Well–functioning monetary arrangements are as important as other aspects of the infrastructure, in putting Iraq back on the road of economic development. After the unification of the two kinds of dinars that have been circulating, the next order of business will be to decide what should determine the value of the currency. What exchange rate regime is appropriate for Iraq, at this key juncture in its history?
[This article expands on ideas in an op–ed that appeared in the Financial Times, September 13, 2002. The author would like to thank for useful comments Jack Frankel, Bill Gale, Jeff Liebman, Arnold Kling and Peter Orszag.]
Almost overnight, the Bush Administration has thrown away long–sought and hard–fought budget balance. Official projections from the Congressional Budget Office now show renewed federal budget deficits lasting well into the future, contrary to what was forecast by the White House forecasts when passing its tax cuts. The projected cumulated 10–year surplus has been slashed by more than half, relative to CBO?s last forecast in March. The truth is in fact worse than that, for many reasons. How did this happen? How did the Republican Party, long associated with fiscal conservatism, come to preside over so large a deviation from good economic policy?
Assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, Greg Mankiw, a leading Harvard economics professor, will soon be the new Chairman of President Bush?s Council of Economic Advisers. The president should be congratulated for such an outstanding choice.
Mankiw may need some advice, however — a historical perspective, in particular, on what an adviser can do when official White House policy goes contrary to his convictions as a professional economist. Of course, it would be a remarkable coincidence if any president accepted every position that his economic advisers had taken on every issue. But there are likely to be especially large divergences between this president and good economics as represented, for example, by Mankiw?s own very popular textbook. This is why I am concerned. I am thinking of such issues as budget deficits, steel tariffs, agricultural subsidies, and conflict with the Fed.
He will be joining an NEC director and Treasury secretary who have already been asked to sell a shift toward budget deficits that appears inconsistent with their past views. But it is possible for a Treasury Secretary or an Assistant to the President to toe the party line while in office, and then confess later that this did not entirely correspond to his true beliefs. (On the subject of budget deficits, see the memoirs of David Stockman and Richard Darman, for example, who were, respectively, Budget Director and Assistant to the President in the first Reagan Administration.) A professor of economics like Mankiw, who plans to return to Harvard after his service as a White House advisor, cannot engage in such inconsistencies, without risking losing some of the professional credibility that is so important to an academic career. Indeed, this truth–telling constraint may be the most valuable advantage of having a Council of Economic Advisers, and may explain why Congress legislated the institution in the first place. Encumbered by academic reputations, they are unencumbered by long–term political careers.
It might help to know the variety of strategies tried by past economic advisers, when they have found themselves disagreeing with the president. The history may be especially instructive in that often the disagreements have been over some of the same issues likely to come up in the current administration.
Recent econometric estimates suggest that currency unions have far greater effects on trade patterns than previously believed. Since currency unions are good for trade, and trade is good for growth, that is one major argument in favor of EMU. If there were evidence that the boost to trade within EMU was likely to come in part at the expense of trade with outsiders, that would imply something stronger, for a neighbor such as the United Kingdom: that life outside EMU would get progressively less attractive in the future. But there is no such evidence, either for currency unions in general (according to Frankel–Rose) or for the first three years of EMU in particular (according to Micco, Stein, and Ordoñez). Furthermore, there are the usual countervailing arguments for retaining monetary independence, particularly the famous asymmetric shocks. One possible argument for waiting is that UK trade with euroland is still increasing, probably due to lagged effects of joining the EU and the Single Market initiative. Estimates suggest that the growing trade links in turn lead to growing cyclical correlation. The implication is that the UK may better qualify for the optimum currency area criteria in the future than in the past. On the other hand, if, as a result of waiting to enter, London loses to Frankfurt its position as the leading financial center in the European time zone, that loss may not be readily recoverable in the future.
To quantify the implications of common currencies for trade and income, we use data for over 200 countries and dependencies. In our two–stage approach, estimates at the first stage suggest that belonging to a currency union/board triples trade with other currency union members. Moreover, there is no evidence of trade–diversion. Our estimates at the second stage suggest that every one percent increase in a country's overall trade (relative to GDP) raises income per capita by at least one third of a percent. We combine the two estimates to quantify the effect of common currencies on output. Our results support the hypothesis that important beneficial effects of currency unions come through the promotion of trade.
[Third Annual IMF Research Conference, Washington, DC, November 7?8, 2002.]
