Archive for the ‘Speech / Interviews’ Category

History of India’s forex market..

May 5, 2015

Nice speech by G Padmanabhan, retiring ED of Indian central bank http://www.bis.org/review/r150410c.pdf

He handled the forex department and tells this useful story of evolution of Indian forex market. A good read..

 

Who would mortgage their children?…Developed countries of all people?

April 14, 2015

Mr Norman T L Chan, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has this interesting speech on the topic.

He begins quoting from 1942 movie:

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Central Banks and the King Midas touch…

February 25, 2015

One big lesson from the recent crisis should have been to ignore whatever econs and their inspired central banks have been telling us for some years now. Their role should have been marginalised. But the dependence on them and their wisdom has only risen.

We were told by celebrated econs that how central banks could have avoided great depression only if they eased their policy for an extended period of time. This became a wisdom of sorts and accepted at a wide scale. We could have only known the utility if this wisdom if there was another such crisis and had to wait for nearly eighty years for such an event to occur. And as the event struck, the ideas were implemented in frenzy. This was to ensure if Lords of Finance part II is written, it has just the opposite results. Alas we now know the limitations of this frenziness. It is all over the place.

In this spirit, it is interesting to read this speech by Kirsten Forbes of BoE. She invokes the lessons from King of Midas and how central banks behaved like one:

When the legendary King Midas initially received the power to turn everything he touched into gold, he deemed it highly successful; the benefits of being able to create immense wealth with simply the touch of his finger far outweighed any costs. During the financial crisis, many central banks used less glamorous tools to create base money – sharp reductions in interest rates and quantitative easing. These measures played a critically important role in helping economies stabilize and recover.

King Midas soon realized, however, that this power of wealth creation came with unexpected side effects – from making his food inedible to turning his daughter into a lifeless statue. As these costs accumulated, King Midas eventually wished to give up his “golden touch” and return to normality. Similarly, is the current UK policy of near-zero interest rates beginning to generate substantial costs? Is there a point where any costs accumulate such that they outweigh the benefits? Could near-zero interest rates become less “golden”?

And then we have a similar kind of story. What were cited as the benefits of low rates have become limitations as well.

But the Ms. Forbes story is incomplete. It is actually the case that central bankers behave like King Midas most of the time. They wash their hands but then quickly forget the lessons and become the king again. Whether rates are low or high, they try and behave like King Midas. The whole idea is to show that there is some magic to their actions and things will indeed turn into gold. They have a huge audience in the name of market players and media which keeps wishing for the magic. The monetary policies have become a huge magic show of kinds in the process.

In reality central banks are like those tailors which designed clothes for the king with economy being the king.  Only to realise the king had no clothes really. If the illusion works, they are called as magicians and all kinds of awards are honored.  As reality sicks in, the yesteryear heroes are discarded and new ones created. The game of illusion goes on.

As academicians, they keep warning us over the monetary illusion but there is a huge demand for being an illusionist. The aura and power of being the king is too tempting for anyone to ignore.

So the game shall continue…

1st hundred years of the Bank of Finland..

February 18, 2015

Mr Seppo Honkapohja of Bank of Finland has a nice speech on the history bit.

It is the 4th oldest central bank in the World:

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The Austrian School: The History, The Principles, and How It Got Its Name

February 16, 2015

This is as good as it gets. A really useful audio interview of Mark Thornton on the school which remains ignored in economic teaching.

Right at the beginning Dr. Thornton points how the school teachings were missed in all his economic courses. Then there is a great discussion on how Fischer remains relevant to policymakers but not Mises. He calls central banks as legal counterfeiters of currency which is an interesting oxymoron of sorts.

In this informative interview, Mark Thornton details how Carl Menger started the Austrian school of economics, and the possible Greek and Roman philosophical roots the school observes. Dr. Thornton and host Frank Conway also discuss the important limitations to Austrian economic thinking, how von Mises’ papers got in the hands of Nazi Germany and then the Soviets, and the different economic perspectives and predictions of Ludwig von Mises and Irving Fischer.

India is the world’s largest psephocracy… only secondarily the world’s largest democracy.

