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The Limits of Transparency

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  • Cukierman, Alex

Abstract

This paper probes the limits of transparency in monetary policymaking along two dimensions: feasibility and desirability. It argues that, due to limited knowledge about the economy, even central banks that are considered champions of openness are not very clear about their measures of the output gap and about their beliefs regarding the effect of policy on inflationary expectations. Consequently feasibility constraints on transparency are more serious than stylized models of the transmission mechanism would imply. In addition no central bank has made clear statements about its objective function, including in particular the relative weight on output versus inflation stabilization, the policy discount factor and the shape of losses from the inflation and the output gaps over the possible ranges of realizations of those variables. The paper also argues that there is a trade-off between full transparency and full utilization of information in setting policy and that excessive transparency may facilitate the exertion of political pressures on the central bank. The last section of the paper abstracts from feasibility constraints and discusses the desirable levels of openness in various areas of the policymaking process. It is argued that the strongest case against immediate transparency arises when the CB has private information about problems within segments of the financial system. Premature release of information may, in such a case, destroy efficient risk sharing arrangements and long term investments by triggering a run on the financial system. This is illustrated within the context of the classic Diamond Dybvig model of bank runs. The paper also probes the desirable levels of transparency in other areas of the policymaking process like the bank's objective function, the bank's output target, forecasts of economic shocks, disagreements within the CB board and the bank's own ignorance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6475.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6475

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Keywords: monetary policy; Transparency - actual and desirable;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Carsten Hefeker & Blandine Zimmer, 2010. "Central bank independence and conservatism under uncertainty: Substitutes or complements?," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201001, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  2. Benjamin Born & Michael Ehrmann & Marcel Fratzscher, 2011. "Macroprudential policy and central bank communication," BIS Papers chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Macroprudential regulation and policy, volume 60, pages 107-110 Bank for International Settlements.
  3. Eijffinger, Sylvester C W & Hoogduin, Lex & van der Cruijsen, Carin A B, 2008. "Optimal Central Bank Transparency," CEPR Discussion Papers 6889, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Pierre Gosselin, Aileen Lotz and Charles Wyplosz, 2007. "Interest Rate Signals and Central Bank Transparency," IHEID Working Papers 19-2007, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies, revised Aug 2007.
  5. Edward N. Gamber & Julie K. Smith, 2007. "Are the Fed’s Inflation Forecasts Still Superior to the Private Sector’s?," Working Papers 2007-002, The George Washington University, Department of Economics, Research Program on Forecasting, revised Jul 2008.
  6. Hefeker, Carsten & Zimmer, Blandine, 2011. "The optimal choice of central bank independence and conservatism under uncertainty," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 595-606.
  7. Sánchez, Marcelo, 2011. "Monetary strictness and labour market outcomes under incomplete transparency," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 95-99, June.
  8. Marek Rozkrut, 2008. "It’s not only WHAT is said, it’s also WHO the speaker is. Evaluating the effectiveness of central bank communication," National Bank of Poland Working Papers 47, National Bank of Poland, Economic Institute.

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