BOE Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent has apologized for the latest central bank fiasco, this time during an interview with the Telegraph, when he describing the U.K. economy as "menopausal."
The 53-year-old central banker has been branded a sexist by some after the interview infuriated political commentators and journalists. The deputy governor said "I’m sorry for my poor choice of language in an interview with the Telegraph yesterday and regret the offence caused, I was explaining the meaning of the word "climacteric", a term used by economic historians to describe a period of low productivity growth during the 19th century. Economic productivity is something which affects every one of us, of all ages and genders."
In the interview, Broadbent ran into trouble when trying to describe how the U.K. may be between productive phases, something that last happened in the late Victorian era. He said that the phrase “climacteric” means “menopausal but it applies to both genders.”
Tangentially, he also said, “I once got an economist to explain the origins of the word ‘climacteric.’ As soon as he started talking to all these middle-aged men about how it means you’re past your peak and you’re no longer so potent, they all said: ‘We understand.’”
That, however, wasn’t enough to save him from the headline splash that the U.K. economy is “menopausal” because it’s past its productive potential.
Broadbent's remarks sparked complaints about sexism and ageism. On Twitter, Conservative lawmaker Claire Perry said that she “can’t be the only 50+ woman objecting to Ben Broadbent’s pejorative description of the U.K. economy as ‘menopausal.’ I’ve never been more productive! How about ‘andropausal’ instead? Then you get declining potency and bonus grumpiness thrown in!”
I can’t be the only 50+ woman objecting to Ben Broadbent’s pejorative description of the U.K. economy as ‘menopausal’. I’ve never been more productive! How about ‘andropausal’ instead? Then you get declining potency and bonus grumpiness thrown in! https://t.co/DGFwmsRTDm— Claire Perry (@claireperrymp) May 16, 2018
As Bloomberg adds, the timing was "unfortunate" for the BOE, coming two days after Governor Mark Carney hosted a conference on diversity in central banking. They follow a slew of criticism over the bank’s messaging on monetary policy, which dominated Carney’s interest-rate press conference last week.
The snafu may cloud Broadbent’s future at the centuries-old central bank. In a recent Bloomberg survey of economists, he was seen as the second-favorite, behind FCA chief Andrew Bailey, to succeed Carney at the top of bank next year.
Broadbent, the longest-serving MPC member, was educated at Cambridge and Harvard, and worked previously at the U.K. Treasury. Most importantly, he has that most important pre-requisite needed for every successful central banker: to have worked at Goldman Sachs at some point in his career. His current term expires in June 2019.
It’s not the first time a BOE official has landed himself in hot water during a newspaper interview. In 2016, Chief Economist Andy Haldane sparked controversy when he suggested in an interview with the Sunday Times that buying a home was a better investment than a pension.
That said, apart from the poor choice of words, Broadbent is hardly wrong, as growth in the UK has been sluggish and Broadbent gave the interview after BoE official figures noted that productivity fell 0.5% in the first three months of 2018, at a time when employment figures in the UK hit a fresh high but growth slowed to just 0.1%.
Meanwhile, the BoE seems to be becoming a laughing stock at the moment with Governor Carney being brandished as "the unreliable boyfriend" and now his right hand man Broadbent has just all he could to further sink the credibility of the UK central bank.
Finally, as Bloomberg's Richard Breslow writes in an amusing tangent this morning:
"It’s a shame that the unfortunate comments by BOE Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent in trying to explain “climacteric” are getting all of the headlines. His other statement from yesterday’s Telegraph interview was the important one. He said that the Bank won’t continuously “spoon feed” traders on the state of play of interest rates and their timing. And they should stop whinging about that. He isn’t suggesting this as a pedagogic device. Rather to explain that everyone is looking at the same numbers and the situation is fluid. It’s true for central bankers and investors the world over. This is something everyone needs to keep in mind when forecasting the next market moves and while resisting the temptation to extrapolate things ad infinitum."