February 16, 2015

Nice interview of Ashis Nandy. Pretty straight forward and front foot batting.

He reflects on recent AAP victory and future for BJP:

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Transformative Rise of Austrian Economics…

February 9, 2015

Superb interview of Prof Peter Boettke of GMU.

One major loss of the economic teaching is this school is hardly taught. At best someone is going to mention it randomly or some book will have a box briefing about the school. It is a pity that with economists talking so much about free markets , do not give much space to the school which is freest of them all.

But then as Prof Boettke says, the school is finding a resurgence in popularity given massive failures of the current economic thinking. I mean it is not about figuring who is right and who is wrong. Students have to first know what the ideas of various schools are before they can decide the right and wrong.

What is FSLRC all about?

February 3, 2015

Ajay Shah links to this speech by Justice Srikrishna, the chair of FSLRC report.

A pretty straight forward speech. He starts with the proposed changes in FSLRC which range from consumer protection to macro management.

In the end he says:

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How macroeconomics has changed since the crisis…(getting more behavioral)

December 31, 2014
Wouter den Haan of London School of Economics sums up the changes in “the discipline”. The best bit is it is an interview which one can actually just hear rather than read the piece:

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Building family businesses in Arab world..

December 16, 2014

Nice interview of Sulaiman Abdulkadir Al-Muhaidib, chairman of Saudi conglomerate Al Muhaidib. Gives you glimpse of the strong tradition of family business in Saudi.

First some bit about the group. It is an investment company:

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How the Banking Union has transformed banks’ IT requirements..

December 10, 2014

This is an unusual speech but seeing how banking is shaping up could be the most usual thing to talk about. In things like banking union, one would usually see things like banks’ capital requirements, quality of assets and so on.

Dr Joachim Nagel, of the Bundesbank talks on IT requirements of banks post the banking union:

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Improving the security and cost-effectiveness of banknotes…

December 8, 2014

Management of currency notes is  one of the least focused tasks of monetary management. The origin of central banks largely came from this activity. There were many banks which issued their own notes convertible into some commodity (mainly gold). Some of these banks over-issued these notes, leading to problems of liability management. The governments then decided to have one bank issue notes which eventually came to be known as central bank. Then gradually, these banks were given additional tasks. Earlier, the banks had both deposits and currency as liabilities. But with central banks coming in picture, the currency became liabilityty of the central bank and deposits of banks.

Mr François Groepe of the South African Reserve Bank has comments  on this currency management business:

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Will Hong Kong become irrelevant as Mainland China opens up?

December 8, 2014

Nice speech by Mr, Norman Chan of HKMA.

He says there is no reason why HK should decline as mainland China opens up. Both have their own strengths. He shows through statistics how things between the two regions have only improved overtime.

By leveraging on each other’s strengths bot can gain:

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Bank of Finland’s 200 years..

November 18, 2014

Seppo Honkapohja of Bank of Finland has this interesting speech covering history of the central bank. It was established in 1811 making it the 4th oldest central bank.

The journey from being a central bank established by Russians to becoming a EMU member is all captured:

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Evolution of money…from playing cards to e-currency

November 18, 2014

Superb speech from Carolyn Wilkins of Bank of Canada.

In particular she points to this picture placed in one of BoC  halls which shows evolution of money.

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50 years of Solow growth model…implications and impact

November 17, 2014

A nice interview of Prof. Robert Solow in McKinsey Quarterly (MQ). The interview celebrates 50 years of both the model and MQ.

The best thing about the interview is that it discusses how Solow model was actually applied to the real industries. What is Solow model? Well it says what matters for growth is not labor or capital but technology. What did the actual evidence show?

The Quarterly: What, if anything, surprised you about the findings of the early MGI studies?

Robert Solow: What came as something completely new to me was that if you looked at the same industry across countries, there were almost always dramatic differences in either labor productivity or total factor productivity. To my surprise, it turned out that most of the time, certainly more often than not, the difference in productivity—in the auto industry or the steel industry or the residential-construction industry in the US and in countries in Europe—was not only substantial but couldn’t seriously be explained by differences in access to technology.

