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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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  • Cukierman, Alex, 2007. "The Limits of Transparency," CEPR Discussion Papers 6475, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6475
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    Cited by:

    1. Monique Reid & Stan Du plessis, 2010. "Loud And Clear? Can We Hear When The Sarb Speaks?," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 78(3), pages 269-286, September.
    2. van der Cruijsen, Carin A.B. & Eijffinger, Sylvester C.W. & Hoogduin, Lex H., 2010. "Optimal central bank transparency," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(8), pages 1482-1507, December.
    3. Oros, Cornel & Zimmer, Blandine, 2015. "Uncertainty and fiscal policy in a monetary union: Why does monetary policy transmission matter?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 85-93.
    4. Eijffinger, Sylvester C W & Nijskens, Rob, 2012. "A dynamic analysis of bank bailouts and constructive ambiguity," CEPR Discussion Papers 8953, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Benjamin Born & Michael Ehrmann & Marcel Fratzscher, 2011. "How Should Central Banks Deal with a Financial Stability Objective? The Evolving Role of Communication as a Policy Instrument," Chapters,in: Handbook of Central Banking, Financial Regulation and Supervision, chapter 9 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    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. Marek Rozkrut, 2008. "It’s not only WHAT is said, it’s also WHO the speaker is. Evaluating the effectiveness of central bank communication," NBP Working Papers 47, Narodowy Bank Polski, Economic Research Department.
    8. Pierre Gosselin & Aileen Lotz & Charles Wyplosz, 2009. "Interest Rate Signals and Central Bank Transparency," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2007, pages 9-51 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Gamber, Edward N. & Smith, Julie K., 2009. "Are the Fed's inflation forecasts still superior to the private sector's?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 240-251, June.
    10. 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.
    11. Carsten Hefeker & Blandine Zimmer, 2010. "Central bank independence and conservatism under uncertainty: Substitutes or complements?," Volkswirtschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 140-10, Universität Siegen, Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik und Wirtschaftsrecht.
    12. Meixing Dai, 2016. "Static And Dynamic Effects Of Central Bank Transparency," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 55-78, January.
    13. Horváth, Roman & Vaško, Dan, 2016. "Central bank transparency and financial stability," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 45-56.
    14. Cukierman, Alex, 2015. "The choice of flexibility in targeting inflation during normal times and during disinflations," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 494-502.
    15. Marcelo Sánchez, 2013. "On the Limits of Transparency: The Role of Imperfect Central Bank Knowledge," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(2), pages 245-271, June.
    16. Cukierman, Alex & Melnick, Rafi, 2015. "The Conquest of Israeli Inflation and Current Policy Dilemmas," CEPR Discussion Papers 10955, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. Walsh, Carl E., 2013. "Announcements and the Role of Policy Guidance," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 575-600.
    18. Sánchez, Marcelo, 2011. "Monetary strictness and labour market outcomes under incomplete transparency," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 95-99, June.
    19. repec:bla:intfin:v:20:y:2017:i:2:p:189-209 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Ma, Yong & Li, Shushu, 2015. "Bayesian estimation of China's monetary policy transparency: A New Keynesian approach," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 236-248.
    21. Carl Walsh, 2007. "Inflation Targeting and the Role of Real Objectives," Research and Policy Notes 2007/02, Czech National Bank, Research Department.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    monetary policy; Transparency - actual and desirable;

    JEL classification:

    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination

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