Hong Kong, GCC pegs, Vietnam hike rates after Fed as Sri Lanka eyes flexible policy | Sinhala News

Sri lanka News – The Monetary Authority of Hong Kong, an orthodox currency board and currency- board-like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman as well as Vietnam raised rates in tandem as the US Federal Reserve hiked rates as Sri Lanka eyes a new law with more flexible policy.

The US Fed hiked its target rate to 3.0 – 3.25 percent and the interest on reserve balances (earlier called excess reserves) to 3.15 percent.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, a near-orthodox currency board, raised its base rate to 3.50 percent or 50 basis points above the lower Fed target rate or a the five day moving average of overnight and one month rate Hong Kong interbank offered rate, whichever is higher.

UAE, which has a currency-board-like arrangement along with several other Gulf Co-operation Council nations, raised its overnight deposit rate to 3.15 percent from 2.4 and the lending rate to 50 basis points above the IORB rate.

The Saudi Central Bank hiked cash injection rate by 75 basis points to 3.75 percent and excess cash deposit rate by 75 bp to 3.25 percent.

Kuwait said it is raising its rate by 25 bps to 3 per cent. Qatar Central Bank has raised its deposit rate by 75 bps to 3.75 per cent as.

Bahrain raised its overnight deposit rate from 3.00 to 3.75 per cent, the four-week deposit rate from 4 to 4.75 per cent and the lending rates from 4.50 to 5.25 per cent. Bahrain raised policy interest rate one one-week deposit facility from 3.25 to 4 percent.

Oman also raised its policy rate to 3.75 percent.

Vietnam, which has kept its peg around 22,000- 23000 dong to the US dollar for around 12 years following its last currency crisis in 2011, in the wake of a ‘stimulus’ debacle when the Greenspan-Bernanke bubble broke, hiked rates by 100 basis points.

The hike took the overnight liquidity auction rate, which fluctuates on liquidity conditions to a ceiling 6.0 percent. Another discount and re-discount rate was raised to 5.0 and 3.5 percent. The Vietnam dong has slipped about 200 to 300 dong in the past few weeks.

State Bank of Vietnam has promised US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a former Fed Chief that it will not depreciate its currency and the it is kept stable for domestic stability, after the Trump Treasury falsely labeled Vietnam as currency manipulator based on Mercantilist beliefs.

Vietnam promises US it will not devalue, but dreaded Sri Lanka style ‘monetary modernization’ looms

Vietnam has so far resisted pressure from the International Monetary Fund to adopt flexible inflation targeting but it also has other interest rate controls on broader credit which can make the currency vulnerable. Laos however has fallen.

Hiking domestic rates in step stops the domestic credit cycle from going beyond that of the Fed and triggering a credit bubble and depletion of reserves for imports, panic, and ultimately a balance of payments crisis.

Poor countries, with reserve collecting pegs who believe they can extend credit cycles with flexible or independent monetary policy (now called flexible inflation targeting) face collapsing currencies, sharply higher interest rates, social unrest and in extreme cases like Sri Lanka’s central bank and in the case African central banks, malnutrition as food prices rocket beyond that of reserve currencies.

To institutionalize discretionary policy with a high inflation target Sri Lanka is to enact a flexible inflation targeting law under an IMF program.

Vietnam raised rates 100 basis points with official inflation at 2.89 percent up to August.

Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew in August 1966, two days before a currency board law was announced described the phenomenon as follows in a speech to workers.

“Right, stop; break; pull the money back.” Bank rates go up; money cannot borrowed easily; shops cannot borrow money; private owners cannot borrow money to build houses, to buy cars; hire purchase is more difficult; expenditure contracts; demand goes down; imports go down; unemployment goes up,” PM Lee explained.

“Now, we are going to run a Currency system which means that the moment we earn less, we spend less.”

“This is a tough, vigorous regime. And I say we do it or we die because this is a society with an open market, exposed,” PM Lee said.

To this day Singapore does not have true policy rate, while Sri Lanka busts up reserves for imports based on Harvard-Cambridge orthodoxy that Singapore warned against.

Sri Lanka also borrowed heavily for ‘bridging finance’ through international sovereign bonds and other budget suppot credits to cover holes blown in the balance of payment in a quick succession of currency crises in 2015/16, 2018 and 2020 onwards and ultimately defaulted.

“If you start fiddling around with currency and you start printing notes and then you have no money really to spend and you start borrowing to cover up, you will end up in penury and bitterness,” PM Lee warned.

Economists at the time had warned Singapore against setting up a currency board citing various scare stories about deflation and had urged the country set up a central bank instead like other post-independent countries that later became unstable and poor.

Sri Lanka’s public gave the economists and bureaucrats the tools to print money to suppress rates, bust up reserves for imports and depreciate the currency to cut real wages in an failing strategy to boost exports in 1950 and has not been able to take it away from them, despite malnutrition of kids.

Sri Lanka’s interest rates are now at 30 percent and inflation near 70 percent after latest mis-adventure with post-Keynesian flexible monetary policy with a peg.

Most Western central banks with floating regimes which printed money for stimulus for jobs as talking heads to hosannas from talking heads in financial media (except Wall Street Journal) are now engaging in “Right, stop; break; pull the money back,” tactics as explained by PM Lee. (Colombo/Sep26/2022)

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