Commodity Prices and Monetary Policy in Emerging East Asia
In the first-half of the global financial turmoil, rising inflation was a major concern for emerging East Asian central banks. Coupled with a slowing US economy, regional central banks faced an inevitable monetary policy choice of either addressing higher inflation or supporting moderate growth. Higher food and fuel prices were the major drivers of headline inflation. Their causes, however, were a confluence of factors--whether cyclical or structural, domestic or global, supply or demand--all reinforcing each other and contributing to widespread price escalations in all classes of commodities. In response, a raft of fiscal and administrative measures of questionable effectiveness was widely implemented. Understandably, different economies faced different balance of risks between price stability and growth, but to attribute the causes of inflation to supply shocks alone was misleading and probably explained why many central banks were reluctant and/or slow to raise interest rates. This was all the more puzzling given that inflation and inflation expectations were on the rise, and central bank credibility was not in abundance. Without much credibility, inflation expectations cannot be well-anchored. To gain credibility, a central bank must "walk-the-talk" and this is only possible if it has the autonomy to do so.
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