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Monetary policymaking in Norway


The interest rate setting in the past 2-3 years has contributed to a strong development of the Norwegian economy. Now, the issue is when and by how much monetary policy should be tightened, concludes “Norges Bank Watch 2006”, published by BI The Norwegian School of Management.

The Centre for Monetary Economics (CME) at the BI Norwegian School of Management has for the seventh time invited a committee of leading economists for Norges Bank Watch with the objective of evaluating monetary policy in Norway. The Norges Bank Watch 2006 Report was released on 9 March 2006. The report was commented by Norges Bank Governor Svein Gjedrem.

The main task of the committee has been to evaluate how well Norges Bank has fulfilled its monetary policy mandate given by the Norwegian Government. Norway adopted an inflation target for the monetary policy five years ago, in March 2001. Although some countries had pursued inflation targeting for many years, this type of monetary regime was still in its infancy.

Norges Bank operates a flexible inflation target, where weight is given both to low and stable inflation, and to stable output and employment.

After five years with a new regime, a brief summing up might be in order. How does inflation targeting work, compared to what we expected?

Overall, monetary policy in Norway is quite successful. The interest rate setting in the past 2-3 years has contributed to a strong development of the Norwegian economy, without sacrificing price stability. Now, the issue is when and by how much monetary policy should be tightened, to avoid an excessive stimulation of the economy.

Since the adoption of an inflation target five years ago, Norges Bank has been determined to learn and improve, as well as to being open and transparent. The Bank’s policy, analysis and communications have developed and improved over time.

The Regulation on Monetary Policy should be interpreted in a forward-looking way, and past inflation discrepancies should not be compensated for in the future. Thus, the current policy strategy, which aims to take inflation gradually up towards the 2.5 percent target, does not violate the Regulation, even if it involves inflation considerably below the operational target for six consecutive years.

The Norwegian economy is currently into its third year of above-trend growth. Most sectors of the economy are expanding, some quite rapidly. Labour demand is picking up, and unemployment is very close to historic lows. While wage and price inflation thus far remain low, the present situation calls for somewhat tighter monetary policy than what Norges Bank currently indicates. High credit and asset price growth strengthen this view.

We believe that there is greater risk involved by hiking too little, too late, than by hiking too much, too early. In the latter case, it is relatively easy to reverse policy. In the former case, the longer one waits, the greater the likelihood that one has to tighten in greater steps, contrary to what the bank itself sees as a good way of setting interest rates, concludes the Norges Bank Watch’ economists.

Audun Farbrot | alfa
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