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Daniel Moss, Columnist

观点 丹尼尔·莫斯,专栏作家

There’s One Place That Wants Faster Inflation: Thailand

Politicians have come up with a novel way to get the central bank to boost growth. The approach is a risky one. 

Watching over an inflation impasse.

Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

It’s hard to find a leader anywhere these days who will argue the case for faster inflation. Politicians would rather drink hemlock than call for a renewed acceleration; they are often too busy nodding sympathetically at what their opponents call a cost-of-living crisis. But there is a kingdom where calling for more elevated prices, sooner, isn’t off limits. In fact, the government embraces the concept.

That place is Thailand. The country didn’t enjoy a big growth surge after it reopened from Covid, and the economy could do with a lift. It also missed the worst of the price increases that rocked many nations. If there is an inflation problem, it’s one of scarcity. Deflation seems like a graver danger. Just ignoring the issue and counting your blessings that it's not a surge isn't constructive. Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chair who recognized a similar jeopardy in the US in the early 2000s, called it a rare but corrosive disease.
那个地方是泰国。该国在新冠疫情后重新开放后并没有经历大幅增长,经济需要提振。它也没有遭受许多国家遭受的价格上涨的最严重影响。如果存在通货膨胀问题,那就是稀缺性问题。通货紧缩似乎是更严重的危险。忽视问题并只是庆幸没有出现激增并不是建设性的。艾伦·格林斯潘,前美联储主席,在 21 世纪初认识到美国面临类似危险,称之为一种罕见但具有腐蚀性的疾病。

In theory, there is an easy solution: cut interest rates. A reduction could not only give the expansion a lift, but help nudge inflation back up toward the central bank's goal. Consumer prices barely rose in April. They fell for the prior six months and haven't been within the Bank of Thailand's goal of 1%-3% since early last year. Premier Srettha Thavisin, a property tycoon who never held political office before his elevation in August, is certainly very keen on easing borrowing costs. The monetary authority is resisting. Things seem stuck.
从理论上讲,有一个简单的解决方案:降低利率。降低不仅可以提振扩张,还可以帮助将通胀推回央行的目标。消费者价格在 4 月份几乎没有上涨。在此之前的六个月里下降,自去年年初以来一直未达到泰国央行的 1%-3%目标。总理 Srettha Thavisin 是一位房地产大亨,在 8 月份晋升之前从未担任过政治职务,他对降低借贷成本非常热衷。货币当局正在抵制。情况似乎陷入僵局。

Looks Transitory  看起来是暂时的

Thai post-Covid surge has given way to very anemic inflation

Source: Ministry of Commerce

So after asking nicely, and at times not so politely, the cabinet is trying a new tack. Finance Minister Pichai Chunhavajira said his ministry and the BOT would review the current inflation objective. Pichai reckons that 1%-3% might be too lowBloomberg Terminal. The idea is to portray the bank as being even further behind the eight ball on inflation. If you are aiming for something higher than current parameters allow, then policy ought to match the ambition. In other words, slash borrowing costs to the point where inflation moves consistently higher.
所以在礼貌地询问之后,有时甚至不那么礼貌地询问,内阁正在尝试一种新的策略。财政部长皮查伊·春哈瓦吉拉表示,他的部门和泰国银行将审查当前的通胀目标。皮查伊认为 1%-3%可能太低了。这个想法是要把银行描绘成在通胀问题上更加落后。如果你的目标高于当前参数允许的水平,那么政策应该与雄心相匹配。换句话说,将借贷成本削减到通胀持续上升的程度。

I am skeptical that Pichai or Srettha would really want to live with the consequences of markedly greater moves up, but that is a matter for the long haul. Civilian administrations come and go every few years in Thailand, with military coups a predictable part of political and economic life. What matters for the current crowd is cranking up growth in the immediate term.

