ECB's Lagarde says dissent among policymakers is healthyECB's Lagarde says dissent among policymakers is healthy
European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde addresses a news conference on the outcome of the meeting of the Governing Council, in Frankfurt

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Dissent on the European Central Bank executive board is normal and healthy, ECB president Christine Lagarde said on Monday amid a growing rift among policymakers, fuelled in part by commentary from board members.

Sources close to the discussion told Reuters earlier that there is growing tension at the bank over how to steer the economy through the pandemic, which could spill over into the public domain and endanger Lagarde’s hard-won peace.

“I’m not overly concerned about the fact that people can have slightly different views and opinions,” Lagarde said. “I’m more of a consensus builder but you can only build consensus if views are slightly different among members.”

“I don’t encourage massive dissent but I think that dissent and discussion are healthy amongst members of the Executive Board,” she told the European Parliament’s committee on economic and monetary affairs.

Some policymakers have been unhappy about comments from ECB board member Fabio Panetta, who recently said that the ECB should err on the side of doing too much rather than too little, and that since inflation was uncomfortably below the target a policy response may be necessary.

This went well beyond Lagarde’s wait-and-see message after the September policy meeting and was seen as stoking market expectations for further stimulus.

Panetta’s comments were then rebuffed by fellow board member Yves Mersch, who argued that the outlook has not changed and risks may have even receded.

(Reporting By Francesco Canepa and Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)