Working Papers

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2024

March 1, 2024

Is Inflation Good for Business? The Firm-Level Impact of Inflation Shocks in the Baltics, 1997-2021

Description: Using a large panel of firm-level data, this paper provides an analysis of how inflation shocks in the Baltics between 1997 and 2021 affected total factor productivity (TFP), gross profitability, and net fixed investment in nonfinancial sectors. First, we find that inflation and inflation volatility had mixed effects on TFP growth, profitability and net fixed investment in the first year as well as over the medium term, albeit at a dissipating rate. Second, focusing on subsamples, we find that inflation shocks had differential effects on large versus small firms. Third, we explore sectoral heterogeneity in how firms responded to inflation shocks and observe significant variation across tradable and non-tradable sectors. Finally, estimates from a state-dependent model suggest that firms’ response to inflation shocks varied with the state of the economy. The results suggest that nonfinancial firms in the Baltics have been agile in adjusting to inflation shocks, possibly by either transferring higher production costs to consumers or substituting inputs. Given the differences in the level and nature of the recent inflation shock and the sample period on which our analysis is based, empirical findings presented in this paper might not necessarily apply to the latest bout of inflation in the Baltics.

March 1, 2024

The Consequences of Falling Behind the Curve: Inflation Shocks and Policy Delays Under Rational and Behavioral Expectations

Description: Central banks in major industrialized economies were slow to react to the surge in inflation that began in early 2021. The proximate causes of this surge were the supply chain disruptions associated with the easing of COVID restrictions, fiscal policies designed to cushion the economic impact of COVID, and the impact on commodity prices and supply chains of the war in Ukraine. We investigate the consequences of policy delay in responding to inflation shocks. First, using a simple three-period model, we show how policy delay worsens inflation outcomes, but can mitigate or even reverse the output decline that occurs when policy responds without delay. Then, using a calibrated new Keynesian framework and two measures of loss that incorporate a “balanced approach” to weigh inflation and the output gap, we find that loss is monotonically increasing in the length of the delay. Loss is reduced if policy, when it does react, is more aggressive. To investigate whether these results are sensitive to the assumption of rational expectations, we consider cognitive discounting as an alternative assumption about expectations. With cognitive discounting, forward guidance is less powerful and results in a reduction in the costs of delay. Under either assumption about expectations, the costs of a short delay can be eliminated by adopting a less inertial policy rule and a more aggressive response to inflation.

March 1, 2024

Inflated Concerns: Exposure to Past Inflationary Episodes and Preferences for Price Stability

Description: Using individual-level survey data for both advanced economies and emerging markets spanning over 45 years for 42 countries, we show that cohorts who have had higher exposure to past inflationary episodes (levels, as well as to more persistent or to more volatile inflation), systematically express higher concerns over rising prices. The link between past high inflation exposure and expressed concerns over price stability is particularly strong when an individual’s exposure occurs in the latter part of her working-age (as in lifecycle theory). The impact of past exposure to high inflation on contemporaneous preferences over price stability increases when surveyed in the midst of high ongoing inflation and with macroeconomic instability (as measured by GDP growth volatility), but diminishes with the quality of institutions.

February 23, 2024

An Integrated Policy Framework (IPF) Diagram for International Economics

Description: The Mundell-Fleming IS-LM approach has guided generations of economists over the past 60 years. But countries have experienced new problems, the international finance literature has advanced, and the composition of the global economy has changed, so the scene is set for an updated approach. We propose an Integrated Policy Framework (IPF) diagram to analyze the use of multiple policy tools as a function of shocks and country characteristics. The underlying model features dominant currency pricing, shallow foreign exchange (FX) markets, and occasionally-binding external and domestic borrowing constraints. Our diagram includes the use of monetary policy, FX intervention, capital controls, and domestic macroprudential measures. It has four panels to explore four key trade-offs related to import consumption, home goods consumption, the housing market, and monetary policy. Our extended diagram adds fiscal policy into the mix.

February 23, 2024

Navigating the Evolving Landscape between China and Africa’s Economic Engagements

Description: China and Africa have forged a strong economic relationship since China’s accession to the WTO in 2001. This paper examines the evolution of these economic ties starting in the early 2000s, and the subsequent shift in the relationship triggered by the commodity price collapse in 2015 and by the COVID-19 pandemic. The potential effects on the African continent of a further slowdown in Chinese growth are analyzed, highlighting the varying effects on different countries in Africa, especially those heavily dependent on their economic relationship with China. The conclusion offers a discussion of ways how African countries and China could adapt to the changing relationship.

