On Other Blogs, Other Wonders

Some things worth reading:

1. Ozgur Orhangazi on the coming balance of payments crisis in Turkey:

Since the late 1970s, “developing and emerging economies” (DEEs) have experienced boom-bust cycles of private capital flows… The latest boom began in the aftermath of the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, fed by the quantitative easing policies of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB). Much of Fed’s injections of credit into the system ended up in the stock markets of advanced economies and even more in the DEEs.
This latest wave of capital flows into DEEs led to currency appreciations, growing current account deficits, credit expansions and asset bubbles. …  

Turkey is a case in point. While in the last decade it gained praise for its strong growth performance, now it is considered to be among the “fragile five”, together with Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa. The biggest concern is the large current account deficit (reaching as much as 7.5 percent of the GDP by the end of November 2013) that is being financed mostly by short-term volatile capital inflows. … 

Starting right after the Fed’s announcement in May 2013, the Turkish lira began losing its value. … From May to the beginning of this week, the lira lost about 30 percent of its value, forcing the Central Bank, which so far has been resistant to increasing interest rates, to sharply increase interest rates at midnight after an emergency meeting on January 28. 

What is next? While the Central Bank’s sharp interest rate hike has, at least for now, stopped the free fall of the lira, the future does not seem very rosy… the depreciation of the lira will create serious problems for the firms that have borrowed in foreign currencies. … This is likely to lead to, at the very least, payment problems; and most probably to many bankruptcies…

There’s been a lot of discussion of whether low interest rates in the US and other developed countries contribute to excessive credit expansion and asset bubbles here. But it’s worth remembering that these problems are much worse for developing countries, which — in a world of free financial flows — share in the credit conditions of the rich countries whether they want to or not. One can be skeptical of particular forms of the “far too low for far too long” argument and still recognize that if aggregate expenditure is to be stabilized solely through conventional monetary policy, the shifts in interest rates  required may be big enough to be destabilizing on other dimensions.
2. Martin Rapetti on the coming balance of payments crisis in Argentina: 

In July 2011, the stock of FX reserves was around U$ 52 billions. The exchange rate was 4.1 pesos per dollar… In August 2011 —three months before the presidential election— the Central Bank started losing reserves. In November 2011, just a few weeks after Cristina Kirchner was re-elected, FX reserves were U$ 46 billions. Since the depletion of FX reserves showed no sign of stopping, the authorities started to implement a series of measures to limit the demand for foreign currency. The controls triggered the blossoming of black markets. FX reserves kept falling, very rapidly since early 2013. In November 2013, after a poor mid-term election, the president fired the governor of the Central Bank and put in charge a new economic team. FX reserves were U$ 33 billions and the exchange rate had reached 6 pesos per dollar…. a week ago, the price of US dollar jumped to 8 pesos. FX reserves are now close to U$ 28 billions. The Central Bank has managed to keep the exchange rate at 8 pesos at the cost of loosing U$ 150/200 millions of reserves per day. There are still widespread expectations of further devaluation and few believe that authorities can sustain the exchange rate at the new level, especially because the rate of inflation has accelerated above 30% annually. In short, FX reserves have so far fallen by 46% and the exchange rate has risen by 95%. If it looks like a dog, walks like a dog and barks like a dog, then… it’s probably a balance of payments crisis.

In Martin’s telling, the root of the problem here is not monetary policy in the developed world, but rather the difficulty of using the exchange rate as a nominal anchor to control inflation.
3. Laura Tanenbaum on how nostalgia, real estate and race have shaped the idea of “Brooklyn”:

Brooklyn nostalgia has done more than sell hot dogs and baseball memorabilia. … in the early 1960s a flourishing literature of … “urban pastoralism” challenged developers and urban renewal through nostalgic appeals to the authenticity of “urban villages” and daily street life. These writings by artists, activists, and academics, most famously Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, inspired and shaped the views of “brownstoners,” homeowners who sought to resist the tide of suburbanization and white flight. But by the 1970s, … coalitions between brownstoners and low-income residents had unraveled; Democratic New York City mayor Ed Koch turned this politics toward conservative ends. Koch “reveled in ethnic kitsch and cultivated a folksy image of a neighborhood New Yorker” while complaining about “poverty pimps.” It was the Southern strategy with an outer-borough accent. 

More than thirty years later, the crush of development marches forward. Brooklyn is a global brand: overpriced trinkets to be sold at Brooklyn Pizza in Manila, Brooklyn Coffeeshop in Curitiba, Brazil, or one of the other global Brooklyns featured in New York magazine’s retrospective of the Bloomberg era. But hip culture in the United States has long had a deep romantic and nostalgic streak, and the hipster’s most recent incarnation, central to the current branding of Brooklyn, has been no exception. 

The role of artists and hipsters in gentrification — specifically, their degree of complicity in the resulting displacement of low-income residents — has been endlessly debated. Were they the developers’ dupes, their victims, or their willing accomplices? Less often commented upon is the implicit equation behind these questions: associating artists with gentrification suggests that an artist has to be white. This is a particularly bitter irony for a borough and a city that has historically been and remains home to some of the most important African-American artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, and intellectuals in the country. Looking at hipster culture in relationship to their work offers alternative ways of thinking about how the city changes, how we remember it, and what it might mean to oppose the march of neoliberal development without relying on a nostalgia that reflects our memories and desires more than our actual history.

It’s a great piece. Read the whole thing, as they say.

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