What do we mean by institutions? The generality of the word cries out for a definition. I am not going to attempt it. A narrow interpretation would consist of only specific legal bodies or procedural mechanisms. Examples include regulatory agencies (e.g., Securities and Exchange Commissions), standards–setting bodies (e.g., for accounting), and what are sometimes called "commitment devices" (currency boards, guarantees of central bank independence, balanced budget amendments, the Stability and Growth Pact, etc.). A broad definition would include everything about a society that is more detailed than the basic theoretical model in a graduate economics textbook: from the existence of efficiency wages and a six–month gold futures market, to culture. The notion of institutional quality that has become common in the growth literature lies at an intermediate level of generality, and pertains to Property rights and Rule of Law. I am happy to accept that usage. But, before I turn to it, I want to flag the wide variety of issues that could be termed institutional, and to observe that they may not necessarily all be correlated. For example, democracy is on many people?s list. But the commitment devices I named (currency boards, independent CBs, Stability Pact), are distinctive for being institutions that prevent macroeconomic policy from being determined in "too democratic" a manner.
The debate over monetary standards and exchange rate regimes for developing countries is as wide open as ever. On the one hand, the big selling points of floating exchange rates—monetary independence and accommodation of terms of trade shocks—have not lived up to their promise. On the other hand, proposals for credible institutional monetary commitments to nominal anchors have each run aground on their own peculiar shoals. Rigid pegs to the dollar, for example, are dangerous when the dollar appreciates relative to other export markets.
This study explores a new proposal: that countries specialized in the export of a particular commodity should peg their currency to that commodity. When the dollar price of the commodity on world markets falls, the dollar exchange rate of the local currency would fall in tandem. The country would thus reap the best of both worlds: the advantage of a nominal anchor for monetary policy, together with the automatic accommodation to terms of trade shocks that floating rates claim to deliver. The paper conducts a set of counter-factual experiments. For each of a list of countries specialized in particular mineral or agricultural commodities, what would have happened, over the last 30 years, if it had pegged its currency to that commodity, as compared to pegging to the dollar, yen, or mark, or as compared to whatever exchange rate policy it actually followed historically? We compute under these scenarios the price of the commodity in local terms, and we then simulate the implications for exports. Illustrative of the results is that some victims of financial difficulties in the late 1990s might have achieved a stimulus to exports precisely when it was most needed, without having to go through wrenching currency collapses, if they had been on regimes of pegging to their export commodity: South Africa to gold or platinum, Nigeria and Indonesia to oil, Chile to copper, Argentina to wheat, Colombia to coffee, and so on.
Not all countries will benefit from a peg to their export commodity, and none will benefit in all time periods. Nonetheless, the results suggest that the proposal that some countries peg their currency to their principle export commodity deserves to take its place alongside pegs to major currencies and the other monetary regimes that countries consider.
We contribute to the debate over globalization and the environment by asking: What is the effect of trade on a country?s environment, for a given level of GDP? We take specific account of the endogeneity of trade, using exogenous geographic determinants of trade as instrumental variables. We find that trade tends to reduce three measures of air pollution. Statistical significance is high for SO2 , moderate for NO2 , and lacking for particulate matter. While results for other environmental measures are not as encouraging, there is little evidence that trade has a detrimental effect on the environment.
When I first arrived at the White House in September 1996, I had no idea that one of the issues on which I would spend the most time during my period as a Member of President Clinton?s Council of Economic Advisers was global climate change. But Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth had the month before announced a major change in policy: that the United States would in multilateral negotiations now support "legally binding" quantitative targets for the emission of greenhouse gases. This left 15 months for the US Administration to decide what kind of specifics it wanted, at the Third Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), scheduled for November 1997 in Kyoto. Because other countries take their cue from the superpower (whether it is to support or oppose US positions), this countdown engendered a certain amount of suspense: What specifically would the U.S. propose at the Kyoto Conference, most notably regarding how the numerical targets should be determined? Outsiders demanded to know –with particular tenacity in the case of the U.S. Congress, who feared the worst. I was a member of a large inter–agency group that worked intensively on what was to become the Kyoto Protocol.
I never thought that the agreement had a large chance of being ratified by the U.S. Senate, or of coming into force in a serious way. There were too many unbridgeable political chasms, as I will explain. Furthermore I understand the reasons why almost all economists, at least in the United States, disapprove of the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless, I am prepared to defend the Clinton version of the treaty, and I believe it was a step in the right direction.
I will begin by noting that the weight of scientific opinion seems indeed to have concluded that the Earth is getting warmer, that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the major cause, and that anthropogenic emissions are in turn responsible. I am not a scientist. But the latest IPCC report concludes "The globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius" over the period 1990 to 2100, and "global mean sea level is projected to rise by 0.09 to 0.88 metres." The evidence has become clearer over the last ten or twenty years. President George Bush, the Second, made a big mistake when he initially allied himself with the minority of disbelievers. It was a political mistake if nothing else. Even granting that the incoming administration in 2001 did not want to pursue Kyoto, it was foolish and unnecessary for the White House to dismiss the climate change problem.
