December 8, 2014 / 11:34 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 3-Polish central banker exposes internal rifts over rate policy

* Rate-setter alleges bank censors his views

* He says bank may be violating its own statute

* Policy council is split over interest rates

* Rows make monetary policy difficult: economist (Adds comments from former rate-setters, background)

By Marcin Goettig and Christian Lowe

WARSAW, Dec 8 (Reuters) - A Polish central bank rate-setter accused his colleagues on Monday of censoring him, laying bare bitter divisions inside the bank that some in the market say harm its ability to set monetary policy in eastern Europe's biggest economy.

Andrzej Bratkowski said from now on he would publish his own, rival minutes of the bank's rate-setting meetings on his personal blog, and he said the bank may be breaking the law by refusing to cut interest rates.

The central bank's Monetary Policy Council has long struggled to find consensus among its 10 members - a task made harder this year when bank governor Marek Belka was secretly recorded making profane remarks about the council's members.

But Bratkowski's comments -- in which he also called his fellow council members' views on rates "irrational" and "a departure from reality" -- mark a worsening of the tensions.

"Nothing like this happens anywhere else in the region," said Peter Attard Montalto, emerging markets economist at Nomura. "It makes monetary policy very difficult."

The central bank, in a statement, said the minutes of meetings were agreed among rate-setters to reflect the consensus view, and members had the opportunity to present their own views in public if they wanted to.

The bank said the council assesses the economic situation on its merits, with members presenting their own arguments. "We do not see a change in this in the context of the statement of Dr. Andrzej Bratkowski," the bank said.

LAW BROKEN?

The council is split between those who want interest rate cuts to underpin the fragile economic recovery and stop a slide in consumer prices, and those who want the main rate left as it is, at 2.00 percent, or even raised.

The bank has kept its benchmark rate unchanged since October after cutting it by 275 basis points in total since late 2012 to spur the economy.

Bratkowski argued the key interest rate should be cut by 100 basis points. In his opinion, not cutting in the current circumstances would violate the Polish central bank law, which says keeping prices stable is the bank's main job.

Writing on his personal blog page, www.forward-looking.pl, Bratkowski said he was unhappy with the minutes of rate-setting meetings compiled by the bank.

"Lately the situation has got even worse, where -- despite previous undertakings -- my views have been censored by other members of the council."

"That is why I state that I will no longer take part in editing minutes of the discussions."

Jan Czekaj, who sat on the council from 2003 until 2010, told Reuters that members used to have heated debates for hours but would still work out an agreement.

"The meetings are for discussion and not for becoming offended with each other," he said.

Another former member, Halina Wasilewska-Trenkner, said during her time rate-setters adhered to common rules of conduct. Asked why the council now struggled to reach a consensus, she said she could only offer her hypothesis: "Perhaps we had fewer complexes."

In June, Poland's Wprost news magazine published a recording of Belka in the private room of a Warsaw restaurant talking to Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, who was interior minister at the time.

On the tapes, Belka can be heard using an expletive to describe the council as a potential obstacle to his plans. He then tells Sienkiewicz: "But we are able to play with it." The recording also had Belka making disparaging personal remarks about rate-setter Jerzy Hausner.

Belka, who sees scope for rate cuts, has since said he has effective working relations with all council members.

Belka himself acknowledged, in an interview with Reuters last month, that he could not bring all the council members round to his way of thinking on interest rates.

"We are now in a situation in which it is hard to define which way it will go," he said. (Additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Toby Chopra and Susan Fenton)

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