The European Central Bank (ECB) appointed, on 3 January, Belgian national Peter Praet as chief economist. Benoit Coeure (France) and Jorg Asmussen (Germany), who were appointed to the ECB board at the start of the week, had both been seen as prospective appointees.

"Mr Peter Praet will be responsible for economics, human resources, budget and organisation and the Target2 Securities programme," reads an ECB statement on the distribution of responsibilities among members of the Executive Board. It is the chief economist who submits a monthly proposal on key rates to the board (which adopts the final decision as a body) and who validates the ECB's economic projections.

Praet, aged 62, an economist born in Germany, has spent most of his career in Belgium. He was director of the Belgian central bank for ten years before joining the ECB board in June 2011. Considerably older than both Coeure and Asmussen, (42 and 45, respectively), Praet has lengthy experience in monetary policy. His predecessor as chief economist, Jurgen Stark, resigned last year to signal his disagreement with the ECB's policy of buying bonds issued by indebted states, officially with the aim of guaranteeing the effectiveness of its monetary policy.

The ECB clearly opted for a candidate it considers competent, Stefen Schilbe, of HSBC bank, told French news agency AFP. Although France and Germany may feel snubbed because their candidates were passed over, economists are...

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