Guillermo Calvo responds to Larry Summers call to to move beyond monetary and fiscal stimulus and begin repairing the underlying problems in the financial system. While he agrees that the financial system needs to be strengthened, he does not have much faith in monetary and fiscal policy and believes their use will result in stagflation:
Guillermo Calvo, Economic Forum: I agree that we need “consistent, determined approaches” which will probably take us far beyond conventional monetary and fiscal policy. The main problem, however, is that we don’t seem to have a consistent macro view that is widely agreed upon and is itself consistent with the stylized facts of the current crisis. Thus, for example, policy has strongly relied on lowering the reference interest rate, a policy that is typically justified in models that abstract from credit market difficulties. The same applies to fiscal expansion. This lack of intellectual consistency is bound to create further confusion. Thus, I would encourage Larry and the other high-profile commentators to give a simple but clear view of their underlying assumptions.
To be consistent with my preaching, let me say that I am of the view that the current subprime crisis is starting to look more and more like those in emerging markets. The big but somewhat superficial difference, however, is that initially the problem did not entail a whole country but a sector (and, incidentally, since a sector does not print its own money, its situation is similar to that in emerging markets which suffer from Liability Dollarization, or Original Sin). Since the subprime sector hit the global financial market, it had the potential to damage other sectors through contagion, much like it happened in emerging markets after the Russian August 1998 crisis. Thus, we are witnessing the effects of a “supply” shock, implying that the crisis is unlikely to be fully resolved by a stimulus to aggregate demand through lower interest rates. And even less by transitory fiscal expansion, for the additional reason that credit crises involve “stocks,” while transitory fiscal policy involves “flows.” Thus, if you agree with my view, a key to resolving the current crisis is to reinforce the financial sector which, incidentally, leads me to enthusiastically agree with Larry's thrust in his column. But, on the other hand, I have a much less favorable opinion about expansionary monetary and fiscal policy. These aggregate demand policies are easy to implement in the short run, while strengthening the financial sector is time consuming. Since the latter would be key for avoiding a slowdown, expansionary aggregate demand policies are likely to bring about a period of stagflation, seriously undermining the credibility of policymakers.