The bank is unimpressed by this latest gambit. The deputy governor said last week that a shift now would be undesirableBloomberg Terminal and suggested the current rock-bottom inflation is a passing phase. Prices will pick up in the fourth quarter and, besides, gross domestic product gained 1.5% in the first three months of the year, better than anticipated. The BOT has long feared that Srettha's fiscal ambitions, with include a so-called digital wallet for 50 million adults, risks overheating the economy. It also suspects that subsidies are constraining prices.
银行对这一最新策略并不感到印象深刻。副行长上周表示,目前进行转变是不可取的,并暗示目前的极低通胀是一个短暂阶段。价格将在第四季度上涨,此外,国内生产总值在今年前三个月增长了 1.5%,超出预期。泰国银行长期以来一直担心 Srettha 的财政雄心,其中包括为 5000 万成年人提供所谓的数字钱包,可能会使经济过热。它还怀疑补贴正在限制价格。

Seeking to alter the CPI goal isn't quite a gimmick. There's a broad desire to scrutinize the work of central banks — and not just in the developing world. Australia appointed an independent review of the Reserve Bank in 2023 that recommended keeping the mandate for inflation of 2%-3%, but was scathing of the RBA's internal culture. The Bank of England asked former Fed boss Ben Bernanke to dive deep into forecasting. In 2020, an overhaul of the Fed's framework stopped short of lifting the inflation target from 2%, but declared that it was best defined as an average of 2% over time. The European Central Bank tweaked its definition of price stability during the darkest days of Covid to support the economy.
寻求改变 CPI 目标并非小把戏。人们普遍希望审查中央银行的工作,而这种愿望不仅仅存在于发展中国家。澳大利亚于 2023 年任命了一个独立审查委员会对储备银行进行审查,建议将通胀目标保持在 2%-3%,但对澳洲储备银行的内部文化进行了严厉批评。英格兰银行邀请前美联储主席本·伯南克深入研究预测。2020 年,美联储的框架改革未能将通胀目标从 2%提高,但宣布最好将其定义为随时间平均为 2%。欧洲央行在疫情最严重的时期调整了对价格稳定的定义,以支持经济。

That isn't to say changing the goalposts is a great idea. Fast rate cuts would probably push the baht still lower; the currency is among the worst performers in Asia this year, retreating 7% against the dollar. Only the yen has fared worse, even after Tokyo spent $62 billion to cushion its drop. There are other negatives: Households would be left with less spending power, while profit margins would be hurt, and hiring and investment would suffer, wrote Tamara Mast Henderson of Bloomberg EconomicsBloomberg Terminal. That's assuming the higher target gets implemented.
这并不意味着改变目标是一个好主意。快速降息可能会进一步压低泰铢的价值;该货币是亚洲今年表现最糟糕的之一,对美元贬值了 7%。即使东京方面花费 620 亿美元来缓解日元贬值,只有日元的表现更糟。还有其他负面因素:家庭的消费能力会减少,利润率会受到影响,招聘和投资也会受到影响,彭博经济学的 Tamara Mast Henderson 写道。这是在假设更高的目标得到实施的情况下。

It doesn't do a lot for the integrity of institutional arrangements when a central bank is under sustained attack. Nor is the pressure necessarily going to abate if Srettha passes from the scene. Paetongtarn Shinawatra, a daughter of the governing party's founder and an ascendant political star in her own right, joined the fray. She called the BOT's autonomy an obstacle to fixing economic problems, according to the Straits Times. The BOT doesn't seem to have a strategy other than digging in its heels and, perhaps, biding its time. As interest rates around the world start to retreat toward the end of the year — the ECB is projected to cut this week — the central bank will give a little bit. The chances of inflation spiraling look remote, with or without an edict from the political class.
机构安排的完整性并未得到很大提升,当一家央行遭受持续攻击时。如果 Srettha 离开舞台,压力未必会减轻。泰国执政党创始人的女儿、政治新星 Paetongtarn Shinawatra 加入了争论。据《海峡时报》报道,她称泰国央行的独立性是解决经济问题的障碍。泰国央行似乎没有其他战略,除了坚守立场,也许是在等待时机。随着全球利率在年底开始回落 —— 欧洲央行预计本周将降息 —— 央行将做出一些让步。通货膨胀失控的可能性看起来很小,无论政治阶层是否发布命令。

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    This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously, he was executive editor for economics at Bloomberg News.
    丹尼尔·莫斯(Daniel Moss)是彭博观点(Bloomberg Opinion)专栏作家,负责报道亚洲经济。此前,他曾担任彭博新闻社经济执行编辑。
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