Kredietcrisis maant tot nieuw onderzoek

Nieuws | de redactie
13 juni 2008 | Bankpresident Nout Wellink ziet in de huidige kredietcrisis en grote turbulenties op de markten een nieuwe impuls voor fundamenteel onderzoek. In zijn dankwoord bij zijn eredoctoraat aan de UvT en promotor prof. Eijffinger zei hij: “I very much believe in the maxim that ‘most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone’. This is not something that I have made up myself, but is actually a quote by Einstein.

In my own field of monetary policy the fundamental ideas of science have indeed been intuitive and simple. They have had a tremendous impact on policy. I guess that most of you are familiar with many of the key insights. On the relevance of price stability; on the costs of inflation; on the inability of monetary policy to raise the structural growth rate of the economy; on the importance of central bank independence from political influence.

The point here is that these essentially simple insights were distilled from a huge and often very complicated body of research. I am thinking here about contributions in the 1960s and 1970s on the shape of the Phillips curve, research on time inconsistency that emerged from the late 1970s onwards, research on central bank independence in the 1980s and 1990s, and recent discussions on central bank accountability and communication.

Perhaps current researchers can take comfort in the fact that one day the outcomes of current scientific debates may also become glaringly obvious. But in the meantime we need to struggle on before science reveals the answer to us.

Let me conclude with a forward looking perspective. It seems obvious that globalisation and financial innovations will continue, so that complexity in the economic and financial system will continue to increase. Take the financial turmoil of the past year, to which I referred already. Obviously there is a need to tailor our policies, for example financial supervision and monetary policy, to the dynamics that we have witnessed in the financial sector.

But in order to do so we need a thorough understanding of what is going on. With a more complex and dynamic financial system, our demand for high quality analysis and research can only increase.

At the same time, while demands are increasing, resources are under pressure. The efficiency operations of the current government that apply to the ministries and the CPB also apply to DNB.

While I fully support the need for an efficient government and an efficient central bank, I also see a risk that knowledge-intensive functions could be under disproportionate pressure. A key characteristic of research is that it requires relatively long time horizons, and that its pay-off emerges in the medium rather than in the short run. As a result, it can easily be crowded out by the many policy issues that continue to require immediate attention.

The challenge is to protect key research areas from such pressures, and to maintain the human capital base in our institutions. The need for research will always remain, whether policy makers immediately like the answers or not. For each question that we answer, new ones arise.

I truly believe that the interaction between science and policy has brought tremendous progress in both fields. We should continue our efforts to foster mutual understanding.

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