This paper will take as given that the problem of global climate change is genuine, and is sufficiently important to be worth addressing by steps that are more than cosmetic. Because the externality is purely global – a ton of carbon emitted into the air, no matter where in the world, has the same global warming potential – the approach must be multilateral. Individual countries will not get far on their own, due to the free rider problem. Specifically, multilateral negotiations have since the Rio Summit of 1992 proceeded under the UNFCCC.
The paper will summarize major decisions that the Clinton Administration had to make, and why it made them as it did. What were the quantitative limits on emissions to be? How would greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide be treated? Would trading across time or across countries be permitted? And so on. In my time in the government, I was surprised to discover that policy makers often must make such technical–sounding decisions with relatively little help from the body of technical knowledge and opinion outside the government. It is not just that academic research is too abstract to be of much direct help with the minutia of specific policy decisions. The pronouncements of think tanks and op–ed writers also ignore practical complexities, because they seek to make big points for general audiences. We were largely on our own.
This paper considers policies of the industrialized countries, as they pertain to crises in emerging markets. These fall into three areas: (1) their own macroeconomic policies, which determine the global financial environment; (2) their role in responding to crises when they occur, particularly through rescue packages, which have three components —reforms in debtor countries, public funds from creditor countries, and private sector involvement; and (3) efforts to reform the international financial architecture, with the aim of lessening the frequency and severity of future crises. A recurrent theme is the tension between mitigating crises that occur, and the moral hazard that such efforts create in the longer term. In addition to reviewing these three areas of policy, we consider the institutions through which the more powerful countries exercise their influence. We conclude with a discussion of the debate over the sins of the International Monetary Fund, and proposals for reform.
Gravity–based cross–sectional evidence indicates that currency unions stimulate trade; cross–sectional evidence indicates that trade stimulates output. This paper estimates the effect that currency union has, via trade, on output per capita. We use economic and geographic data for over 200 countries to quantify the implications of currency unions for trade and output, pursuing a two–state approach. Our estimates at the first stage suggest that belonging to a currency union more than triples trade with the other members of the zone. Moreover, there is no evidence of trade–diversion. Our estimates at the second stage suggest that every one percent increase in trade (relative to GDP) raises income per capita by roughly 1/3 of a percent over twenty years. We combine the two estimates to quantify the effect of currency union on output. Our results support the hypothesis that the beneficial effects of currency unions on economic performance come through the promotion of trade, rather than through a commitment to non–inflationary monetary policy, or other macroeconomic influences.
Globalization of trade and finance has gone a long way over the last –century. But it is less impressive than most non–economists think, judged either by the standard of 100 years ago or by the hypothetical standard of perfect international integration. The paper documents the extent of globalization, and some reasons for the barriers that remains. It then briefly considers the implications for economic growth and the implications for goals not measured by GDP equality and the environment. The conclusion is that globalization is not the primary obstacle to efforts to address such concerns.
The corners hypothesis holds that intermediate exchange rate regimes are vanishing, or should be. Surprisingly for a new conventional wisdom, this hypothesis so far lacks analytic foundations. In part, the generalization is overdone. We nevertheless offer one possible theoretical rationale, a contribution to the list of arguments against intermediate regimes: they lack verifiability, needed for credibility. Central banks announce intermediate targets such as exchange rates, so that the public can judge from observed data whether they are following the policy announced. Our general point is that simple regimes are more verifiable by market participants than complicated ones. Of the various intermediate regimes (managed float, peg with escape clause, etc.), we focus on basket pegs, with bands. Statistically, it takes a surprisingly long span of data to distinguish such a regime from a floating exchange rate. We apply the econometrics, first, to the example of Chile and, second, by performing Monte Carlo simulations. The amount of data required to verify the declared regime may exceed the length of time during which the regime is maintained. The amount of information necessary increases with the complexity of the regime, including the width of the band and the number of currencies in the basket.
This essay considers some prescriptions that are currently popular regarding exchange rate regimes: a general movement toward floating, a general movement toward fixing, or a general movement toward either extreme and away from the middle. The whole spectrum from fixed to floating is covered (including basket pegs, crawling pegs, and bands), with special attention to currency boards and dollarization. One overall theme is that the appropriate exchange rate regime varies depending on the specific circumstances of the country in question (which includes the classic optimum currency area criteria, as well as some newer criteria related to credibility) and depending on the circumstances of the time period in question (which includes the problem of successful exit strategies). Latin American interest rates are seen to be more sensitive to US interest rates when the country has a loose dollar peg than when it has a tight peg. It is also argued that such relevant country characteristics as income correlations and openness can vary over time, and that the optimum currency area criterion is accordingly endogenous.