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GROWTH VS INFLATION IN MONETARY POLICY



  Jun 26, 2024

GROWTH VS INFLATION IN MONETARY POLICY



INTRODUCTION

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) plays a crucial role in setting the country’s monetary policy, particularly interest rates, to achieve economic stability. One of the key debates within the MPC revolves around balancing growth and inflation. This concept, often referred to as the ‘growth sacrifice’ view, suggests that maintaining restrictive monetary policies to curb inflation can hinder economic growth.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Growth vs. Inflation

• Economic Growth: Refers to the increase in the production of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. Higher growth rates are generally associated with higher employment and income levels.
• Inflation: Refers to the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services rises, eroding purchasing power. Moderate inflation is normal in a growing economy, but high inflation can be detrimental.

Real Interest Rate

• Nominal Interest Rate: The rate at which banks lend to borrowers, without adjusting for inflation.
• Real Interest Rate: The nominal interest rate adjusted for inflation. It reflects the true cost of borrowing and the true yield on savings.

GROWTH SACRIFICE VIEW IN THE MPC

The Debate

• Current Context: At the latest MPC meeting, external members Ashima Goyal and Jayanth R. Varma voted for a 0.25% rate cut, opposing the majority’s decision to maintain the status quo on interest rates.
• Rationale for Rate Cut:
• Inflation Trends: Headline inflation has been around 5% since January, with core inflation (excluding food and energy) below 4% since December 2023.
• Projected Inflation: The headline inflation projection for 2024-25 is 4.5%, indicating a real repo rate (interest rate adjusted for inflation) above neutral, which can stifle growth.
• Historical Context: Goyal cautioned against repeating the mistake of 2015, when fears of rising crude prices led to maintaining high real interest rates, ultimately hurting growth.

Arguments for Maintaining the Status Quo

• Focus on Inflation: RBI Deputy Governor Michael Debabrata Patra emphasized the need to align inflation with the target to avoid undermining medium-term growth. He argued that the priority should remain on controlling inflation to ensure sustainable economic stability.

INTERNATIONAL EXAMPLES

United States

• 2020-2021: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve implemented an extremely accommodative monetary policy, including near-zero interest rates and large-scale asset purchases. While this supported economic growth and recovery, it also contributed to rising inflation, which led to subsequent rate hikes in 2022-2023 to control inflation, demonstrating the balance between growth and inflation management.

 
ECB

• 2015-2019: The European Central Bank (ECB) maintained low interest rates and implemented quantitative easing to support growth in the aftermath of the Eurozone debt crisis. This helped stabilize the economy but also posed risks of higher inflation, which the ECB carefully monitored. Recently, the ECB has begun tightening monetary policy to address rising inflation.

United Kingdom

• 2021-2022: The Bank of England faced a challenging environment with post-Brexit adjustments and the pandemic. Initially, low interest rates supported growth, but as inflation surged due to supply chain disruptions and energy price increases, the Bank of England raised rates to temper inflation, illustrating the trade-off between stimulating growth and controlling inflation.

Japan

• Decades of Deflation: Japan has struggled with low inflation and deflation for decades. The Bank of Japan’s policies, including negative interest rates and asset purchases, aimed to stimulate growth and achieve a 2% inflation target. However, the persistence of low inflation demonstrates the difficulty of balancing growth and inflation in a context of entrenched deflationary pressures.

China

• 2020-Present: China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), has adopted a cautious approach to monetary policy. While supporting growth through targeted measures like liquidity injections and interest rate cuts, the PBOC remains vigilant about inflationary pressures, particularly in the property sector. This balanced approach aims to sustain growth without triggering high inflation.

IMPLICATIONS OF HIGH REAL INTEREST RATES

• Reduced Borrowing and Investment: Higher real interest rates make borrowing more expensive for businesses and consumers, leading to reduced investment and consumption, which can slow down economic growth.
• Lag Effect on Growth: There is often a lag between monetary policy decisions and their impact on the real economy. Persistently high real interest rates can depress growth over time, as seen in the concerns expressed by Goyal and Varma for 2024-25 and 2025-26.

BALANCING ACT

Growth and Inflation Trade-off

• Short-term vs. Long-term: Policymakers must balance short-term needs (such as supporting growth during a slowdown) with long-term goals (such as maintaining price stability).
• Dynamic Strategy: A dynamic and flexible approach to monetary policy, adjusting rates based on current economic conditions and future projections, is essential to avoid prolonged periods of restrictive policy that could lead to a ‘growth sacrifice.’

CONCLUSION

The ‘growth sacrifice’ view within the MPC highlights the ongoing challenge of balancing economic growth and inflation. While controlling inflation is crucial, maintaining high real interest rates for too long can hinder growth and have lasting negative effects. A balanced, data-driven approach to monetary policy, informed by international examples, is essential to support sustainable economic development.


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