Labour’s inflation policy a recipe for disaster

The Dom Post has a guest column by Stephen Kirchner from the CIS:

The idea that New Zealand can ignore inflation and grow faster through easy money and a lower exchange rate is a tempting, but short-sighted view. It ignores the fact that higher domestic prices would ultimately undermine rather than promote international competitiveness. Economic growth and export success must ultimately be built on real factors such as productivity growth, not easy money and exchange rate depreciation.

It is like cheating on an exam – only works for a while

The Reserve Bank’s primary focus on inflation recognises that monetary policy needs to be based on a single instrument and policy objective. Pursuing multiple objectives with multiple instruments, as Labour now suggests, is a recipe for incoherent policy and poor economic performance such as New Zealand experienced before its path-breaking reforms of the 1980s.

TVNZ is a good example of having multiple conflicting objectives. Either none of the objectives are achieved particularly well, or some of them are just ignored.

It would also undermine the transparency and accountability that were important objectives of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act. Under the current framework, the governor of the Reserve Bank is personally accountable for realising the inflation target under a policy targets agreement with the finance minister. Sustained breaches of the inflation target can result in the non-executive members of the Reserve Bank board recommending dismissal of the governor to the minister. This is no idle threat, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to hold the governor accountable for achieving multiple objectives instead of a clearly defined inflation target.

An excellent point. More objectives will mean less accountability. The Governor will always have a get out of jail card.

Since the first PTA was entered into in 1990, the inflation target has been progressively watered down. Most notably, the inflation target has been relaxed from 0-2 per cent to 1-3 per cent and given a medium-term focus, so there is now greater tolerance of short-term breaches.

I actually believe it should go back to a 0% to 2% range. Over time even 3% inflation is too much.

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