Central Bank - Independence


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Over the past decade, there has been a trend towards increasing the independence of central banks as a way of improving long-term economic performance. However, while a large volume of economic research has been done to define the relationship between central bank independence and economic performance, the results are ambiguous.

Advocates of central bank independence argue that a central bank which is too susceptible to political direction or pressure may encourage economic cycles ("boom and bust"), as politicians may be tempted to boost economic activity in advance of an election, to the detriment of the long-term health of the economy and the country. In this context, independence is usually defined as the central bank's operational and management independence from the government.

The literature on central bank independence has defined a number of types of independence.

Legal independence
The independence of the central bank is enshrined in law. This type of independence is limited in a democratic state; in almost all cases the central bank is accountable at some level to government officials, either through a government minister or directly to a legislature. Even defining degrees of legal independence has proven to be a challenge since legislation typically provides only a framework within which the government and the central bank work out their relationship.
Goal independence
The central bank has the right to set its own policy goals, whether inflation targeting, control of the money supply, or maintaining a fixed exchange rate. While this type of independence is more common, many central banks prefer to announce their policy goals in partnership with the appropriate government departments. This increases the transparency of the policy setting process and thereby increases the credibility of the goals chosen by providing assurance that they will not be changed without notice. In addition, the setting of common goals by the central bank and the government helps to avoid situations where monetary and fiscal policy are in conflict; a policy combination that is clearly sub-optimal.
Operational independence
The central bank has the independence to determine the best way of achieving its policy goals, including the types of instruments used and the timing of their use. This is the most common form of central bank independence. The granting of independence to the Bank of England in 1997 was, in fact, the granting of operational independence; the inflation target continued to be announced in the Chancellor's annual budget speech to Parliament.
Management independence
The central bank has the authority to run its own operations (appointing staff, setting budgets, and so on.) without excessive involvement of the government. The other forms of independence are not possible unless the central bank has a significant degree of management independence. One of the most common statistical indicators used in the literature as a proxy for central bank independence is the "turn-over-rate" of central bank governors. If a government is in the habit of appointing and replacing the governor frequently, it clearly has the capacity to micro-manage the central bank through its choice of governors.

It is argued that an independent central bank can run a more credible monetary policy, making market expectations more responsive to signals from the central bank. Recently, both the Bank of England (1997) and the European Central Bank have been made independent and follow a set of published inflation targets so that markets know what to expect. Even the People's Bank of China has been accorded great latitude due to the difficulty of problems it faces, though in the People's Republic of China the official role of the bank remains that of a national bank rather than a central bank, underlined by the official refusal to "unpeg" the yuan or to revalue it "under pressure". The People's Bank of China's independence can thus be read more as independence from the USA which rules the financial markets, than from the Communist Party of China which rules the country. The fact that the Communist Party is not elected also relieves the pressure to please people, increasing its independence.

Governments generally have some degree of influence over even "independent" central banks; the aim of independence is primarily to prevent short-term interference. For example, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank is appointed by the President of the U.S. (all nominees for this post are recommended by the owners of the Federal Reserve, as are all the board members), his choice must be confirmed by the Congress, and he must appear and testify before congress twice a year.

International organizations such as the World Bank, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are strong supporters of central bank independence. This results, in part, from a belief in the intrinsic merits of increased independence. The support for independence from the international organizations also derives partly from the connection between increased independence for the central bank and increased transparency in the policy-making process. The IMF's Financial Services Action Plan (FSAP) review self-assessment, for example, includes a number of questions about central bank independence in the transparency section. An independent central bank will score higher in the review than one that is not independent.

Read more about this topic:  Central Bank

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Famous quotes containing the word independence:

    Traditionally in American society, men have been trained for both competition and teamwork through sports, while women have been reared to merge their welfare with that of the family, with fewer opportunities for either independence or other team identifications, and fewer challenges to direct competition. In effect, women have been circumscribed within that unit where the benefit of one is most easily believed to be the benefit of all.
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    Our treatment of both older people and children reflects the value we place on independence and autonomy. We do our best to make our children independent from birth. We leave them all alone in rooms with the lights out and tell them, “Go to sleep by yourselves.” And the old people we respect most are the ones who will fight for their independence, who would sooner starve to death than ask for help.
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    In a famous Middletown study of Muncie, Indiana, in 1924, mothers were asked to rank the qualities they most desire in their children. At the top of the list were conformity and strict obedience. More than fifty years later, when the Middletown survey was replicated, mothers placed autonomy and independence first. The healthiest parenting probably promotes a balance of these qualities in children.
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