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Central banks and policy communication: How emerging markets have outperformed the Fed and ECB

Tatiana Evdokimova (Joint Vienna Institute), Piroska Nagy Mohácsi (London School of Economics and Political Science), Olga Ponomarenko (Caplight) and Elina Ribakova (PIIE)
Working Papers 23-10
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Dilok


This paper uses innovative natural language processing techniques to analyze central bank communication in emerging-market (EM) central banks and compare it with that of the Federal Reserve (Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB). Once laggards of the central banking policy scene, EM central banks have made remarkable progress in improving their policy frameworks in the past two decades. They adopted many of the principles of advanced-economy (AE) central banks both in policy conduct and communication, but with modifications that reflect their specific circumstances of capital flow volatility, financial dollarization, and traditionally weaker credibility. The authors find that EM central banks’ transparency has improved dramatically; their statements’ readability has overall been better than in AEs; their focus on inflation has been sharper; and they have used data-shy “forward guidance” sparingly and flexibly. Worryingly though, most central banks do not communicate on inflationary pressures until after inflation already happens. EMs have outperformed AEs in two critical respects recently: addressing rising post-COVID inflationary pressures in a timely manner and, related, avoiding banking sector stress during the monetary policy tightening cycle. Systemic support in the form of currency swaps and repo operations by the Fed and the ECB with powerful signaling at times of acute market stress also helped. EM central banks have also started moving towards easing monetary policy already, ahead of the Fed and the ECB. Bringing down inflation fast and sustainably will be the ultimate test for the quality of EM central bank frameworks. The authors conclude with policy lessons for both EM and AE central banks. These include better forecasting and communication of inflation by the majority of central banks; more consistent delivery by EM central banks of communicated policy action; discarding pure “forward guidance” that hampers data dependency and thus fast policy action particularly at times of rapid change; consistent focus on supply-side factors of inflation; and for multiple-goal central banks, a clear choice and communication of policy priorities at times of possible conflict among some of the goals. The paper also suggests a more transparent communication of coordination with fiscal authorities that would improve the credibility of both the monetary and fiscal authorities.

Data Disclosure:

The data underlying this analysis can be downloaded here [zip].

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