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How to Keep Central Banks Independent

Some observers say central banks can best mitigate risks to their independence by returning to the narrow price-stability mandate that served them so well prior to the global financial crisis. But this advice is misguided: central banks must revive their original role as guardians of financial stability.

BARCELONA – The global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 transformed the role of central bankers and the scale and scope of their policy toolkit. Today, financial stability is once again at the core of central banks’ missions, and interest rates in a number of rich countries are likely to remain at or even below zero for some time. This means that central bankers’ actions will be more visible and politically sensitive than they were even a decade ago. And that poses a growing threat to one of the great institutional innovations of the late twentieth century: central-bank independence.

Some observers say central banks can best guard against political interference by retreating to the narrow price-stability mandate that served them so well prior to the crisis. This advice is misguided. There can be no avoiding the imperative for central banks to revive their original role as guardians of financial stability.

After all, price stability is not an end in itself. It is merely one pillar supporting the macroeconomic stability that society needs. Financial stability is a second part of this foundation, as the recent crisis amply demonstrated.

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