankers to be lawyers, and there is some hope for me to be a central banker someday, or not really?
ms. lagarde: i strongly believe in diversity, david. diversity is not all to do with gender, with minorities, with sexual orientation or whatever. it also has to do with the background, with the training, with the culture you carry with you. to bring it all together around the table with diversity, in my view, improves the quality of the decisions we make. i have learned a lot from my colleagues. david: two final questions. one, i would like to know, what is the pleasure of being the head of the central bank? you obviously have to work seven days a week. he did that for many years in your career. what is the pleasure you get out of heading the european central bank?
ms. lagarde: it is the same kind of pleasure i take in leading other organizations, making sure that other people around me are doing the best they can for the organization, delivering on their mission, and that we form a team heading in the same direction. that, to me, means an awful lot. david: my final question, you wean your youth were a synchronized swimmer, where you have to work closely with teammates and have to get everything together quite nicely. is it the case that when you do the central banking role, you have to have the same skill set? you have all these central bankers of each country that you have to get to work together. do you think your synchronized swimming skills come together to help you as the head of the european central bank? ms. lagarde: yes. in synchronized swimming, if each individual's brilliance,