Tonga: 2013 Article IV Consultation

International Monetary Fund
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This staff report on Tonga’s 2013 Article IV Consultation discusses the economic development and policies. Banks in Tonga have been fixing their balance sheets since late 2008. Shrinking the loan books and increasing holdings of reserve assets have prompted negative macro-financial linkages, and reduced business confidence. In response, the National Reserve Bank of Tonga has aggressively infused liquidity into the system, and stepped up risk-based supervision. Progress in improving the regulatory and institutional infrastructure has also continued, including inauguration of a credit bureau. Major gains have been made in budget transparency, the establishment of a Treasury Single Account system, and better prioritization of the budget.
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International Monetary Fund
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Published on
Jul 25, 2013
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Business & Economics / International / Economics
Business & Economics / Money & Monetary Policy
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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In 1971, President Nixon imposed national price controls and took the United States off the gold standard, an extreme measure intended to end an ongoing currency war that had destroyed faith in the U.S. dollar. Today we are engaged in a new currency war, and this time the consequences will be far worse than those that confronted Nixon.


Currency wars are one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics. At best, they offer the sorry spectacle of countries' stealing growth from their trading partners. At worst, they degenerate into sequential bouts of inflation, recession, retaliation, and sometimes actual violence. Left unchecked, the next currency war could lead to a crisis worse than the panic of 2008.

Currency wars have happened before-twice in the last century alone-and they always end badly. Time and again, paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated, and capital controls have been imposed. And the next crash is overdue. Recent headlines about the debasement of the dollar, bailouts in Greece and Ireland, and Chinese currency manipulation are all indicators of the growing conflict.

As James Rickards argues in Currency Wars, this is more than just a concern for economists and investors. The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself.

Baffling to many observers is the rank failure of economists to foresee or prevent the economic catastrophes of recent years. Not only have their theories failed to prevent calamity, they are making the currency wars worse. The U. S. Federal Reserve has engaged in the greatest gamble in the history of finance, a sustained effort to stimulate the economy by printing money on a trillion-dollar scale. Its solutions present hidden new dangers while resolving none of the current dilemmas.

While the outcome of the new currency war is not yet certain, some version of the worst-case scenario is almost inevitable if U.S. and world economic leaders fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Rickards untangles the web of failed paradigms, wishful thinking, and arrogance driving current public policy and points the way toward a more informed and effective course of action.

From the Hardcover edition.
KEY ISSUES Abenomics has lifted Japan out of the doldrums and needs to be reinforced to accomplish the desired “once in a lifetime” economic regime shift. Building on initial positive results, policies now need to embark on a sustained effort to meet the unprecedented challenges Japan is facing: ending an entrenched deflationary mindset, raising growth, restoring fiscal and debt sustainability, and maintaining financial stability in the face of adverse demographics. Japan should be at the vanguard of structural reform. More vigorous efforts to raise labor supply and deregulate domestic markets, backed by further endeavors to raise wages and investment and designed to boost confidence and raise domestic demand, will be essential to lift growth, facilitate fiscal consolidation, and unburden monetary policy. A credible medium-term fiscal consolidation plan is needed to remove uncertainty about the direction of policies that may be holding back domestic demand. The overarching goal should be to put debt on a downward path, through gradual but steady consolidation that does not derail growth and inflation momentum. It should be based on prudent economic assumptions and on concrete structural revenue and expenditure measures identified upfront. More explicit monetary guidance would enhance inflation dynamics. Actual and expected inflation remain well below the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ’s) inflation target and monetary policy transmission remains weak. The BoJ needs to stand ready to undertake further easing and should provide stronger guidance to markets through enhanced communication. Absent deeper structural reforms, even with further easing, reaching two- percent inflation in a stable manner is likely to take longer than envisaged, suggesting that the BoJ should put greater emphasis on achieving the inflation target in a stable manner rather than within a specific time frame. The financial sector should be a greater catalyst for growth, and guard against risks from unconventional policies. The soundness of the financial system allows more risk taking and consolidation, while remaining resilient to the likely higher volatility of asset prices, exchange rates and interest rates, and lower liquidity in the JGB market as quantitative easing proceeds. While the 2014 external position was assessed to be broadly aligned with fundamentals, subsequent developments and incomplete policies raise the risk of negative spillovers. With the depreciation of the yen relative to its mid-2014 level, further monetary easing without bolder structural reforms and a credible medium-term fiscal consolidation plan could lead to sluggish domestic demand and overreliance on yen depreciation to pursue domestic policy objectives.
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