Does policy uncertainty reduce economic activity? Insights and evidence from large trade reforms
Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão, 23 November 2013
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is potentially important, but controversial because it is hard to identify and quantify. Recent research provides a framework to identify the impacts of policy uncertainty on firm decisions, and finds it has strong effects in the context of international trade. China’s WTO accession secured its most-favoured nation status in the US, and the evidence shows this reduction in uncertainty can explain a significant fraction of its export boom to the US.
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is an issue traditionally associated with developing countries. Since 2008, however, the spotlight has shifted. Governments’ responses to the Great Recession and the Eurozone crisis have raised considerable uncertainty about the future policies of advanced economies.
Topics: International trade
Tags: China, Eurozone crisis, Great Recession, trade, uncertainty, US, WTO
Journal quality and citations: Why economists should practice what they preach
Daniel Sgroi, 11 November 2013
In the upcoming UK Research Excellence Framework, a small panel of academics are tasked with rating thousands of academic submissions, which will result in university departments being ranked and public money being distributed. Given the enormity of the task and the scarcity of the resources devoted to it, this article discusses a straightforward procedure that might help, based on exactly the Bayesian methods that academic economists study and teach when considering the problem of decision-making under uncertainty.
The UK is about to enter into one of the most important academic ranking exercises in its history. The Research Excellence Framework (or REF), starting in 2014, will determine how money is divided between departments and how the UK perceives the quality of its own universities and departments.
Tags: academia, Bayes’ rule, higher education, journals, rankings, uncertainty
Reduced policy uncertainty and the Japanese economy
Masayuki Morikawa, 2 November 2013
Reduced policy uncertainty can contribute to a country’s economic growth. This column highlights the negative influence of policy uncertainty and political instability on the growth of Japan. A survey shows that international trade and tax polices pose the greatest uncertainty on Japanese companies. The column concludes with a discussion of the mechanism via which uncertainty affects corporate behavior.
While the effects of the 'three arrows' of the Japanese Abenomics policy mix – bold monetary easing, flexible fiscal policy, and the growth strategy –have attracted worldwide attention, reduced policy uncertainty is also expected to contribute to the country’s economic growth by stimulating long-term investments in the private sector.
Topics: Institutions and economics
Tags: economic growth, Japan, uncertainty
Economic uncertainty and the effectiveness of monetary policy
Knut Are Aastveit, Gisle James Natvik, Sergio Sola, 19 October 2013
Many analysts blame uncertainty for at least part of advance nations’ poor economic performance since the crisis. This column discusses new research showing that the economic impact of monetary policy is dampened when uncertainty is high. This means that high uncertainty forces monetary policymakers into a trade-off between acting decisively and acting correctly as policy must be more aggressive than otherwise in order to stabilise economic activity. The finding is particularly stark when uncertainty measures from financial markets are utilised.
Since the onset of the “Great recession”, economists have struggled to explain why the recovery has been so slow, despite the many policy measures that have been passed to re-invigorate economic activity. One candidate explanation that several have pointed to, for instance Baker, Bloom, Davis and Van Reenen (2012), is economic uncertainty.
Topics: Monetary policy
Tags: Great Recession, monetary policy, uncertainty
Facing up to uncertainty in climate-change economics
Geoffrey Heal, Antony Millner, 13 June 2013
Uncertainty is intrinsic in climate-change economics. This column argues that it’s here to stay. There will be no accurate predictive tool for predicting economic growth, the emergence of clean-energy technology, or economic vulnerability in light of climate change in the near future. But this is not an excuse not to think about climate economics. Research and policy would do well to be more explicit about what we don’t know. We should avoid subjective guesses, and focus more on credible forecasts from empirically sound, if uncertain, models.
Uncertainty is intrinsic in climate change economics. We know that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations are causing shifts in the climate, but not precisely how large these shifts will be, nor when and where they will occur. Neither do we understand fully the social and economic consequences of these changes, or the options that will be available for coping with them in the future.
Tags: climate change, uncertainty
Falling policy uncertainty is igniting the US recovery
Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom, 7 February 2012
Reading the business press, one gets the impression that the world of policy is in a very uncertain state around the world. This column presents an up-to-date index of policy uncertainty and suggests that the calming of policy uncertainty may have aided recent economic prospects in the US. Unfortunately, policy uncertainty still appears extremely high in Europe with the Eurozone crisis.
Because economic policy affects economic outcomes, policy uncertainty matters (Hallward-Driemeier and Pritchett 2010, Bloom 2009, and Bloom et al. 2007). Reading the business press, one gets the impression that the world of policy (taxation, regulation, fiscal stimulus, etc.) is in a very uncertain state in the US, Europe, Japan, and several of the biggest emerging markets.
Topics: Macroeconomic policy
Tags: policy, uncertainty, US recovery
Growth from international capital flows: The role of volatility regimes
Ashoka Mody, Antu Panini Murshid, 27 November 2011
Recent commentary has suggested that capital inflows – long considered a positive for growth – may actually be doing more harm than good. This column presents new evidence reinforcing the conventional interpretation. It finds that volatility is the determining factor. With volatility below a threshold, an inflow of foreign capital promotes growth. But during periods of volatile growth, the effect is opposite.
In a recent survey, Kose et al (2006) find little robust evidence for long-run growth benefits from global capital inflows. Prasad et al (2006) go a step further.
Topics: International finance, International trade
Tags: capital flows, uncertainty, volatility
Should official forecasts express uncertainty? The case of the CBO
Charles F Manski, 22 November 2011
Policymakers and the media often rely on official estimates. But with policies that are so complex and often untested, these estimates are at best rough guesses – so why not be honest about it? This column calls for confidence intervals to be used in future policy debates.
Governments regularly produce official forecasts of unknown accuracy. Some forecasts become ‘conventional certitudes’ – predictions that are generally accepted as true, but are not necessarily true.
Topics: Global governance, Politics and economics
Tags: Confidence intervals, policy debates, UK, uncertainty, United States
Policy uncertainty and the stalled recovery
Nicholas Bloom, Scott Baker, Steven J. Davis, 22 October 2011
Policymakers’ choices dominate headlines in the global crisis. This column distinguishes between economic uncertainty and economic policy uncertainty, constructs an index to measure policy-related uncertainty, and argues that improving policy uncertainty would create millions of US jobs.
The most striking thing about recent stock-market volatility is that politicians are making the news. Policymaker actions and statements about bailouts, budgets and regulatory reforms are driving the stock-market gyrations (Calvo 2009).
Topics: Macroeconomic policy, Politics and economics
Tags: global crisis, policy uncertainty, uncertainty
Drawing a line under Europe’s crisis
Barry Eichengreen, 17 June 2010
Financial crises feed on uncertainty. This essay warns that the longer the Eurozone crisis is allowed to linger, the greater will be the damage. But Europe can take concrete actions to bring it to an end. It should make bank stress tests public, provide more clarity on its special purpose vehicle, move forward with restructuring Greece’s debt, and support growth through quantitative easing.
Financial crises feed on uncertainty. The longer uncertainty is allowed to linger, the greater the damage to confidence and the more difficult it becomes to repair. It is essential therefore that European policymakers move decisively to draw a line under the crisis.
Topics: EU institutions
Tags: Eurozone crisis, Eurozone rescue, transparency, uncertainty