AT A TIME when inflation targets have eluded the central banks of major emerging markets like Turkey and Argentina, Jamaica has turned to an unorthodox method of communicating its consumer price policy: reggae.
The Bank of Jamaica launched a campaign last month that includes a series of videos featuring singers and dancers boasting “low and stable inflation” to the tune of reggae beats and telling viewers that “if it’s too high the people have a cry and if it’s too low the country nah grow.”
Videos have circulated on Jamaican television and the bank’s Twitter account and images of bass guitars and recording equipment appear on billboards across the country with messages such as “low and stable inflation is to the economy what the bass line is to reggae music.”
The government presented legislation in October to make inflation targeting the primary aim of the central bank’s mandate. The bank has maintained a target of four to six percent since September 2017 and hopes to improve monetary policy communication and accountability with its new strategy, said Wayne Robinson, Deputy Governor of Research and Economic Programming.
“Reggae music is one of the phenomena that defines the Jamaican people. Music is in our DNA,” Mr. Robinson, said. “It is unconventional and that was our intent, to shift the perspective of the central bank from being purely technocratic to reach more directly to the people.”
The Bank of Jamaica has cut its benchmark deposit rate by 1.5 percentage points over the last 12 months to 1.75% and consumer prices rose 2.4% in December from a year earlier, below the target. The International Monetary Fund said in November the bank remains committed to its target and welcomed legislation to update its mandate.
Jamaica signed an IMF program in 2013 amid a debt crisis and renewed it in 2016. The island-nation’s debt load has dropped to 97% of gross domestic product from 145% in 2012 and the economy is expected to grow 1.8% this year, according to the IMF.
Inflation hasn’t always been low or under control in Jamaica. Consumer prices spiked to 77% in 1992 and again in 2008 when they reached 22%. The central bank has contained inflation to below 5.5% in the past three years.
Appearances in the videos by Donald “Iceman” Anderson, a recognized Jamaican comedian and actor who plays the lead singer, has helped ingrain the bank’s message, said chief press officer Tony Morrison, who thought up the campaign.
“We are trying to catch peoples’ attention,” Mr. Morrison said. “Inflation is everybody’s business and we want it to be everybody’s business.” — Bloomberg