Working paper on staggered terms for the Central Banker and the President published in the Brazilian Central Bank Working Paper Series

The working paper Elections, Heterogeneity of Central Bankers and Inflationary Pressure: the case for staggered terms for the president and the central banker”, co-authored with Fábia A. de Carvalho, was published on September 23, 2019 in the Brazilian Central Bank’s Working Paper Series No. 501.

Non-technical Summary

In most countries that adopt the inflation targeting regime, inflation targets are not set independently by the central bank. Even when there are compliance mechanisms, it is not assured that the central banker will be fully committed with achieving the inflation target. This paper investigates the role of central bank heterogeneity, of inflation targets and of central bank credibility in inflation expectations’ formation when society is imperfectly informed about central banker’s commitment to the target. We look into this problem by extending Vickers (1986)’s and Cukierman e Liviatan (1991)’s signaling models, and applying Cho and Kreps (1987) solution criterion as an equilibrium refinement.

The model solution suggests that greater heterogeneity in central bankers’ commitment to the inflation target requires costlier disinflationary policies. In other words, greater dispersion regarding the preferences of potential central bankers requires that a “strong” central banker be tougher on delivered inflation rates so as to convince society that he is indeed committed to achieving the targets. In the set of equilibria where he manages to gain credibility, realized inflation tends to be below the target, at a higher cost for economic activity.

In an extension of the model presented in the first part of the paper, we investigate how institutional arrangements regarding the tenure in office of central bankers and the head of government can mitigate inflationary pressures stemming from electoral processes. We analyze two distinct institutional arrangements: one where the head of government nominates the central banker as soon as he takes office, and another where the head of government and the central banker serve in staggered terms. In the latter case, when the head of government takes office, the central banker is at the beginning of his third year in office.

The main result suggests that macroeconomic adjustment to the pressures from the political process is much less costly when the head of government and the central banker serve in staggered terms. This result originates from the reduction of information asymmetry about monetary policy when society already knows the type of the central banker by the time the new head of government takes office. This finding gives support to a framework that is common among independent central banks: staggered terms to the central banker and the head of government.

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