The Great Debate UK
–Shaukat Aziz is the former prime minister of Pakistan. The opinions expressed are his own.–
Emerging markets have seen increasing economic uncertainty in recent months, due to a slowing down in quantitative easing (QE) and a reduction in economic activity. Several countries have experienced rising current account deficits, reducing capital flows, declining foreign reserves and depreciating currency values. Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey have all seen their currencies drop by more than 10% this year.
These factors serve to lower consumer and investor confidence and delay new investments – in effect, creating a ‘wait and see’ attitude with the result that discretionary expenditure is deferred.
The need for leadership, bold structural reforms and a backstop liquidity cushion has never been greater. The best time to initiate structural reforms is when an economy is strong, capital flows are healthy and current and fiscal deficits within a comfortable range. However, even for those emerging market countries facing a difficult future, it’s not too late to push through the required economic and structural reforms.
from The Great Debate:
Four years ago world leaders, meeting in the G20 crisis session, agreed they would all work to move from recession to growth and prosperity. They agreed to a global growth compact to be delivered by combining national growth targets with coordinated global interventions. It didn’t happen. After the $1 trillion stimulus of 2009, fiscal consolidation became the established order of the day, and so year after year millions have continued to endure unemployment and lower living standards.
Only now are there signs that the long-overdue shift in national macro-economic policies may be taking place. The new Japanese government is backing up a "minimum inflation target" with a multi-billion-dollar stimulus designed to create 600,000 jobs. In what some call the “reverse Volcker moment,” Ben Bernanke has become the first head of a central bank for decades to announce he will target a 6 percent level of unemployment alongside his inflation objective. And the new governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has told us that "when policy rates are stuck at the zero lower bound, there could not be a more favorable case for Nominal GDP targeting.” Side by side with this shift in policy, in every area but the Euro, there is also policy progress in China. It may look from the outside as if November’s Communist Party Congress simply re-announced their all-too-familiar but undelivered wish to re-balance the economy from exports to domestic consumption, but this time the promise has been accompanied by a time-specific commitment: to double average domestic income per head by 2020.
from Anatole Kaletsky:
Four years after the start of the Great Recession, the global economy has not recovered, voters are losing patience and governments around the world are falling like ninepins. This is a situation conducive to revolutionary thinking, if not yet in politics, then maybe in economics.
In the past few months the International Monetary Fund, previously a bastion of austerity, has swung in favor of expansionary fiscal policies. The U.S. Federal Reserve has committed itself to printing money without limit until it restores full employment. And the European Central Bank has announced unlimited bond purchases with printed money, a policy denounced, quite literally, as the work of the devil by the president of the German Bundesbank.
The once-good relationship between Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and his most likely successor, Deputy Governor Paul Tucker, is coming under increasing strain, according to a new book by former Daily Telegraph journalist Dan Conaghan. It alleges King’s management style and and alleged disdain for the financial markets is to blame.
While the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee remains reasonably collegiate, on other matters King more than lives up to the description from former chancellor Alistair Darling that he is ‘incredibly stubborn’, says Conaghan, who now worksas an asset manager.
In 1998, the Japanese government was ridiculed for giving away almost $6bn (at 1998 value) of shopping vouchers. The plan was that consumers would spend more of this ‘free money’ and help lift Japan out of the seemingly endless malaise it suffered in the nineties – as many other developed economies were enjoying a roaring decade.
One of the major faults in the Japanese plan was that the vouchers could easily replace the need to spend actual money. If my groceries cost me $100 then why would I still spend $100 of cash on groceries and buy a nice meal in a restaurant with my voucher, when I could just use the voucher for those groceries?
It is past time for monetary policy to be doing more to support recovery. The Jackson Hole conference has come and gone, and no shortage of excuses was provided for central banks to hold their fire — even though most economists acknowledged the grim outlook for the advanced economies.
Too much attention has been paid, however, to the failings of fiscal policies and to the shortfall from effects of earlier quantitative easing. Further asset purchases by the G7 central banks are needed to check not just a downturn, but the lasting erosion of productive capacity and of debt sustainability — especially when even justified fiscal and financial consolidation is undercutting short-term recovery. Easier monetary policy will increase the odds of other policies improving, and those policies’ effectiveness when they do.
The U.S. Federal Reserve’s hotly-contested $600 billion renewal of its quantitative easing programme is roughly the size of the Gross Domestic Product of Switzerland.
Expectations by forecasters in Reuters Polls on how much more bond purchases the Fed will conduct beyond the $1.7 trillion already conducted varied widely running up to the Fed's announcement that it would go ahead with QE2.
from The Great Debate:
-The views expressed are the author's own-
A warning by an International Energy Agency (IEA) analyst this week that quantitative easing (QE) risked inflating nominal commodity prices and derailing the recovery drew a withering response from Nobel Economics Laureate Paul Krugman, who labelled the unfortunate analyst the "worst economist in the world".
According to New York Times columnist Krugman "Higher commodity prices will hurt the recovery only if they rise in real terms. And they'll only rise in terms if QE succeeds in raising real demand. And this will happen only if, yes, QE2 is successful in helping economic recovery".
“Those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.” – the words of a wise Roman thinker (or was it a Greek central banker?). At any rate, the gods certainly seem to have no benevolent intentions with regard to this country, judging by the statements coming from the Bank of England, in particular the calls for another round of quantitative easing from one member of the Monetary Policy Committee and the cry of “Spend, spend, spend” from another.
The view emerging from the Bank and the Monetary Policy Committee is that the country is in the grip of a slow-growth recession, facing the threat of Japanese-style deflation and a double-dip recession, and that this grim situation requires near-zero interest rates, supported by QE2 if necessary, in order to restore consumption and lending (including mortgages) to pre-crisis levels.
- Mark Bolsom is the Head of the UK Trading Desk at Travelex, the world’s largest non-bank FX payments specialist. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Thursday’s decision by the Bank of England to keep both interest rates and its asset purchasing programme on hold was hardly a surprise and had been largely priced in to markets.