2018 Michel Camdessus Central Banking Lecture Series: Managing Director's Opening Remarks

September 6, 2018

Excellencies, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Welcome to you all on the occasion of the fifth Michel Camdessus Lecture—our signature lecture series on the role of central banks.

It is my privilege to welcome and introduce the Governor of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, as our speaker today. 

1. Opera and Central Banking

Earlier this year, Elvira and I attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum—and during that event, I had the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of the magnificent Mariinsky opera house.


Elvira and I are big opera fans, and I think we would agree that this is one of the richest and most complex forms of art. Much like the “art form” that we are discussing here today—

central banking. 


Indeed, central banking requires fine mastery of many different disciplines—and nowhere is this more prominent than at central banks in emerging economies.


Why? Because these institutions tend to face a relatively higher share of challenges—from evolving policy frameworks to more frequent external shocks.


In that environment—much like the world of opera—there can be considerable drama.


2. Challenges in Emerging Markets


And there is no shortage of drama today. 

The greatest near-term threat to global growth is the risk that trade and geopolitical tensions intensify—with adverse effects on confidence, asset prices, investment, and growth.  

This is, of course, a major challenge for emerging economies because it adds to a less supportive external environment.

Think also of the stronger dollar and tightening of financial conditions, as advanced economies continue to normalize their exceptional and unconventional monetary policies.

Again, this is a challenge for many emerging economies because it has contributed to lower capital inflows and rising costs of finance.

These shifts are already testing the policy frameworks of some emerging market central banks—and the IMF is supporting its members through advice and, in some cases, financing.

But that is not the whole story. Even as they manage external uncertainties, emerging market central bankers are also expected to meet a range of domestic challenges.

For example, their financial systems may be less developed or —as in Russia— the banking system may be undergoing a clean-up and consolidation process. Under these circumstances, monetary policy transmission can be weak.

Meeting these challenges is not an easy task, especially for central banks that are seeking to build credibility and anchor inflation expectations, while managing other—potentially competing—policy objectives.

How can this be achieved? Clearly defined central bank mandates are critical—much like broad “musical themes”. And yet, there is no detailed “sheet music” to follow.


Central banks are expected to write their own music as they adapt in real time to fast-moving scenarios.


In that process, clear public communications are key to ensure that policy actions are well-understood and—importantly—to ensure legitimacy.


3. Striking the Right Tone


As any opera lover knows very well, great opera conductors need to have remarkable character, intuition, and leadership skill.


There is no doubt that Elvira has all these qualities—and more.


Elvira has had a most distinguished career in government, finance, and central banking. As a Deputy Minister of Economy in the early 2000s, she championed deep economic reforms.


She was then chief executive of Russia’s largest commercial bank, before serving as Minister of Economy—shaping Russia’s response to the global financial crisis and boosting her credentials as a calm and focused leader.


Following a short stint as Advisor to the President, Elvira took the helm of the Central Bank of Russia—one of the largest central banks in the world, with 7 main branches and 74 divisions, and operations that span 11 time zones.


Under her leadership, the central bank helped cushion external shocks by moving to a fully flexible exchange rate and an inflation targeting regime. She has also noticeably strengthened the bank’s public communications.


As a result, inflation expectations in Russia today are better anchored, and at lower levels, than they were only a few years ago.


At the same time, Elvira has been relentless in consolidating Russia’s expansive banking system—revoking more than 400 banking licenses—and upgrading the regulation and supervision of the financial sector.


It is, therefore, not surprising that she was named ‘central bank governor of the year’ by Euromoney (2015) and The Banker (2017).


Let me conclude with a quote from the poet W.H. Auden, who once said: “No opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.”


That is why Elvira is special—she can make central banking ‘sing’, while being very sensible indeed.


So I am deeply honored, Elvira, that you have accepted our invitation to deliver this fifth Michel Camdessus Lecture.


We all look forward to hearing your thoughts on monetary policy, central banking, and on Russia’s experience.


I also look forward to engaging with you in a conversation about the major challenges facing today’s central banks, after your remarks.


The floor—or should I say the stage—is yours!

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