Inflation targeting

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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 assumption is that the best that monetary policy can do to support long-term growth of the economy is to maintain price stability. The central bank uses interest rates, its main short-term monetary instrument.[1][2][3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee was given sole responsibility in 1998 for setting interest rates to meet the Government's Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation target of 2.5%.[6] The target changed to 2% in December 2003 when the Consumer Price Index (CPI) replaced the Retail Prices Index as the UK Treasury's inflation index.[7] If inflation overshoots or undershoots the target by more than 1%, the Governor of the Bank of England is required to write a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer explaining why, and how he will remedy the situation.

Since the inception of the euro in January 1999, the objective of the European Central Bank (ECB) has been to maintain price stability within the Eurozone.[8] The Governing Council of the ECB in October 1998[9] defined price stability as inflation of under 2%, “a year-on-year increase in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for the euro area of below 2%” and added that price stability ”was to be maintained over the medium term”.[10] The Governing Council confirmed this definition in May 2003 following a thorough evaluation of the ECB's monetary policy strategy. On that occasion, the Governing Council clarified that “in the pursuit of price stability, it aims to maintain inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term”.[9] Since then, the numerical target of 2% has become common for major developed economies, including the United States (since January 2012) and Japan (since January 2013).[11]

There is some empirical evidence that inflation targeting does what its advocates claim,[12] that is, making the outcomes, if not the process, of monetary policy more transparent.

Theoretical questions[edit]

New classical macroeconomics and rational expectations hypothesis can explain how and why inflation targeting works. Expectations of firms (or the subjective probability distribution of outcomes) will be around the prediction of the theory itself (the objective probability distribution of those outcomes) for the same information set.[13] So, rational agents expect the most probable outcome to emerge. However, there is limited success at specifying the relevant model, and the full and perfect knowledge of a given macroeconomic system can be regarded as a comfortable presumption at best. Knowledge of the relevant model is not feasible, even if high-level econometrical techniques were accessible or adequate identification of the relevant explanatory variables were performed. So, estimation bias depends on the quantity and quality of information to which the modeller has access. In other words, estimations are asymptotically unbiased with respect to the exploited information.

Meanwhile, consistency can be interpreted similarly. On the basis of asymptotical unbiasedness, a moderated version of the rational expectations hypothesis can be suggested in which familiarity with the theoretical parameters is not a requirement for the relevant model. An agent with access to sufficiently vast, quality information and high-level methodological skills could specify its own quasi-relevant model describing a specific macroeconomic system. By increasing the amount of information processed, this agent could further reduce its bias. If this agent were also focal, such as a central bank, then other agents would likely accept the proposed model and adjust their expectations accordingly. In this way, individual expectations become unbiased as much as possible, albeit against a background of considerable passivity. According to some researches, this is the theoretical background of the functionality of inflation targeting regimes.[14]



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".[15]

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" in 1993, which outlines the bank's "views about the past and future performance of inflation and monetary policy".[16] Although it was not an inflation-targeting country until January 2012, up until then, 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".[17]

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.[5]

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.[18]


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".[19] Quiggin blamed the late-2000s recession on inflation targeting in an economic environment in which low inflation is a "drag on growth". In reality, however, it is not true that inflation targeters focus solely on the rate of inflation and disregard economic growth: instead they tend to conduct "flexible inflation targeting" where the central bank strives to keep inflation near the target except time periods when such an effort would imply too much output volatility.[20][21]

Quiggin also 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".[19]

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.[22] The debate continues and many observers expect that inflation targeting will continue to be the dominant monetary policy regime, perhaps after certain modifications.[23]

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.[24] As regards the impact of the recent financial crisis, John Williams, a high-ranking Federal Reserve official, concludes that "when gauged by the behavior of inflation since the crisis, inflation targeting delivered on its promise".[25]


There are more than 28 countries using inflation targeting.[26][27] These include the United Kingdom (Bank of England), Canada (Bank of Canada), Czech Republic (Czech National Bank), Australia (Reserve Bank of Australia), South Korea (Bank of Korea), Egypt (Central Bank of Egypt), South Africa (South African Reserve Bank), Iceland (Central Bank of Iceland), Brazil (Brazilian Central Bank), Philippines (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), United States (Federal Reserve),[28] and Japan (Bank of Japan),[29] among other countries.

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
Canada 02/1991
Israel 1991[30]
Sweden 1993
Finland 1993
Australia 1994
Czech Republic 01/1998[31] first in Central and Eastern Europe
Brazil 06/1999[32]
Colombia 10/1999[32]
Mexico 1999[33]
South Africa 2000
Norway 2001[34][35]
Peru 2002[32]
Philippines 2002[36]
Poland 2004
Guatemala 01/2005[32]
Indonesia 07/2005[32]
Romania 08/2005[32]
Armenia, Republic of 01/2006[32]
Turkey 01/2006[32]
Ghana 05/2007[32]
Serbia, Republic of 01/2009[32]

United States[edit]

In a historic shift on 25 January 2012, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke set a 2% target inflation rate, bringing the Fed in line with many of the world's other major central banks.[37] Until then, the Fed's policy committee, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), did not have an explicit inflation target but regularly announced a desired target range for inflation (usually between 1.7% and 2%) measured by the personal consumption expenditures price index.