We also found that the productivity differences could not be traced to differences in access to investment capital. The French automobile industry, much to my surprise, turned out to be more capital intensive than the American automobile industry. So it was not that either. The MGI studies instead traced these differences in productivity to organizational differences, to the way tasks were allocated within a firm or a division—essentially, to failures in managerial decisions.

I was, of course, instantly suspicious of this. I figured to myself, “What do you expect a bunch of management consultants to find but differences in management capacities? That’s in their genes. That’s not in my genes.” But MGI made a very convincing case for this. And I came to believe that it was right.

:-) Gave some legitimacy to the consulting industry..

What drove management? Competition..

The Quarterly: So management was the primary factor in productivity differences?

Robert Solow: Yes, and there was another surprise, for which there was partly anecdotal, partly statistical evidence. If you asked why there were differences that could be erased or diminished by better management, the answer was that it took the spur of sharp competition to induce managers to do what they were in principle capable of doing. So the idea that everybody is everywhere and always maximizing profits turned out to be not quite right.

MGI made a very good case that what was lacking in these trailing industries in other countries—or in the US, in cases where the US trailed—was enough exposure to competition from whoever in the world had the best practice. And this, of course, can apply within a country. We know that in any industry, there is a whole distribution of productivity levels across firms and even, sometimes, across establishments within a firm. And much of that must be due to the absence of any spur to do more.

So an interesting conclusion to me was that international trade serves a purpose beyond exploiting comparative advantage. It exposes high-level managers in various countries to a little fright. And fright turns out to be an important motivation.

The Quarterly: So competing against the global best-practice leaders is a way to encourage your own industry to use best practice?

Robert Solow: Yes, and it goes beyond that, even. Competing as part of the world economy is an important way of gaining access to scale. If you’re a Belgian company or even a French company, it may be that best practice requires a scale of production larger than the French domestic market will provide for French producers.

So it’s important for such companies to have access to the international market. That was not something I had thought of. And I don’t think anyone had—at least I had no reason to think, within economics, that there had been much thought about management activities as a big difference between best practice and less good practice. We had always thought, “Well, people seek profits. And if they seek profits, they’ll have to adopt best practice.” Not so.

He says the future research shd look at productivity in services sector:

The Quarterly: Looking toward the future, are there other issues in economics that MGI’s sector-level approach might be helpful for?

Robert Solow: I would like to see more work on the determinants of productivity and productivity increases within the service sector. To begin with, I don’t think we even have a very clear idea about the relative capital intensity within the service sector or between the service sector and goods-producing sector.

I remember I was once writing something in which I was describing the service sector as being of relatively low capital intensity. And then I stopped and remembered that the following day I had an appointment with my dentist and that my dentist’s office was as capital intensive a 500 square feet as I had ever seen in my life.

So I think the place where the MGI approach is most needed right now is in the service sector. There has been service-sector work within MGI, and outside of it as well, but not as much as is warranted in view of the 70 percent or more of all employment in advanced economies that’s in service industries.

The Quarterly: Are there particular places in the service sector where you’d look first?

Robert Solow: Well, that brings me to another MGI result that I found fascinating. At one point, we were trying to understand the industrial basis, the sectoral basis, for the acceleration and deceleration of productivity growth. And one of the things we found was that the two largest sectoral contributions to the acceleration of productivity growth when it was accelerating and, presumably, to the deceleration when it was decelerating came from wholesaling and retailing.1 Both of them, at the time, were low-productivity sectors and low-productivity-growth sectors. But they employ so many people that a slight improvement in the productivity of retailing makes a large contribution to the increase in national productivity.

There has been some work on that, but I think the work is needed now more in personal services. God knows, in healthcare. And education. Or child care. All sorts of things.

Nice bit..Calls himself an ordinary macroeconomist…hope most of us really ordinary economists also believe the same..

 

Central Bankers and bahavioral biases

November 17, 2014

Andy Haldane of BoE discusses the issue in this speech.

