The Brazilian economy is an emerging superpower (see A tale of two cities), but even its growth slowed in the second quarter of the year, although the economy still appears to be growing above capacity. In reaction to that latest economic data, the central bank slashed interest rates by 50 basis points to 12%. The Central Bank said:
‘Reviewing the international scenario, the monetary policy committee considers that there has been a substantial deterioration, backed up, for example, by large and widespread reductions to the growth forecasts of the main economic regions.’
Rates had previously been hiked up 5 times in the year to tackle rising inflation, which has been some way above its inflation target. Such tightening policies have become commonplace in many emerging economies to prevent overheating. However, following this reversal of policy, questions have been raised about the independence of the central bank, as some politicians have recently been calling for a cut in rates, including President Rousseff himself. As Tony Volpon at Nomura Securities said:
‘They gave in to political pressure. The costs will likely be much higher inflation and a deterioration of central bank credibility…It has damaged the inflation-targeting regime.’
Many believe the rate cut is premature and the last thing the economy needs given the inflationary pressures it’s been facing. Huge spending cuts have been announced to bring inflation back under control, together with the previous rate rises, so this cut in interest rates to stimulate growth is likely to put more pressure on costs and prices. Only time will tell exactly how effective or problematic this new direction of monetary policy will be.
Brazil’s growth slows despite resilient consumers Reuters, Brian Ellsworth and Brad Haynes (2/9/11)
Brail in surprise interest rate cut to 12% BBC News (1/9/11)
Rousseffl’s ‘Risky’ rate cut means boosting Brazil GDP outweighs inflation Bloomberg, Arnaldo Galvao and Alexander Ragir (2/9/11)
Brazil makes unexpected interest rate cut Financial Times, Samantha Pearson (1/9/11)
Brazil rate cut stirs inflation, political concerns Reuters (1/9/11)
- What is the relationship between the macroeconomic objectives of inflation and economic growth?
- Why are there concerns that the recent reduction in the interest rate may worsen inflation? Do you think that a decision has been made to sacrifice Brazil’s inflation-targeting regime to protect its economic growth?
- Why are there questions over the independence of the central bank and how will this affect its credibility? What are the arguments for central bank independence?
- Growth in Brazil, although lower this year, still remains very strong. Why has the Brazilian economy been able to continue its strong growth, despite worsening economic conditions worldwide?
- What type of inflation are emerging economies experiencing? Explain how continuous hikes in interest rates have aimed to bring it back under control.
- What is meant by overheating? How will the central bank’s past and current policies contribute towards it?