This paper estimates neutral real interest rate (NRIR) ranges for 10 Latin American countries that either have full-fledged inflation targeting regimes in place or have recently adopted them, using an array of methodologies commonly used in the literature. We find that NRIRs have declined in the last decade, with more economically and financially developed economies exhibiting lower NRIR levels. Based on the estimated NRIRs, we assess that the current monetary stance (measured by the interest rate gap) is appropriately neutral in most of the considered economies, in line with closing output gaps. We also observe that the interest rate gap can be a good predictor of future inflation dynamics and economic growth. In addition, looking at the recent experiences in Brazil and Peru, we suggest that macro-prudential policies could affect the monetary stance even in the absence of direct interest rate changes, through affecting the NRIR.
We examine the deep determinants of long-run macroeconomic stability in a cross-country framework. We find that conflict, openness, and democratic political institutions have a strong and statistically significant causal impact on macroeconomic stability. Surprisingly the most robust relationship of the three is for democratic institutions. A one standard deviation increase in democracy can reduce nominal instability nearly fourfold. This impact is robust to alternative measures of democracy, samples, covariates, and definitions of conflict. It is particularly noteworthy that a variety of nominal pathologies discussed in the recent macroeconomic literature, such as procyclical policy, original sin, and debt intolerance, have common origins in weak democratic institutions. We also find evidence that democratic institutions both strongly influence monetary policy and have a strong, independent positive effect on stability after controlling for various policy variables.
Fiscal rules—legal restrictions on government borrowing, spending, or debt accumulation (like the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act in the United States)—have recently been adopted or considered in several countries, both industrial and developing. Previous literature stresses that such laws restrict countercyclical government borrowing, thus preventing intertemporal equalization of marginal deadweight losses of taxation—an idea associated with Frank Ramsey. However, such literature typically abstracts from persistent current deficits that are financed by future tax increases. Eliminating such deficits may substantially reduce tax rate variability—the very goal of countercyclical borrowing—even over a finite horizon. Thus, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings and Frank Ramsey are not necessarily enemies and they may even be good friends!
Inflation targeting lite (ITL) countries float their exchange rate and announce an inflation target, but are not able to maintain the inflation target as the foremost policy objective. This paper identifies 19 emerging market countries as practitioners of ITL. They seem to focus mainly on bringing inflation into the single digits and maintaining financial stability. ITL can be viewed as a transitional regime aimed at buying time for the implementation of the structural reforms needed for a single credible nominal anchor. The important policy challenges for an ITL central bank include whether or not to precommit to a single anchor.