Skip to main content

The Failure of Inflation Targeting

Inflation targeting – the view that whenever price growth exceeds the target level, interest rates should be raised – is being put to the test by soaring global energy and food prices. It will inevitably fail, at great cost to those countries that maintain it, because imported inflation can be reduced only at the price of a sharp economic slowdown and high unemployment.

New York – The World’s central bankers are a close-knit club, given to fads and fashions. In the early 1980’s, they fell under the spell of monetarism, a simplistic economic theory promoted by Milton Friedman. After monetarism was discredited – at great cost to those countries that succumbed to it – the quest began for a new mantra.

The answer came in the form of “inflation targeting,” which says that whenever price growth exceeds a target level, interest rates should be raised. This crude recipe is based on little economic theory or empirical evidence; there is no reason to expect that regardless of the source of inflation , the best response is to increase interest rates. One hopes that most countries will have the good sense not to implement inflation targeting; my sympathies go to the unfortunate citizens of those that do.  (Among the list of those who have officially adopted inflation targeting in one form or another are: Israel, the Czech Republic, Poland, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, South Africa, Thailand, Korea, Mexico, Hungary, Peru, the Philippines, Slovakia, Indonesia, Romania, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Iceland, and Norway.)

Today, inflation targeting is being put to the test – and it will almost certainly fail. Developing countries currently face higher rates of inflation not because of poorer macro-management, but because oil and food prices are soaring, and these items represent a much larger share of the average household budget than in rich countries. In China, for example, inflation is approaching 8% or more. In Vietnam, it is even higher and is expected to approach 18.2% this year, and in India it is 5.8% . By contrast, US inflation stands at 3%. Does that mean that these developing countries should raise their interest rates far more than the US?

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/sBSpapG;
  1. solana109_robert wallisCorbis via Getty Images_manhittingberlinwall Robert Wallis/Corbis via Getty Images

    The Partial Triumph of 1989

    Javier Solana

    The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked the end not of a historical chapter, but of a paragraph. Although capitalism currently has no rival, it has proven its compatibility with illiberal forces.

    0
  2. sachs315_Pablo Rojas MadariagaNurPhoto via Getty Images_chileprotestmanbulletface Pablo Rojas Madariaga/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    Why Rich Cities Rebel

    Jeffrey D. Sachs

    Having lost touch with public sentiment, officials in Paris, Hong Kong, and Santiago failed to anticipate that a seemingly modest policy action (a fuel-tax increase, an extradition bill, and higher metro prices, respectively) would trigger a massive social explosion.

    4

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions