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The European Central Bank should keep some of the flexibility embedded in its pandemic pond-buying program for post-crisis stimulus measures, Governing Council member Ignazio Visco said.

“I think flexibility should remain -- we certainly have to discuss how to adjust our purchase programs,” the Bank of Italy governor said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “It will help against unexpected shocks, and it will help to avoid fragmentation that may rise again.”

Visco’s comments add to an intensifying debate on the design of the ECB’s post-crisis policies. With consumer prices in the euro area increasing at an annual pace of 3.4% -- far faster than the institution’s 2% goal -- officials face a tricky decision on what next steps to take if pandemic bond buying ends as planned in March. 

Many policy makers including Visco have dismissed the recent spike as largely transitory, but some have started to warn that inflation could become more entrenched if it stokes higher wages. That’s leading to a rift within the Governing Council on how supportive the central bank’s post-Covid policies should be. 

Last week, French colleague Francois Villeroy de Galhau suggested the ECB should consider keeping some of the flexibility of its pandemic bond-buying program as a “contingent option” for future asset purchases. Others, including Belgium’s Pierre Wunsch and Estonia’s Madis Muller, have expressed reluctance on tweaking their regular tools.

Visco said that one option cited by the Financial Times over the weekend -- raising the share of European Union-issued debt that can be bought -- is “something that we may end up doing,” but still needs to be discussed.

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