Prior to adoption of the target, some people argued 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 was 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"[38]—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,[39] and asserts that the buffoonery has not actually happened, as did Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, who stated in 2003 that all inflation targeting at the time was of a flexible variety, in theory and practice.[40]

Former Chairman Alan Greenspan, as well as other former FOMC members such as Alan Blinder, typically agreed with the benefits of inflation targeting, but were reluctant to accept the loss of freedom involved; Bernanke, however, was a well-known advocate.[41]

Czech Republic[edit]

The Czech National Bank (CNB) is an example of an inflation targeting central bank in a small open economy with a recent history of economic transition and real convergence to its Western European peers. Since 2010 the CNB uses 2 percent with a +/- 1pp range around it as the inflation target.[42] The CNB places a lot of emphasis on transparency and communication; indeed, a recent study of more than 100 central banks found the CNB to be among the four most transparent ones.[43]

In 2012, inflation was expected to fall well below the target, leading the CNB to gradually reduce the level of its basic monetary policy instrument, the 2-week repo rate, until the zero lower bound (actually 0.05 percent) was reached in late 2012. In light of the threat of a further fall in inflation and possibly even of a protracted period of deflation, on 7 November 2013 the CNB declared an immediate commitment to weaken the exchange rate to the level of 27 Czech korunas per 1 euro (day-on-day weakening by about 5 percent) and to keep the exchange rate from getting stronger than this value until at least the end of 2014 (later on this was changed to the second half of 2016). The CNB thus decided to use the exchange rate as a supplementary tool to make sure that inflation returns to the 2 percent target level. Such a use of the exchange rate as tool within the regime of inflation targeting should not be confused with a fixed exchange-rate system or with a currency war.[44][45][46]

Emerging markets[edit]

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.[5]


