DUBLIN (Reuters) - The head of Europe’s largest specialist aviation finance firm has criticised plans by the European Central Bank to inject tens of billions of euros into the eurozone economy, saying it could delay urgently needed reforms.
Aengus Kelly, chief executive of Amsterdam-based aircraft leasing company AerCap, warned that some companies would take unnecessary risks due to the flood of cheaper money while weaker ones would try to muddle through without restructuring.
“When money is too easy, people are going to take risks they shouldn’t take, not just in aircraft but in general,” Kelly told Reuters in an interview.
“I think it would be much better if rather than trying to paper over the fundamental issues, Europe tackled labour market reform and made it easier for people to manage their business.”
The ECB on Thursday unveiled large-scale quantitative easing (QE) - printing money to buy government bonds - despite concerns in Berlin that this could allow countries to slacken reforms.
Supporters say it will get credit flowing to boost growth.
Speeding up the economy tends to boost air traffic, but delegates at an aviation finance gathering in Dublin expressed concerns that low interest rates and a slump in oil prices could also encourage airlines to relax attempts to cut costs.
“There is easy money and so it kicks the can down the road,” Kelly said, speaking before the ECB confirmed its widely anticipated operation.
“Overall you feel that we just need some leadership: people who are prepared to say there are some hard decisions to be made and we are living beyond our means in many countries.”
Dublin-born Kelly, 41, said Ireland had shown that recovery was possible without such drastic measures.
“Ireland is one country which had no choice but to make difficult decisions ... It is still nursing its wounds but you can see the progress it has made,” he said.
While Ireland received an international bailout loan in 2010, it was refused permission by the ECB to force losses on some investors in crisis-hit banks. It remains home to a fast-growing aircraft finance industry, where AerCap, the world’s largest independent aircraft lessor, has most of its activities.
“In other European democracies, at the moment, there is a lot of wealth and so you can keep selling a bit of the farm every week. But eventually the farm will be gone if you don’t tackle the fundamental issues,” Kelly said.
Additional reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Vincent Baby