He first lists the behavioral biases and then suggests what central banks can do to overcome the biases:

Preference biases – where the decision maker might put “personal objectives over societal ones, such as personal power or wealth”   

Myopia biases – “people differ materially in their capacity to defer gratification” and studies suggest that people who show greater patience “outperform their impatient counterparts in everything from school examinations, to salaries, to reported life satisfaction”. 
Hubris biases – over-confident individuals are “more likely to be promoted to positions of influence” but tend to pursue “over ambitious targets” like “undertaking over-complex company takeovers. That way nemesis lies”

Groupthink biases – people tend to adapt their view to confirm to those around them and also have a “tendency to search and synthesize information in ways which confirm their prior beliefs”.     
There is little doubt that central banks have suffered from either all or some of these biases over the period with hubris bias being the biggest.
BoE (and others in their own ways) have tried to get out of these biases:
To tackle preference bias, the Bank’s does not set its own objectives.  It has three policy making committees – for monetary policy (MPC), financial policy (FPC) and prudential regulation (PRA Board). In addition, “to ensure the actions of the Bank’s policy committees are well-aligned with society’s wishes” their targets are “set ex-ante in legislation by Parliament acting on behalf of society”. 
 
To prevent myopia, the Bank of England has been made independent from government when choosing how to set monetary and financial policy to achieve their respective objectives.  These decisions have been given to an institution “whose time horizon stretches beyond the political cycle”.  Andrew suggests that central bank independence has been successful at taming “the inflation tiger” but he warns that “as some countries are finding today, the tiger is capable of biting back” in the form of low and falling inflation expectations. Andrew notes that while inflation expectations in the UK have held up pretty well, this is something he is “watching like a dove.”
 
To guard against Hubris at the Bank, “all policy decisions … are made by Committee rather than an individual” which “provides some natural safeguard against over-confidence bias”.  Andrew notes that external MPC members have contributed importantly to the diversity of opinion on the committee “on average they have been around twice as likely as internals to dissent from monetary policy decisions”. 
 
Finally to ward off groupthink, each member of the policy committees is individually accountable for their vote or view, and this should encourage “a variety of analytical perspectives”. That said Andrew notes that analysis of MPC minutes suggests that they did not devote enough time to discussing banking issues in the run up to the financial crisis, something that in hindsight, “looks like a collective analytical blind-spot”. He argues that despite all the changes to the Bank’s policy responsibilities since the crisis, “it is too soon to tell whether any remaining blind-spots remain”. Also, in his view “improvements to the Bank’s forecasting process have some considerable distance still to travel”.
Have these committees worked? I mean it just has people with very similar backgrounds trained in the same kind of economics. How can views be any different? We make a big deal of dissents. Have these dissents dissuaded the chief of the central bank from taking a different path? All we have is hype around dissents, nothing more nothing less. Groupthink continues despite committees
Much of fight against inflation was brought during highly comfortable global times. We are now seeing serious limitations on what central banks can achieve on inflation as well. Despite so much easing, deflation pressures remain in most adv economies. This is against expectations that we will have high inflation due to these policies by many experts. The  standard ideas have just failed really. But hubris continues..
 
All these biases can only be avoided if alternate schools of thought are encouraged in economics. The subject should be more interdisciplinary and humble. Just by saying we have committees and encourage diversity, it does not happen.  When most students are made to think in one standard way, diversity is just a myth and groupthink a reality..

Political economy of Bihar’s development..

November 11, 2014

In UP we continue to get news whuch we have been hearing for decades now. And then there is its neighbor Bihar which also had simialr stories for a while but is now trying its best to change.

IdeasforIndia has a nice interview of Anjani Kumar Singh, Bihar’s Secretary.

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Eurozone banks…do we finally know their status?

November 6, 2014

There is huge buzz around European banks stress test. There have been tests before as well but did not exude enough confidence.

Wharton Prof Richard Herring discusses what is new in these tests and do we finally know the true status of European banks.

The basic complications over who shall fund the bill remain despite ECB coming into the picture now:

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Heineken’s CEO on leading a 150-year-old company..

October 28, 2014

Didn’t realise Heineken is a 15o yr old company.

Here is a nice interview of its CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer who discusses balancing traditions along with growth.


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