February 23, 2024

Determinants of Zombie Banks in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies

Description: While deeply undercapitalized banks have been shown to misallocate credit to weak firms, the drivers of such zombie banks are less researched, particularly across countries. To furnish empirical evidence, we compile a dataset of undercapitalized banks from emerging markets and developing economies. We classify zombie banks as those not receiving remedial treatment by owners or regulators or, alternatively, remaining chronically undercapitalized. Using logit regressions, we find that country-specific factors are more influential for zombie status than bank characteristics, alhough some become significant when disaggregating by region. The paper’s overall findings imply the need for a proper regulatory framework and an effective resolution regime to deal with zombie banks more decisively.

February 23, 2024

A New Measure of Central Bank Independence

Description: This paper constructs a new index for measuring de jure central bank independence, the first entirely new index in three decades. The index draws on a comprehensive dataset from the IMF’s Central Bank Legislation Database (CBLD) and Monetary Operations and Instruments Database (MOID) and weightings derived from a survey of 87 respondents, mostly consisting of central bank governors and general counsels. It improves upon existing indices including the Cukierman, Webb, and Neyapti (CWN) index, which has been the de facto standard for measuring central bank independence since 1992, as well as recent extensions by Garriga (2016) and Romelli (2022). For example, it includes areas absent from the CWN index, such as board composition, financial independence, and budgetary independence. It treats dimensions such as the status of the chief executive as composite metrics to prevent overstating the independence of statutory schemes. It distills ten key metrics, simplifying current frameworks that now include upwards of forty distinct variables. And it replaces the subjective weighting systems relied on in the existing literature with an empirically grounded alternative. This paper presents the key features of the new index; a companion, forthcoming paper will provide detailed findings by country/region, income level, and exchange rate regime.

February 16, 2024

Political Fragility: Coups d’État and Their Drivers

Description: The paper explores the drivers of political fragility by focusing on coups d’état as symptomatic of such fragility. It uses event studies to identify factors that exhibit significantly different dynamics in the runup to coups, and machine learning to identify these stressors and more structural determinants of fragility—as well as their nonlinear interactions—that create an environment propitious to coups. The paper finds that the destabilization of a country’s economic, political or security environment—such as low growth, high inflation, weak external positions, political instability and conflict—set the stage for a higher likelihood of coups, with overlapping stressors amplifying each other. These stressors are more likely to lead to breakdowns in political systems when demographic pressures and underlying structural weaknesses (especially poverty, exclusion, and weak governance) are present or when policies are weaker, through complex interactions. Conversely, strengthened fundamentals and macropolicies have higher returns in structurally fragile environments in terms of staving off political breakdowns, suggesting that continued engagement by multilateral institutions and donors in fragile situations is likely to yield particularly high dividends. The model performs well in predicting coups out of sample, having predicted a high probability of most 2020-23 coups, including in the Sahel region.

February 16, 2024

Small Firm Growth and the VAT Threshold Evidence for the UK

Description: This paper studies the effect of the VAT threshold on firm growth in the UK, using exogenous variation over time in the threshold, combined with turnover bin fixed effects, for identification. We find robust evidence that annual growth in turnover slows by about 1 percentage point when firm turnover gets close to the threshold, with no evidence of higher growth when the threshold is passed. Growth in firm costs shows a similar pattern, indicating that the response to the threshold is likely to be a real response rather than an evasion response. Firms that habitually register even when their turnover is below the VAT threshold (voluntary registered firms) have growth that is unaffected by the threshold, whereas firms that select into the Flat-Rate Scheme have a less pronounced slowdown response than other firms. Similar patterns of turnover and cost growth around the threshold are also observed for non-incorporated businesses. Finally, simulation results clarify the relative contribution of ``crossers" (firms who eventually register for VAT) and ``non-crossers" (those who permanently stay below the threshold) in explaining our empirical findings.

February 16, 2024

Carbon Prices and Inflation in the Euro Area

Description: What is the effect of carbon pricing on inflation? This paper shows empirically that the consequences of the European Union’s Emission Trading System (ETS) and national carbon taxation on inflation have been limited in the euro area, so far. This result is supported by analysis based on a panel local projections approach, as well as event studies based on individual countries. Our estimates suggest that carbon taxes raised the price of energy but had limited effects on overall consumer prices. Since future climate policy will need to be much more ambitious compared to what has been observed so far, including the need for larger increases in carbon prices, possible non-linearities might make extrapolating from historical results difficult. We thus also use input-output tables to simulate the mechanical effect of a carbon tax consistent with the EU’s ‘Fit-for-55’ commitments on inflation. The required increase of effective carbon prices from around 40 Euro per ton of CO2 in 2021 to around 150 Euro by 2030 could raise annual euro area inflation by between 0.2 and 0.4 percentage points. It is worth noting that the energy price increases caused by the rise in the effective carbon price to 150 Euro is substantially smaller than the energy price spike seen in 2022 following the invasion of Ukraine.

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