Vienna/Stockholm. It is China and the United States that are taking the fast path to the digital future. Europe hesitates, remains in its comfort zone. However, to make life easy between Lisbon and Riga, more risk would have to be taken, says Marcus Wallenberg in an interview with the "Wiener Zeitung". The Swedish banker and industrialist calls for a rethink, out of complacency, explains what the next steps could be:
"Wiener Zeitung": Mr. Wallenberg, Mario Draghi's term as President of the European Central Bank (ECB) will end soon. He has never raised interest rates in the euro area during these eight years. Was this right way to go?
Marcus Wallenberg: Mario Draghi has focused on creating stability after the financial crisis. He succeeded. It is difficult to say whether, during his term of office, it would not have been possible to raise interest rates. These extremely low interest rates are definitely very unusual.
Should he have raised interest rates?
The low interest rates may have been a suitable remedy against the financial crisis, but they also carry a risk. Because low interest rates lead to a low value of the currency, which increases the export rates. However, it is often forgotten that productivity must then be increased in order to remain competitive.
The US Federal Reserve has recently lowered its interest rates. Is economic growth still a benchmark for a successful economy?
I think so. But these are very unusual times. We live in a time of upheaval, the digital transformation. In order for Europe not to be left behind, we need to find a way for investments to flow back into the system. Otherwise, it will get difficult in global competition. Without investing in the future, we lose competitiveness. There are many areas to invest in: green infrastructure, green innovation, etc.
How will the digital transformation change the European ecosystem? Will many jobs be lost?
Well, many new jobs will be created. We (Wallenberg Foundation) have set up a research programme on artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and software. From studies we know that many of today's jobs are being replaced. It is therefore necessary that we retrain people so that they can get along in this new digital world so that they can be productive. That's a big hassle, but it's doable.