Friday, July 11, 2014

Lit in Review: Money in India, Africa, and helicopters

Gupta, Abhijit and Rajeswari Sengupta. 2014. "Is India Ready for Flexible Inflation Targeting?" , Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research Working Paper, June 2014.

The standard intermediate macro take has been to encourage some form of flexible inflation targeting or Taylor rule approach. In developing countries, however, financial systems are less well-developed which makes the lags between data, policy, and outcomes more troubling and, because food prices form a much larger portion of the price basket, if most central banks had responded to the recent food price spikes by sharply tightening the money supply the results would have been dire. India has followed a "multiple indicator approach" since 1998 that focuses more on stable interest rates and exchange rates, but also uses money, credit, output, trade, capital flows, government debt, and the inflation rate. The lack of a single policy rate reduced the clarity of signals sent to the market and introduced (predictable) variance in other variables, however, so in 2011 the RBI officially focused on the weighted average overnight call money rate.

Gupta and Sengupta estimate a Taylor rule for India using 90-98, 98-04, and 04-13 data. Inflation matters less and less for policy making, particularly in the last period that includes the food price spike - albeit the Wholesale price index (WPI) matters more than the CPI. They also estimate exchange rate stability, monetary independence, and capital account openness over time (the impossible trinity) and show that exchange rate stability has much less weight today than it did even as recently as 2000 when it was the primary goal. The increased monetary independence this bought indicates it would be more possible than in the past for India to follow some kind of Taylor rule.

Buiter, Willem. 2014. "The Simple Analytics of Helicopter Money: Why it Works - Always" Economics, Discussion Paper 2014-24.

Milton Friedman called a permanent increase in the money supply a "helicopter drop." It turns out that Quantitative Easing (QE) fits that description so long as people believe the Fed is not likely to sell off its assets. Buiter cites other research that says helicopter drops might successfully increase aggregate demand, but they also might fail. He then demonstrates that there are three conditions for this to always boost aggregate demand: 1) people want cash for reasons other than earning more money (ie - people value cash even when there is modest inflation because we use it as a medium of exchange); 2) the price of money is positive; 3) cash is irredemable (ie - it's not a liability for the government and not backed by gold). He claims it was failure to consider this last condition that led to the erroneous idea that helicopter drops would not increase AD. (PS - that picture is really not fair to our former Chairman, but it's entertaining.)

Asongu, Simplice. 2013. ''A note on the long-run neutrality of monetary policy: new empirics", MPRA Paper 56796 and AGDI Working Paper WP/13/032, posted 23 June 2014.

Money is neutral in the long-run in Africa too.

As it should be.

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