The ever forward looking and even-handed Herald devotes its editorial to attacking Labour for supporting Winston Peters’ Bill to make some small changes to the Reserve Banks’ objectives to bring them more in line with Australia’s. Leaving aside the fact that the Herald hasn’t attacked NZF or the 3 other parties who support this, only Labour, isn’t it time Granny got with the programme?
You only need read the business and business opinion pages in the Herald itself to get what is happening. Of the 10 most-traded currencies in the world (and it should ring alarm bells that we’re in that grouping at all), New Zealand has the narrowest monetary policy. Our Reserve Bank considers just one thing in making its interest rate decisions – the impact on inflation. None of the other currencies have such narrowly-focused monetary policy.
Granny heartily approves. But Granny, like National, is fighting yesterday’s war. Inflation in general isn’t a problem any more. We have 1% inflation at the moment, and it won’t get above the 3% top of the Reserve Bank’s target bracket in any of the forecasts for many years. In fact, if big economies weren’t printing money like crazy and inducing some global inflation, we would probably have deflation now.
Now, lets look at those other largely-traded currencies again. These are the currencies with which ours is predominantly traded. The most-traded – US, Euro, Yen, Pounds – are all engaged in forms of quantitative easing. That means that their central banks are creating more of those currencies (decreasing their value/causing minor inflation) – which they then to buy their government’s own bonds, which lowers interest rates in their countries. Both actions decrease their exchange rate and increase ours in turn.
The rest of the top ten have wider objectives for their Reserve Banks than just inflation – they have to consider jobs and growth too. Some are also involved in forms of quantitative easing. The net effect: all these governments are attacking to keep their currencies low so their manufacturers can compete (and it certainly seems to be working for the US, which is seeing manufacturing grow to China’s cost).
Of course, when their currencies go down, ours goes up. They’re running beggar thy neighbour strategies – and we’re the neighbour.
So, what should we do? Well, we’ve got to play the game too. We could undertake quantitative easing – everyone else is doing it and the sky isn’t falling. At the very least, we should lower our official cash rate to make it less attractive for foreign ‘hot money’ to invest here. That would help bring our currency down and let our businesses compete on the export markets and against importers. But to do that, the Reserve Bank would have to be allowed to consider more than inflation – it should have to look at the whole economic impacts of its choices. We should also bring in policies to stop a housing bubble, which is bad, inflationary, and draws in hot money from overseas – policies like capital gains tax. That would allow further reductions in the OCR.
Right now, the Reserve Bank is like a doctor confronting a patient with a range of maladies. But it is only allowed to worry about whether or not a patient is hyper-ventilating – and its only remedy is strangulation. Meanwhile, other countries are giving their doctors the skills and tools to really fix their patients. And (this is where the metaphor breaks down) as they make their patients healthier, it makes ours sicker.
For some reason, Granny Herald thinks that’s just fine. Maybe because Granny Herald isn’t an exporter. Maybe because the Herald isn’t a paper that gives a damn about the 40,000 manufacturing workers who have seen their jobs disappear in the last 4 years.