Inflation targeting is a monetary policy in which a central bank has an explicit target inflation rate for the medium term and announces this inflation target to the public. The central bank uses interest rates, its main short-term monetary instrument.
An inflation-targeting central bank will raise or lower interest rates based on above-target or below-target inflation, respectively. The conventional wisdom is that raising interest rates usually cools the economy to reign in inflation; lowering interest rates usually accelerates the economy, thereby boosting inflation.
Early proposals of monetary systems targeting the price level or the inflation rate, rather than the exchange rate, followed the general crisis of the gold standard after World War I. Irving Fisher proposed a "compensated dollar" system in which the gold content in paper money would vary with the price of goods in terms of gold, so that the price level in terms of paper money would stay fixed. Fisher's proposal was a first attempt to target prices while retaining the automatic functioning of the gold standard. In his Tract on Monetary Reform (1923), John Maynard Keynes advocated what we would now call an inflation targeting scheme. In the context of sudden inflations and deflations in the international economy right after World War I, Keynes recommended a policy of exchange rate flexibility, appreciating the currency as a response to international inflation and depreciating it when there are international deflationary forces, so that internal prices remained more or less stable.
Interest in inflation targeting waned during the Bretton Woods era (1944–1971), as they were inconsistent with the exchange rate pegs that prevailed during three decades after World War II. Inflation targeting was pioneered in New Zealand in 1990. In emerging markets, Chile was the pioneer, adopting an inflation target in 1991. A 20% inflation rate pushed the Central Bank of Chile to announce at the end of 1990 an inflation objective for the annual inflation rate for the year ending in December 1991.
It is now also in use by the central banks in United Kingdom (Bank of England), Canada (Bank of Canada), Australia (Reserve Bank of Australia), South Korea (Bank of Korea), Egypt, South Africa (South African Reserve Bank), Iceland (Central Bank of Iceland), Brazil (Brazilian Central Bank),and the Philippines (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) among other countries, and there is some empirical evidence that it does what its advocates claim.
Inflation targeting allows monetary policy to "focus on domestic considerations and to respond to shocks to the domestic economy", which is not possible under a fixed exchange-rate system. Also, investor uncertainty is reduced and therefore investors may more easily factor in likely interest rate changes into their investment decisions. Inflation expectations that are better anchored "allow monetary authorities to cut policy interest rates countercyclically".
Transparency is another key benefit of inflation targeting. Central banks in developed countries that have successfully implemented inflation targeting tend to "maintain regular channels of communication with the public". For example, the Bank of England pioneered the "Inflation Report", which outlines the bank's "views about the past and future performance of inflation and monetary policy". Although it is not an inflation-targeting country, the United States' "Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Policy Strategy" enumerated the benefits of clear communication—it "facilitates well-informed decisionmaking by households and businesses, reduces economic and financial uncertainty, increases the effectiveness of monetary policy, and enhances transparency and accountability, which are essential in a democratic society".
An explicit numerical inflation target increases a central bank's accountability, and thus it is less likely that the central bank falls prey to the time-inconsistency trap. This accountability is especially significant because even countries with weak institutions can build public support for an independent central bank. Institutional commitment can also insulate the bank from political pressure to undertake an overly expansionary monetary policy.
An econometric analysis by University of Greenwich economists found that although inflation targeting results in higher economic growth, it does not necessarily guarantee stability based on their study of 36 emerging economies from 1979 to 2009.
Increases in inflation (CPI) are not necessarily coupled to any factor internal to a country's economy and strictly or blindly adjusting interest rates will potentially be ineffectual and restrict economic growth when it was not necessary to do so. Bernie Fraser, governor of Reserve Bank of Australia from 1989 to 1996, raised this concern in 2008 in response to another hike in their interest rates.
Supporters of a nominal income target criticize the propensity of inflation targeting to neglect output shocks by focusing solely on the price level. Adherents of market monetarism, led by Scott Sumner, argue that in the United States, the Federal Reserve's mandate is to stabilize both output and the price level, and that consequently a nominal income target would better suit the Fed's mandate. Australian economist John Quiggin, who also endorses nominal income targeting, stated that it "would maintain or enhance the transparency associated with a system based on stated targets, while restoring the balance missing from a monetary policy based solely on the goal of price stability". Quiggin blamed the late-2000s recession on inflation targeting in an economic environment in which low inflation is a "drag on growth". He criticized former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and former European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet for "ignor[ing] or even applaud[ing] the unsustainable bubbles in speculative real estate that produced the crisis, and to react[ing] too slowly as the evidence emerged".
In a 2012 op-ed, Harvard University economist Jeffrey Frankel suggested that inflation targeting "evidently passed away in September 2008", referencing the 2007–2012 global financial crisis. Frankel suggested "that central banks that had been relying on [inflation targeting] had not paid enough attention to asset-price bubbles", and also criticized inflation targeting for "inappropriate responses to supply shocks and terms-of-trade shocks". In turn, Frankel suggested that nominal income targeting or product-price targeting would succeed inflation targeting as the dominant monetary policy regime.
Empirically, it is not so obvious that inflation targeters have better inflation control. Some economists argue that better institutions increase a country’s chances of successfully targeting inflation.
|Country||Year adopted inflation targeting||Notes|
|New Zealand||1990||The pioneer; See Section 8: Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act of 1989|
|Chile||1991||First in Latin America|
|Czech Republic||1998||exchange rate targeting from 2013|
In the United States
The U.S. Federal Reserve's policy committee, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), does not have an explicit inflation target but regularly annouces a desired target range for inflation (usually between 1.7% and 2%) as measured by the personal consumption expenditures price index. In a historic shift on January 25, 2012, Chairman Ben Bernanke set a 2% target inflation rate, bringing the Fed in line with many of the world's other major central banks.
However, some counter that an inflation target would give the Fed too little flexibility to stabilise growth and/or employment in the event of an external economic shock. Another criticism is that an explicit target might turn central bankers into what Mervyn A. King, former Governor of the Bank of England, had in 1997 colorfully termed "inflation nutters"—that is, central bankers who concentrate on the inflation target to the detriment of stable growth, employment and/or exchange rates. King went on to help design the Bank's inflation targeting policy  and asserts that the buffoonery has not actually happened, as does Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, who states that all of today's inflation targeting is of a flexible variety, in theory and practice.
The Fed continues without the strict rules of an explicit target. Former Chairman Alan Greenspan, as well as other former FOMC members such as Alan Blinder, typically agreed with its benefits, but were reluctant to accept the loss of freedom involved; Bernanke, however, is a well-known advocate.
In emerging markets
Frederic S. Mishkin concludes that "although inflation targeting is not a panacea and may not be appropriate for many emerging market countries, it can be a highly useful monetary policy strategy in a number of them" including Chile.
Contrast to the usual inflation rate targeting, Laurence Ball proposed targeting on long-run inflation, targeting which takes the exchange rate into account and monetary conditions index targeting. In his proposal, the monetary conditions index is a weighted average of the interest rate and exchange rate. It will be easy to put many other things into this monetary conditions index.
In the “constrained discretion” framework, inflation targeting combines two contradicting monetary policies—a rule-based approach and a discretionary approach—as a precise numerical target is given for inflation in the medium term and a response to economic shocks in the short term. Some inflation targeters associate this with more economic stability.
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