We study the link between central bank independence and inflation by providing narrative and empiricial evidence based on Latin America’s experience over the past 100 years. We present a novel historical dataset of central bank independence for 17 Latin American countries and recount the rocky journey traveled by Latin America to achieve central bank independence and price stability. After their creation as independent institutions, central bank independence was eroded in the 1930s at the time of the Great Depression and following the abandonement of the gold exchange standard. Then, by the 1940s, central banks turned into de facto development banks under the aegis of governments, sawing the seeds for high inflation. It took the high inflation episodes of the 1970s and 1980s and the associated major decline in real income, and growing social discontent, to grant central banks political and operational independence to focus on fighting inflation starting in the 1990s. The empirical evidence confirms the strong negative association between central bank independence and inflation and finds that improvements in independence result in a steady decline in inflation. It also shows that high levels of central bank independence are associated with reductions in the likelihood of high inflation episodes, especially when accompanied by reductions in central bank financing to the central government.
Ms. Marialuz Moreno Badia, Juliana Gamboa-Arbelaez, and Yuan Xiang
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, debt levels in emerging and developing economies have surged raising concerns about fiscal sustainability. Historically, negative interest-growth differentials in these countries have played a debt-stabilizing role. But is this enough to prevent countries from falling into debt distress? Drawing from a sample of 150 emerging and developing economies going back to the 1970s, we find that interest-growth differentials have remained relatively low, dampening debt increases in the run up to a crisis. But in the face of persistent primary deficits, debt service tends to rise abruptly—particularly in emerging markets—and a fiscal crisis ensues. There is also evidence that a large part of the debt build-up around crises stems from valuation effects associated with external debt and the materialization of contingent liabilities. These findings underscore that, though not necessarily a red-herring, low interest-growth differentials cannot fully offset the deleterious effects of large fiscal deficits, forex exposures, or hidden debts.
This paper presents a stylized general equilibrium model of the Venezuelan economy. The model explains how the recent sharp fall in oil revenue combines with foreign exchange rationing to produce a steep rise in inflation. Counterintuitively, a devaluation of the official exchange rate could temporarily reduce inflation. The model also explains how the hyper-depreciation of the black market exchange rate reflects prices in the most distorted goods markets.