Lower dollar good news and bad news

August 12, 2008

The good news about the falling dollar, down to an 11 month low of US69.84c this morning, is that we get more for our exports.

However, the lower value of our currency also increases the price of imports which is particularly bad news for farmers when two of our biggest budget items – fertiliser and fuel – are already highly priced.

One reason for the dollar’s fall is the Reserve Bank’s decision to relax its guard against inflation by lowering the official cash rate.

Several commentators said this would be good for exporters, but I’m not sure how much better off we are if the gains on the swings of increased returns for our produce is countered on the roundabout of increased prices for inputs.

Nor do I think that a weak currency is a good recipe for a strong economy.

And I am definitely not relaxed about a little bit more inflation. The memory of the economic disaster which resulted when all the little bits more became a lot and led to inflation rates of more than 20% in the 1980s, and the painful process of bringing it down again, are still too fresh.

I’m with Don Brash who, when he was governor of the Reserve Bank, told a public meeting that a little bit of inflation was like being a little bit pregnant, it doesn’t stop at a little bit.

The B- I got for stage one Economics, as it was then known, doesn’t qualify me to debate this issue. But The Visible Hand in Economics and Show Me The Money  and Brian Fallow  are qualified and they all warn about the dangers of going soft on inflation too.

The falling dollar is a good news-bad news story for exporters and if it contributes to higher inflation the bad will more than outweigh the good.


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