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.[47] 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.[2][48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coy, Peter (2005-11-07). "What's The Fuss Over Inflation Targeting?". BusinessWeek (The New Fed). 
  2. ^ a b Jahan, Sarwat. "Inflation Targeting: Holding the Line". International Monetary Funds, Finance & Development. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Irving Fisher (1922). "Dollar Stabilization". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). 
  4. ^ Andrew G. Haldane (1995). Targeting Inflation: A Conference of Central Banks on the Use of Inflation Targets Organised by the Bank of England, 9-10 March 1995. London: Bank of England. ISBN 9781857300734. 
  5. ^ a b c Frederic S. Mishkin (March 2000). "Inflation Targeting in Emerging Market Countries" (PDF). NBER Working Paper Series (National Bureau of Economic Research) (7618). 
  6. ^ "Key Monetary Policy Dates Since 1990". Bank of England. Archived from the original on 29 June 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2007. 
  7. ^ "Remit of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England and the New Inflation Target" (PDF). HM Treasury. 10 December 2003. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2007. 
  8. ^ wikisource consolidation
  9. ^ a b THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK HISTORY, ROLE AND FUNCTIONS BY HANSPETER K. SCHELLER SECOND REVISED EDITION 2006, ISBN 92-899-0022-9 (print) ISBN 92-899-0027-X (online) page 81 at the pdf online version
  10. ^ "Powers and responsibilities of the European Central Bank". European Central Bank. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 10 March 2009. 
  11. ^ Noyer, Christian (12 January 2016). "Thoughts on the zero lower bound in relation with monetary and financial stability". Bank for International Settlements. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  12. ^ Coy, Peter (2005-11-07). "What's The Fuss Over Inflation Targeting?". Businessweek (The New Fed). Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  13. ^ John F. Muth. (1961). "Rational Expectations and the Theory of Price Movements", Econometrica 29, pp. 315–335.
  14. ^ Galbács, Peter (2015). "The Rational Expectations Hypothesis as a Key Element of New Classical Macroeconomics". The Theory of New Classical Macroeconomics. A Positive Critique. Heidelberg/New York/Dordrecht/London: Springer. pp. 53–90. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-17578-2. ISBN 978-3-319-17578-2. 
  15. ^ Maurice Obstfeld (2014). "Never Say Never: Commentary on a Policymaker’s Reflections". IMF Economic Review 62 (4): 656–693. 
  16. ^ "Inflation Report". Bank of England. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  17. ^ Janet L. Yellen (24 February 2015). Monetary Policy Report (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. 
  18. ^ Amira, Beldi, Mouldi, Djelassi and Feridun, Mete (2012) "Growth effects of inflation targeting revisited: empirical evidence from emerging markets", Applied Economics Letters, 20 (6). pp. 587-591. ISSN 1350-4851 (doi:10.1080/13504851.2012.718054)
  19. ^ a b Quiggin, John. "Inflation target tyranny". Retrieved 2012-01-28. 
  20. ^ Svensson, Lars (21 September 2009). "Flexible inflation targeting – lessons from the financial crisis" (PDF). speech at the workshop “Towards a new framework for monetary policy? Lessons from the crisis”, organized by the Netherlands Bank, Amsterdam. 
  21. ^ "BoJ to pursue inflation target ‘flexibly’". Financial Times. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  22. ^ Frankel, Jeffrey (16 May 2012). "The Death of Inflation Targeting". Project Syndicate. 
  23. ^ Lucrezia Reichlin and Richard Baldwin, eds. (2013), "Is Inflation Targeting Dead? Central Banking After the Crisis", Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
  24. ^ Haizhou Huang; Shang-Jin Wei (September 2006). "Monetary Policies for Developing Countries: The Role of Institutional Quality" (PDF). Journal of International Economics 70: 239–52. doi:10.1016/j.jinteco.2005.09.001. 
  25. ^ John C. Williams, (2014), "Inflation Targeting and the Global Financial Crisis: Successes and Challenges", Essay presentation to the South African Reserve Bank Conference on Fourteen Years of Inflation Targeting in South Africa and the Challenge of a Changing Mandate, Pretoria, South Africa
  26. ^ Jahan, Sarwat (28 March 2012). "Inflation Targeting: Holding the Line". IMF. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  27. ^ Roger, Scott (March 2010). "Inflation Targeting Turns 20". Finance & Development (IMF) 47 (1). Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  28. ^ "In historic shift, Fed sets inflation target". Reuters. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  29. ^ "Doubt Greets Bank of Japan's Easing Shift". The Wall Street Journal. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  30. ^ Leiderman, Leonardo (2000-05-01). "Monetary Policy Rules and Transmission Mechanisms Under Inflation Targeting in Israel" (PDF). Documentos de Trabajo (Banco Central de Chile). Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  31. ^ Singer, M. (2015): "From a Peg to Inflation Targeting: CNB Experience", presentation at the High-level Seminar on the Benefits of Adopting a Structured Approach to Policy Analysis, Rabat, Morocco, 21 May 2015
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hammond, G. (2012). State of the art of inflation targeting. Handbooks. |
  33. ^ Galindo, Luis Miguel (2005-05-13). "Alternatives to inflation targeting in Mexico" (PDF) (Amherst/CEDES Conference on Inflation targeting, Buenos Aires). Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  34. ^ Marit Tronier Halvorsen (26 September 2013). "Norges Bank holder fast ved inflasjonsmålet". Dagens Næringsliv (in Norwegian). 
  35. ^
  36. ^ Rocel C. Felix (2 January 2002). "BSP adopts inflation targeting starting this year". The Philippine Star. 
  37. ^ "Why does the Federal Reserve aim for 2 percent inflation over time?". The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  38. ^ As quoted on page 158 of Poole, W. (2006), "Inflation targeting", speech delivered to Junior Achievement of Arkansas, Inc., Little Rock, Arkansas, 16 February 2006. Published in Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, vol. 88, no. 3 (May–June 2006), pp. 155-164.
  39. ^ Fraher, John (2008-06-05). "King May Be More Irritant Than Ally for Brown at BOE". Bloomberg Exclusive. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 
  40. ^ Bernanke, Ben S. (2003-03-25). A Perspective on Inflation Targeting. Annual Washington Policy Conference of the National Association of Business Economists. Washington, D.C. 
  41. ^ Ben S. Bernanke and Frederic S. Mishkin, (1997), "Inflation targeting: a new framework for monetary policy?", The Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 11, no. 2 (Spring 1997), pp. 97-116.
  42. ^ See the Czech National Bank's website
  43. ^ N. Nergiz Dincer and Barry Eichengreen (2014): "Central Bank Transparency and Independence: Updates and New Measures", International Journal of Central Banking, March 2014, pp. 189-253.
  44. ^ Ali Alichi, Jaromir Benes, Joshua Felman, Irene Feng, Charles Freedman, Douglas Laxton, Evan Tanner, David Vavra, and Hou Wang (2015): "Frontiers of Monetary Policymaking: Adding the Exchange Rate as a Tool to Combat Deflationary Risks in the Czech Republic", International Monetary Fund, Working Paper No. 15/74.
  45. ^ Michal Franta, Tomas Holub, Petr Kral, Ivana Kubicova, Katerina Smidkova, Borek Vasicek (2014): "The Exchange Rate as an Instrument at Zero Interest Rates: The Case of the Czech Republic", Czech National Bank, Research and Policy Note No. 3/2014.
  46. ^ Skorepa, M., and Hampl, M. (2014): "Evolution of the Czech National Bank’s holdings of foreign exchange reserves", BIS Papers No. 78, pp. 159-169.
  47. ^ "Policy Rules for Open Economies"
  48. ^ "Inflation-Targeting, Flexible Exchange Rates and Macroeconomic Performance since the Great Recession" (PDF). The Centre for European Policy Studies. March 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 

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