Central bankers face political shocks, and hope to avoid the worst

A man walks past the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington. (Reuters/File)
Updated 26 August 2019

Central bankers face political shocks, and hope to avoid the worst

  • During Fed conference, ‘some seemed intent on steering the wheel toward trouble’

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING: Global central bank chiefs know their job is to keep the economy out of the ditch. What became clear at the US Federal Reserve’s central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, over the past couple of days is that not only do other people hold the wheel, some seem intent on steering toward trouble.
“We are experiencing a series of major political shocks; we saw another example of that yesterday,” Reserve Bank of Australia Gov. Philip Lowe said on Saturday, a day after China and the US slapped more tariffs on each other’s goods and US President Donald Trump called on American companies to shut down their operations in the Asian nation.
As those political shocks slow growth, Lowe said in a panel discussion, “there is a strongly held view that the central bank should just fix the problem ... The reality is much more complicated,” and not something monetary policy can likely repair.
His comments spoke to an uncomfortable truth that hovered over an annual symposium where the mountain backdrop and two days of technical debate often seem distant from the world of realpolitik. Even as central bankers and economists referred to the deep connections that now tie the world’s economies together, a US-driven trade war seemed to be driving them apart and raising the specter of a broad global downturn.
Worse, it’s a downturn none of the central bankers seemed confident about how to fight — coming not from a business- or financial-cycle meltdown that they have a playbook to combat, but from political choices that threaten to crater business confidence.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Even as central bankers and economists referred to the deep connections that now tie the world’s economies together, a US-driven trade war seemed to be driving them apart and raising the specter of a broad global downturn.

• It’s a downturn none of the central bankers seemed confident about how to fight — coming not from a business — or financial-cycle meltdown that they have a playbook to combat, but from political choices that threaten to crater business confidence.

If that’s the problem, Lowe and others said, lower interest rates — something demanded by Trump to get an upper hand in the trade war with China — will do little to help.
“The problem is in the president of the United States,” former Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said at a lunch event on Friday. “How the system is going to get around some of the sorts of things that have been done lately, including trying to destroy the global trading system, is very unclear. I have no idea how to deal with this.”
It was a rare calling out of Trump, though his presence infused other remarks. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, handpicked by Trump to run the central bank but now an object of the president’s ire, noted in his opening speech that the Fed had no chartbook for building a new global trading system.
‘Last moment’
Central banks have asked politicians for years to use fiscal policy more constructively and address structural problems plaguing economies.
What they’ve gotten instead is a fast multiplying set of risks, with the US-China trade war at the epicenter but also including the possibility of a disruptive British exit from the EU, an economic slowdown in Germany, a political collapse in Italy, rising political tensions in Hong Kong, and longstanding international institutions and agreements under pressure.
European Council President Donald Tusk described this weekend’s G7 leaders summit in Biarritz as a “last moment” for its members — the US, Britain, Germany, Japan, France, Italy and Canada — to restore unity.
Amidst all the tumult, and with interest rates across the globe already lower than they’ve been historically, monetary policy may be no match.
“There is not that much policy space and there are material risks at the moment that we all are trying to manage,” Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney said on Friday.


Getting more women into leadership positions top priority: CEO

This June 23, 2018 photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2020

Getting more women into leadership positions top priority: CEO

  • Saudi Arabia is focusing on the Business 20 (B20), making this one of the key engagement groups. Women in Business will be Saudi Arabia’s signature topic

RIYADH: The boss of one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest banks says that getting more women into leadership positions is a top priority.
Samba CEO Rania Nashar chairs the action council for Women in Business created by the Business Twenty (B20), which is the official G20 dialogue with the business community. It represents the global business community across all G20 member states and all economic sectors.
She said the council was set up to boost women’s particpation not only in business but also in global leadership positions.
During the launch of the B20 in Saudi Arabia this week, Nashar highlighted the under-representation of women in the economy.
“There is a gap of 27 percent between male and female workers; 75 percent of males are part of the labor force while only 48 percent of females are working,” she said.
She said it was important not to just talk about women as workers but as business owners.

FASTFACT

Saudi Arabia will host the 15th G20 Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 21-22, 2020.

“That’s why entrepreneurship is very fundamental to our task force,” she said.  “The majority of the finance development programs have incentives for giving loans to females; however, despite the fact that many large borrowers are females, the amount of loans granted to them is far below what is granted to males,” she added.
Nashar said that two-thirds of female business founders feel that they were not taken seriously by investors when they pitch for investments. They also feel that they are treated differently from their male counterparts.
Saudi Arabia will host the 15th G20 Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 21-22, 2020. The Kingdom is focusing on the Business 20 (B20), making this one of the key engagement groups. Women in Business will be Saudi Arabia’s signature topic.