Tag Archives: rules

Can the Euro’s Fiscal Compact Cut Deficit Bias?

     Europe’s fiscal compact went into effect January 1, as a result of its ratification December 21 by the 12th country, Finland, a year after German Chancellor Angela Merkel prodded eurozone leaders into agreement.   The compact (technically called the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) requires  member countries to introduce laws limiting their structural government budget deficits to less than ½ % of GDP.  A limit on the “structural deficit” means that a country can run a deficit above the limit to the extent — and only to the extent — that the gap is cyclical, i.e., that its economy is operating below potential due to temporary negative shocks.   In other words, the target is cyclically adjusted.  The budget balance rule must be adopted in each country, preferably in their national constitutions, by the end of 2013.

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The Death of Inflation Targeting

It is with regret that we announce the death of Inflation Targeting.    The monetary regime, known affectionately as “IT” to its friends, evidently passed away in September 2008.   That the demise of IT has not been officially announced until now testifies to the esteem in which it was widely held, its usefulness as a figurehead for central banks, and fears that there might be no good candidates to assume its position as preferred anchor for monetary policy.

Inflation Targeting was born in New Zealand in March 1990.   Admired for its transparency and accountability, it achieved success there, and soon also in Canada, Australia, the UK, Sweden and Israel.  It subsequently became popular as well in Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru) and in other developing countries (South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey, among others).   

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Achieving Long-Term Fiscal Discipline: A Lesson from Chile

            As Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet prepares to hand over power to her newly elected successor, she remains extraordinarily popular.  It is worth reflecting on the fiscal aspects of her term in office, as Chile has important lessons for other countries struggling with fundamental long-term budget problems, which includes a lot of countries right now.

             As recently as June 2008, President Bachelet and her Finance Minister, Andres Velasco, had the lowest approval ratings of any President or Finance Minister, respectively, since the return of democracy to Chile. (See graphs below.) There may have been multiple reasons for this, but perhaps the most important was popular resentment that the two had resisted intense pressure to spend the receipts from copper exports, which at the time were soaring along with world copper prices.  One year later, in the summer of 2009, the pair had the highest approval ratings of any President and Finance Minister since the return of democracy.  Why the change?  

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