Archive for October 8th, 2007

Monetary Policy a science or art?

October 8, 2007

Mishkin has presented another excellent paper on Monetary Policy. It is a useful primer addressing the learnings in monetary policy so far.

As Monetary policy has evolved over the years since Milton Friedman days, certain scientific learnings have taken place. Governor Mishkin asks a basic question – is mon pol becoming more of science (i.e. based on scientific principles) or is it still an an art (i.e some judgement is still required)?

What do you think the answer would be? Well, of-course both. 🙂  all economists are two handed.

Jokes apart, it is a good quick read on the learnings so far. Mishkin points to 9:

1) inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon;
2) price stability has important benefits;
3) there is no long-run tradeoff between unemployment and inflation;
4) expectations play a crucial role in the determination of inflation and in the transmission of monetary policy to the macroeconomy;
5) real interest rates need to rise with higher inflation, i.e., the Taylor Principle;
6) monetary policy is subject to the time-inconsistency problem;
7) central bank independence helps improve the efficiency of monetary policy;
8) commitment to a strong nominal anchor is central to producing good monetary policy outcomes; and
9) financial frictions play an important role in business cycles.

He discusses each one in plain English and cites evidence that why despite many learnings, we still need judgements or why Mon Pol would continue to remain an art as well.

Useful stuff.

Explaining rising forex reserves

October 8, 2007

I had posted about this topic earlier as well where I featured a paper from Joshua Aizenamn.

I read another paper from him and Jaewoo Lee which looks at rising forex reserves from a different angle.

The sizable hoarding of international reserves by several East Asian countries has been frequently attributed to a modern version of monetary mercantilism – hoarding international reserves in order to improve competitiveness. From a long-run perspective, manufacturing exporters in East Asia adopted financial mercantilism—subsidizing the cost of capital—during decades of high growth. They switched to hoarding large international reserves when growth faltered, making it harder to disentangle the monetary mercantilism from precautionary response to the heritage of past financial mercantilism. Monetary mercantilism also lowers the cost of hoarding, but may be associated with negative externalities leading to competitive hoarding.

The broad idea is that East Asian economies have focused on exports to drive their growth. Earlier, they did this by providing export subsidies, easy credit to exporters etc which the authors term as financial mercantilism. When the South east Asian crisis happened this was exposed and an attempt was made to create more competition and do away with providing implicit help to exporters.

However, most East Asian economies still rely on exports for their growth. They do this by keeping their currencies undervalued compared to their peers. The currencies are kept undervalued by intervening in forex markets and buying foreign currencies and not letting the currencies appreciate. This they call as Monetary Mercantilism.

The authors then discuss the positives and negatives of each.

The two forms of mercantilism differ considerably. Financial mercantilism operates though the direct cost of investment, and may increase investment in enduring ways. In its incarnation as export-oriented growth strategy in East Asia, financial mercantilism can improve long-run economic efficiency when there are strong dynamic externalities in the economy, such as learning by doing and knowledge spillovers.

In contrast, for monetary mercantilism to be potent, prices and wages should adjust in an extremely sluggish manner, and trade rivals should refrain from adopting similar policies. If other countries adopt similar mercantilist policies, they can undermine the exchange rate effect of the mercantilist attempt by the home country and lead to a competitive real depreciation.

The costs- FM increases financial fragility and MM leads to costly sterilization. If other countries also hoard, then problems become more acute as it leads to competitive hoarding.

Read the paper for more insights.

Assorted Links

October 8, 2007

1. TTR says most of FDI in India is Private Equity which isn’t FDI really. Moreover, RBI believes PE money is flowing via FII route. We need some clarification on the same.

2. New Economist on India’s caste system.

3. Rodrik on his new book.

4. SouthAsia Blog on innovation in India. I think our education institutes are overhyped variety. The only emphasis is on job offers.

5. Gregory Clark has written an excellent article in ET.  He says economies are not determnied by incentives but the way people respond to the same.

6. Rajwade is not one bit impressed with Greenspan.

As chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan had cultivated a style of speaking a lot, without communicating what his intentions were — in fact, interpreting Greenspan’s statements had become a minor specialisation amongst Wall Street economists. Incidentally, heads of other central banks have also learnt from Greenspan, as manifest in the following headlines in the Indian press, both reporting on the same speech by Dr Reddy: 
“Fed cut to determine RBI policy: Reddy” (Business Standard, September 24); and “Domestic factors to decide RBI moves, says Reddy” (The Indian Express, September 24). 

7. BS points to C.Rangarajan’s new paper on employment trends in India.

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