Should central banks get a target to raise productivity?

There have been talks in UK to give Bank of England a productivity target

Croaking Cassandra blog points to a survey of economists where all have rejected this idea. The key is not the rejection but to realise that monetary policy and banking regulation are limited in scope.

There was a new survey out last week from the European IGM panel of economics experts, about the recent proposal from the UK Labour Party to give the Bank of England an economywide productivity objective.  These were the results:

IGM productivity

Not a single economist in the panel seemed to think this was a good idea. Not one thought that central banks can make any material difference to productivity growth, except by promoting or maintaining macroeconomic stability.  Note that the question wasn’t just about monetary policy, and the Labour Party policy talks of the use of regulatory tools as well.

I share the view of the panellists, but it is interesting to see the answers coming through so strongly when the Bank of England itself (notably the chief economist Andy Haldane) has at times been quite vocal in arguing (drawing from this speech) that the costs of financial crises are large, and are either permanent or semi-permanent.    I’ve long been rather sceptical of that proposition (some arguments developed at the first link in the previous sentence).   Whether the respondents to the IGM survey connected the two stories I don’t know –  many would probably just have been running the conventional macro story that monetary policy is more or less neutral in the longer-run –  but the results are a useful reminder of just how limited monetary policy and banking regulation are in doing good, once one gets beyond the relatively short-term (perhaps three to five years).


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