Monday, May 12, 2008

Fed Mimics Zimbabwe?

When you are praised by the Central Bank of Zimbabwe, you might want to rethink your policies. From the Zimbabwe central bank's recent update:

As Monetary Authorities, we have been humbled and have taken heart in the realization that some leading Central Banks, including those in the USA and the UK, are now not just talking of, but also actually implementing flexible and pragmatic central bank support programmes where these are deemed necessary in their National interests.

That is precisely the path that we began over 4 years ago in pursuit of our own national interest and we have not wavered on that critical path despite the untold
misunderstanding, vilification and demonization we have endured from across the political divide.

Yet there are telling examples of the path we have taken from key economies around the world. For instance, when the USA economy was recently confronted by the devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as the Iraq war, their Central Bank stepped in and injected life-boat schemes in the form of billions of dollars that were printed and pumped into the American economy.

A few months ago, the USA economy confronted a severe mortgage crisis, which threatened to spark an economy-wide recession.

The USA Central Bank again responded by injecting over US$160 billion between December, 2007 and March, 2008, to provide impetus to the American economy and prevent a worse crisis from happening.

A look at the recent developments in the UK equally reveals how increasingly, leading central banks in the global economy are bailing out troubled economic sectors to achieve macroeconomic and financial stability.

Faced with a yawning threat of systemic bank failures on the back of the aftermaths of that country’s mortgage crisis, the Bank of England was directed by its Government to intervene by providing a £50 billion lifeline to the UK’s banking

Here in Zimbabwe we had our near-bank failures a few years ago and we responded by providing the affected Banks with the Troubled Bank Fund (TBF) for which we were heavily criticized even by some multi-lateral institutions who today are silent when the Central Banks of UK and USA are going the same way and doing the same thing under very similar circumstances thereby continuing the unfortunate hypocrisy
that what’s good for goose is not good for the gander.

Those who yesterday did not see the interconnection between sanctions and the politics of this country as they sought conventional and dogmatic textbook methods of moving this economy now have good cause to reflect on these examples of quasi-fiscal interventions by the central banks in the USA and the UK and review their dogmas in the interest of adopting more flexible and dynamic approaches informed by
the exigencies of the economic situation on the ground.

Our economy is and has been in trouble for over ten years and our extraordinary interventions by whatever name have helped to keep the wheels of this economy moving.

Even though our efforts have been criticized and derided clearly for undisguised political reasons, we are proud that we had the courage to do something that made a positive difference when it would have been far too easy for us to appear reasonable by doing nothing and thereby make the situation worse.

As Monetary Authorities, we commend those of our peers, the world over, who have now seen the light on the need for the adoption of flexible and practical interventions and support to key sectors of the economy when faced with unusual circumstances.

Of course, in the short-term such interventions are without doubt inflationary but in the medium to long-term they trigger and propel economic growth and development that everyone craves for.

Just for the record, Zimbabwe's inflation rate is somewhere around 66,000%, so when he says above that "such interventions are without doubt inflationary" he really means it.

The sad thing here is that in many ways the writer is correct - there isn't a lot of difference between what the central bank in Zimbabwe did and what the Fed has done. The major difference is scale. We are probably not going to see inflation rates with 5 digits, but inflation we are getting and it is directly due to the Fed. Unfortunately, the statement "in the medium to long term they trigger and propel economic growth" is just patently false. Inflation does not cause growth, it inhibits it in the long run because resources have to be diverted from productive uses to cope with the inflation.

Bernanke should read this carefully and decide if he wants to keep company with the Zimbabwe central bankers.

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