• Lamlela Plaatjie (South Africa)

Monetary policy challenges in the emerging market economies of Latin America and the Caribbean

Market behavior is determined by consumer spending and borrowing trends, which are influenced by monetary policies designed by central banks. Monetary policy aims to ensure stable market prices and the achievement of sustainable economic growth in both developed and developing countries. Various policy tools and frameworks that target inflation, exchange rates, and money supply are used by central banks to reach their objectives. Inflation targeting, for instance, is used to control interest rates so that they remain within set targets to achieve stability, and this tool has been a favored monetary framework that central banks use. Another monetary framework that central banks of emerging market economies in Latin America and the Caribbean use, is exchange rate targeting. In this case, the exchange rates are fixed or given a fixed band range against a leading currency. This kind of targeting exposes markets to external shocks. Money targeting, on the other hand, sets a minimum cash amount for printed money to influence monetary trends.

However, this option has limiting effects since printing money to manage the money supply is a high-risk practice. Economic volatility and vulnerability are another set of challenges that have effects on emerging economies. By looking at the causes of economic instability, central banks can find suitable means and strategies to address these causes. The causes of these challenges that emerging market economies in Latin America and the Caribbean experience include underdeveloped markets, imbalances in capital inflows and outflows, unreliable banking sectors, corrupt governance, and a lack of institutions to hold central banks accountable. The problem surrounding underdeveloped economic markets is that they are not positioned to compete in global markets, this can result in low economic outputs, high levels of commodity imports, and high spikes in international borrowing.

Relying heavily on external markets due to an interdependent global economy exposes emerging market economies in Latin America and the Caribbean to economic spillovers which are caused by a weaker currency and weak exchange rates. The disparities between emerging and developed economies also have an added influence on how monetary policy challenges are manifested. Financial institutions and banking systems in emerging markets are often not as developed as their advanced counterparts. These weak banking systems and institutions, and corrupt governance systems discourage investor confidence and further cause negative effects on investment inflows. Increased interest rates are used as a tool to reduce high inflation, and tightening monetary policy discourages borrowing as it promotes savings and investment. Monetary frameworks, therefore, should make sound tradeoffs to successfully achieve their objectives.

Central banks in Latin America and the Caribbean need to consider choosing between high-interest rates or maintaining economic growth. However, we should be mindful that a decline in economic growth will impact vulnerable labor markets in emerging markets more significantly than in advanced economies. Vulnerable labor markets will pose a challenge because of the threats to income stability, income equality, and wealth distribution. Therefore, considerations need to be made in coordinating fiscal and monetary policy to absorb negative economic shocks. When observing emerging market economies in Latin America and the Caribbean, their history can not be neglected. It should be remembered that most of these economies were structured to depend on and serve the needs of their colonial powers. Thus, it is important to highlight the structural differences between advanced and emerging markets when developing monetary policies.