By Dipo Olowookere
African economists attending the 12th African Economic Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have called for more radical monetary policy reforms and an overhaul of the tax policy regime in most countries in order to guarantee the welfare needs of the local population.
The economic researchers from Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, who attended a session of the conference to discuss ‘Macroeconomic policies for the inclusive development,’ on December 5, 2017, noted broader reforms were required to secure stability in the foreign currency markets and to curb inflation.
“Consistent monetary policy yields the greatest welfare security to the citizens compared to discretionary monetary policy,” said Mr Peter Wamalwa of the Central Bank of Kenya, presenting a paper on the impact of monetary policy on the prices of assets in an open economy.
Discretionary monetary policy is often based on the knee-jerk reaction of the key policy-makers on matters which have an impact on taxation policy, spending and fiscal activities carried out by the respective Central Banks, often known as the monetary policy decision-making bodies.
Mr Wamalwa said while the monetary policy is often used by the respective Central Banks to correct market imperfections which require urgent intervention, the Central Bank should ensure as a priority that the social needs of the households and the firm are taken care off in order to guarantee economic stability.
“The monetary policy is not effective if the asset prices are not included. The response to the monetary policy is more significant,” said Mr Wamalwa, who insists Central Bank interventions to stabilize the domestic prices should allocate the economy’s resources efficiently and in a socially desired manner.
The African Economic Conference is dedicated to discussions on the kind of economic and political governance reforms that are critical in order to ensure structural transformation takes place in Africa.
Mr Wamalwa said the focus should remain on the effectiveness of the monetary policy in battling key challenges such as inflation and the foreign currency exchange rate policy.
In his paper, Mr Wamalwa did not entirely dismiss the possibility of the Central Banks relying on discretionary monetary policy, saying it has a role to play when policy weaknesses fail to address market distortions which affect prices in an economy in a more negative manner.
“This affords the monetary authority the flexibility to respond to unanticipated price and output changes as well as the dynamic behaviour of agents in an economy. This is more relevant to the financial markets where investors make decisions frequently to optimize their portfolio holding,” Mr Wamalwa said.
Speaking during the same session, Saswan Abdul-Jalil, a teaching assistant at the University of Khartoum, Sudan, called for an overhaul of the tax regime in Sudan and broad measures to unlock restrictions which make it much harder for ordinary businesses and individuals to access bank loans.
Terming difficulties in accessing the domestic financial markets due to the government’s increased domestic borrowing and stringent capital controls the “financial repression,” Abdul-Jalil said the capital controls imposed by the government enabled it to borrow at a lower rate domestically.
According to the paper titled “Financial Repression and Capital Controls in Sudan: An Evaluation of Fiscal Effects,” the financial repression causes a bigger impact on the pace of economic growth in Sudan.
“It leads to high cost of domestic borrowing because the commercial banks prefer to lend to the government and its effect is 0.8 percent on the Gross Domestic Product. The capital controls are part of the government’s efforts to raise revenue locally,” Abdul-Jalil argued.
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