BCC Technical Workshop on Financial Stability Framework and the Role of Central Banks
Robert Sheehy, BCC external expert and moderator of the workshop
The central banks’ financial stability mandate has become more important over the last decade, with the development of a battery of macro-prudential tools aimed at preventing imbalances. To share experiences on the use of these tools among the BCC countries, a technical workshop on “The general financial stability framework, with special emphasis on macro-prudential policies and instruments for which the Central Bank is responsible” was held in Bogotá, Colombia, in October 2019. The event was under the sponsorship of the Banco de la República and the BCC programme. Participants from the central banks of Albania, Colombia, Peru, Tunisia and Ukraine discussed a wide range of issues relating to financial stability and agreed on several basic principles. These are discussed below.
The institutional framework should ensure that relevant data is shared and that financial stability risks are identified and analysed. In addition, it should promote the building of consensus among policymakers on those risks, as well as on the actions needed and the appropriate mix of macroeconomic, micro-prudential and macro-prudential policies to address risks. It is important that the institutional arrangements counter the bias to inaction or delay and ensure that policymakers can act. Policymakers should be enabled to implement corrective measures by clear decision making and the necessary policy tools.
Central banks must have a key role in financial stability due to their responsibility for monetary policy, their status as lender of last resort, and their management of systemic liquidity.  Some central banks are also the micro-prudential regulator and supervisor, while others provide back-up funding for the payments systems that underpin the financial sector. Most central banks have well-established expertise in the identification and analysis of systemic risk, capabilities often not available elsewhere.
Some financial stability risks cannot be adequately addressed by traditional macroeconomic or micro-prudential policies owing to externalities particular to the financial system. These include the tendency of financial firms to amplify shocks due to leverage and limited capital, the pro-cyclical feedback between asset prices and credit, and the increasing structural linkages among financial institutions. Many of these externalities are directly relevant for the effectiveness of central bank policy actions. The purpose of macro-prudential measures is to address these and other externalities not covered by traditional policy instruments.
Macro-prudential policies should promote economic efficiency and limit distortions by focusing on specific externalities not addressed by other measures. Tools that allow adjustment through prices are usually more efficient than quantitative restrictions. The general level of knowledge about the impact of macro-prudential measures is still expanding rapidly and their effects are likely to vary considerably among countries. This implies that adjustment costs should be mitigated by phasing in new measures over time, and that careful monitoring of the impact of macro-prudential policies is necessary to assess their effectiveness and calibration.
The identification, analysis and measurement of systemic risk requires the monitoring of data for a wide range of variables. The early warning characteristics of each variable should be evaluated and the most reliable indicators followed on an ongoing basis, with particular attention to signs of emerging liquidity risk. It is useful to summarize the results, but important to do so in a manner that preserves intuitive value so as to facilitate communication with senior policymakers and the general public. The overall vulnerability index employed by the Banco de la República is one way to do so. More sophisticated tools to evaluate systemic risk – such as credit-gap or growth-at-risk analysis – are a useful supplement to the monitoring exercise. Regular reporting to policymakers and the public on developments in systemic risk (e.g., through a periodic financial stability report) should be undertaken.
The design of macro-prudential policies should take into account the specific circumstances of the financial sector concerned. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as the financial structure and associated externalities vary widely among countries. Given the developing state of understanding of the individual and cumulative effects of macro-prudential measures, it is not generally necessary to use sophisticated models to design and calibrate such tools. A more intuitive and flexible approach, supplemented by careful ongoing monitoring and analysis, is likely to be more efficient and effective.
 Historically, central banks were initially established mainly to promote financial stability.
 Banco de la República (2019), Reporte de Estabilidad Financiera – I semestre de 2019, Bogotá.
 A good description of credit-gap analysis can be found in Drehmann, Mathias, and Kostas Tsatsaronis, “The Credit-to-GDP Gap and Countercyclical Capital Buffers: Questions and Answers”, Bank of International Settlements, BIS Quarterly Review, March 2014, pp. 55-73. See Prasad, Ananthakrishnan, et al., Growth at Risk: Concept and Application in IMF Country Surveillance, International Monetary Fund, Working Paper WP/19/36, February 2019, for a general explanation of the growth-at-risk methodology and its application.