Herald Express (Torbay, Brixham & South Hams Edition)

Let’s make sense of the 2% inflation target Peter McGahan


WHERE did the 2% inflation target come from? That’s an interestin­g answer, but the bigger question might be why central banks have an upward target for inflation at all?

It would seem to be a good idea if you cared about society that you would target for prices to fall rather than rise, wouldn’t it?

Falling prices would mean we have more money to spare, we would be able to work less, we could retire earlier, you wouldn’t need so much money, and you wouldn’t need for your pension to grow as much. All seems logical to me.

The 2% target is quite recent, and the first country to formally adopt it was, amazingly, New Zealand. They were followed three years later by the Bank of England in 1992.

The theory is that any target creates price stability, and a 2% growth is a moderate level of growth and assists the economy, whereas deflation is bad for it. Let’s dig deeper.

Price stability is the primary target, of course, as it allows government­s, companies and families to know what money they need for whatever their needs are.

For example, a heightened demand for oil might send all prices through the roof.

Most ‘things’ need to be delivered. Food, overseas imported products, and others all have a price that is affected by, say, oil rising, or falling.

If these prices swayed wildly, those using them may be unlikely to have the cashflow for those spikes in prices.

The consequenc­e? Economic collapse.

So, by keeping price increases lower and controlled, we avoid high inflation which erodes your buying power with your money and makes central bank decision making much easier by eradicatin­g unnecessar­y distortion.

Having the -2%, to +2% target gives flexibilit­y for the central bank. Having that range means the bank can take a different view based on the economic conditions, and where the inflation issue is outside of the monetary policy of the bank, for example, a war, covid bottleneck­s etc.

The greatest benefit is that it explains to financial markets, the public and the public sector what the clear goals are so they know what to expect from the Bank of England.

So why not opt for falling prices ie: deflation?

Funnily enough if prices are perceived to be falling, people stop buying and wait to see how far they will fall before they step in.

The result? Demand falls and so, therefore do prices. Because people stop buying products or services, there is no need for them to be created, those people lose jobs, there is less money in circulatio­n due to unemployme­nt, prices fall further, companies go under, companies can’t fund pensions due to profitabil­ity. I’m sure you get the carnage which could be caused by what we refer to as a negative feedback loop.

Why would you invest into a project or building if you thought the costs to build it would be falling as would the asset value’s future price? Investment and jobs would fall off.

If you have deflation, the real value of your debt increases, whereas inflation erodes it. Moreover, if we have deflation, wages will need to fall as profitabil­ity may be lower, and so those people lower their spend and the above loop happens again.

In the great depression public sector wages were cut by 10% in 1931 alone.

That was as popular as a cardboard tasting competiand tion. In America, the consumer price index fell by more than 25% between 1929 to 1933.

Inflation, on the other hand, had a whopper increase in 1975 of 24 per cent leading to Armageddon.

So, by targeting a positive, but controlled rate, banks create the buffer that is clear and communicat­ed, which greases the wheels to nudge along spending, economic growth and investment.

Companies become profitable, their share prices go up, your pension which is invested in them goes up, and if the economy is well known trusted, external investors (overseas funds and government­s) invest, which drives your share prices higher, giving you more money to spend.

If there is an imbalance, the reverse can easily become true. There you have it!

» If you have a financial question for Peter, please call on 01872 222422.

» Peter McGahan is the chief executive officer of independen­t financial advisers Worldwide Financial Planning. Worldwide Financial Planning is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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 ?? ?? ⟫Price stability is the primary target as it allows government­s, companies and families to know what money they need for whatever their needs are
⟫Price stability is the primary target as it allows government­s, companies and families to know what money they need for whatever their needs are
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