Losing Credibility: The Stabilization Blues
International Economic Review
Posted: 23 Nov 1998
The exchange rate is, by far, the most popular nominal anchor in inflation stabilization programs in developing countries. The credibility associated with exchange rate-based stabilization plans appears to exhibit a distinctive dynamic pattern. Credibility rises in the early stages of these programs as the exchange rate anchor brings about price stability with no real costs, only to fall later on as the recessionary effects of the ensuing real appreciation begin to take hold. In the late stages of such programs--which often fail--credibility seems to fall precipitously, as the question becomes not if but when the program will be abandoned.
This paper formalizes this dynamic pattern of credibility. It develops a political economy model that provides a natural definition of credibility and shows how economic and political variables influence credibility. The model assumes that the stabilization plan takes place in two stages. In the first stage, an exchange rate peg is implemented and the fiscal deficit is partially reduced. In the second stage--which may in fact never take place--the fiscal adjustment is completed. After the implementation of the plan, pressure groups negotiate over which group will bear the cost of the taxes needed to close the remaining fiscal gap (i.e., they engage in a war of attrition). At the same time, the real appreciation of the domestic currency leads to expectations of a devaluation, loss of international reserves and, potentially, to a balance of payments crisis.
In this context, credibility is defined as the conditional probability that the budget agreement takes place before a balance of payments crisis develops. The paper shows that credibility rises in the early stages of the program, as international reserves are still plenty, interest rates are low, and the public debt has yet to skyrocket. Later, however, crediblity begins to fall, as rising interest rates make it more likely that a balance of payments crisis will take place and a large public debt makes it more costly for political groups to concede. The model thus suggests that if a budget agreement is not reached in the early stages of the plan, the program may quickly lose credibility and end in a full-blown crisis due to the intrinsic dynamics of a two-stage plan.
Note: This is a description of the paper and not the actual abstract.
JEL Classification: F41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation