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  • Author: Gunther Schnabl
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Twenty years after the introduction of the euro, the European Monetary Union (EMU) is at its crossroads. Following the outbreak of the European financial and debt crisis in 2008, the European Central Bank (ECB) took comprehensive measures to stabilize the common currency. Interest rates were cut to and below zero and several asset purchase programs have inflated the ECB balance sheet (Riet 2018). Within the European System of Central Banks, large imbalances have emerged via the TARGET2 payments system, which can be seen as quasi-unconditional credit in favor of the southern euro area countries (Sinn 2018). While the ECB terminated its asset purchase program at the end of 2018 and is expected to increase interest rates in late 2019, financial instability is reemerging. Growing uncertainty about the fiscal discipline of the Italian government has triggered a significant increase in risk premiums on Italian government bonds. In particular, in Italy and Greece, but also in Germany, bad loans and assets remain stuck in the banking systems. In the face of the upcoming downswing, European banks do not seem ready for new financial turmoil. In this fragile environment, the future path of the EMU is uncertain. To enhance the stability of the EMU, a group of German and French economists has called for a common euro area budget, for a strengthening of the European Stability Mechanism as lender of last resort for euro area countries and banks, as well as for a common European deposit insurance scheme (Bénassy-Quéré et al. 2018). In response, 154 German economists have warned against transforming the EMU into what they call a “liablity union,” which systematically undermines market principles and wealth (Mayer et al. 2018). In 2018, a French-German initative to introduce a common euro area budget faced strong opposition from a group of northern European countries as well as from Italy, symbolizing the political deadlock concerning reforms of the EMU. This article explains the different views on the institutional setting of monetary policymaking in Europe from a historical perspective. It begins with a description of the economic and monetary order in postwar Germany. It then discusses the positive implications for the European integration process and the economic consequences of the transformation of postwar German monetary order. The final section offers some economic policy recommendations.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Monetary Policy, Reform, European Union, Banks, Currency
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Sebastian Edwards
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: dea has emerged in economic policy circles in the United States: “Modern Monetary Theory” (MMT). The central tenet of this view is that it is possible to use expansive monetary policy—money creation by the central bank (i.e., the Federal Reserve)—to finance large fiscal deficits, and create a “jobs guarantee” program that will ensure full employment and good jobs for everyone. This view is related to Abba Lerner’s (1943) “functional finance” idea, and has become very popular in progressive spheres. According to MMT supporters, this policy would not result in crowding out of private investment, nor would it generate a public debt crisis or inflation outbursts.
  • Topic: Debt, Monetary Policy, Populism, Banks, Economic Policy, Inflation
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Andrew Liu
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In 2016 alone, China saw $9 trillion in mobile payments—in contrast to a comparably small $112 billion of mobile payments in the United States (Abkowitz 2018). The use of mobile payment systems such as Alipay and WeChat Pay are widespread in China, with users ranging from beggars to lenders to criminals. Previously, the mobile payments landscape was largely untouched and unregulated by the Chinese government because of its relative insignificance in the Chinese economy. However, with the explosive growth in mobile payment transactions, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) implemented a new mobile payment regulation on June 30, 2018. Most notably, the government will require all mobile payments to be cleared through the PBOC, and hence, all mobile payment transactions will begin to touch the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Hersey 2017). The PBOC’s stated reasoning for implementing this regulation is to curb money laundering and fraud. While those are valid concerns, it is unlikely that there are not additional motivations for the new regulation. In this article, I analyze the effects this new regulation has had and will likely have on the various mobile payment system stakeholders, competitors, and users, and also uncover what underlying motives the PBOC has in implementing the regulation.
  • Topic: Government, Regulation, Economy, Banks, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Yiping Huang, Tingting Ge
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When China began economic reform in 1978, it had only one financial institution, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), which, at that time, served as both the central bank and a commercial bank and accounted for 93 percent of the country’s total financial assets. This was primarily because, in a centrally planned economy, transfer of funds was arranged by the state and there was little demand for financial intermediation. Once economic reform started, the authorities moved very quickly to establish a very large number of financial institutions and to create various financial markets. Forty years later, China is already an important player in the global financial system, including in the banking sector, direct investment, and bond and equity markets. However, government intervention in the financial system remains widespread and serious. The PBOC still guides commercial banks’ setting of deposit and lending rates through “window guidance,” although the final restriction on deposit rates was removed in 2015. Industry and other policies still play important roles influencing allocation of financial resources by banks and capital markets. The PBOC intervenes in the foreign exchange markets from time to time, through directly buying or selling foreign exchanges, setting the central parity, and determining the daily trading band. The regulators tightly manage cross-border capital flows, and the state still controls majority shares of most large financial institutions.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, Reform, Financial Markets, Banks
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Charles I. Plosser
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It is a pleasure to be back here at Cato and to be invited to speak once again at this annual conference. This is one of the premier ongoing monetary policy conferences, and the participants, both at the podium and in the audience, attest to its prominence. This is a session on international monetary arrangements, and there has already been an interesting discussion. I find myself in substantial agreement with the comments of John Taylor, so I do not wish to repeat his points. What I will try to do is put the rules-based approach to international monetary policy coordination in a context that I hope will help us understand some of the past failures so we might avoid them in the future. In many ways, I will simply be reminding us of some principles we all have known for some time, yet which we seem to forget all too frequently.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Monetary Policy, Banks
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: John Greenwood
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article provides an overview of the three episodes of quantitative easing (QE) pursued by the Bank of Japan (BOJ) since 2001. It begins with a brief account of the initial reluctant shift to unorthodox policies under BOJ Governors Hayami and Fukui in 2001–06 (here designated QE1) and then covers the equally reluctant adoption of QE by Governor Shirakawa in 2010–13 (QE2). The article then turns to an account of the attempt since April 2013 by the BOJ under Governor Kuroda, designated “quantitative and qualitative easing” (QQE), to revive the economy and achieve a 2 percent inflation target. None of these attempts at QE has been successful in raising the broad money growth rate for M2 sustainably above the 2–3 percent per annum range where it has languished for the past 25 years. Consequently, Japan’s attempts at QE have all failed to raise the equilibrium level of Japanese nominal GDP by any material magnitude, and so far, attainment of the 2 percent inflation target under QQE has remained elusive. At the time of writing (October 2016), the Japanese economy therefore continues to grow at a low rate with periodic lapses into deflation. After discussing the case of Japan, the article compares the experience of the United States in 1929–33, when there was no QE, and the experience of 2008–14, when the Fed conducted QE over three periods. The comparison is deliberately focused on the quantitative aspects of the policy, not its interest rate effects. Finally, the article explains that there are two brands of QE, and that the failure of QE in Japan is fundamentally due to the choice of the wrong brand of QE. Given the type of QE that the Japanese authorities have chosen, the policy cannot be expected to succeed, except under limited conditions.1 If QE were to be implemented according to a different design, the prospects of success would be much greater. In brief, the primary reason for the failure of BOJ-style QE or QQE derives from the habitual tendency to buy securities from banks instead of from nonbank private-sector entities (such as nonbank financial firms, nonfinancial firms, households, or foreigners). While QE policy in Japan boosts the monetary base, it does not increase broad money. But it is broad money that drives nominal GDP, not the monetary base.
  • Topic: History, Economy, Banks, Central Bank
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia