min read
· Posted on
February 21, 2024

The RBA is entering it’s makeover era and economists reckon it’s about damn time

The Reserve Bank of Australia is about to get a major makeover following an independent review.

What's the key learning?

  • The RBA has faced criticism for their approach to reducing inflation through intense cash rate rises that disadvantage mortgage holders.
  • An independent review of the RBA was conducted for the first time since the 1990's which made 51 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the government.
  • The recommendations involve five key changes that will hold the RBA to a higher standard of transparency and accountability.

Up until May 2021, most Aussies didn’t know what the RBA really was or what they did. 

But now, the RBA, and especially RBA Governor, Phillip Lowe has become a bit of a household celebrity - but not without some controversies.

The RBA or Reserve Bank of Australia makes economic decisions that impact millions of Australians.

They’re Australia’s central bank and their job is to keep the country’s economy and financial system stable.

But many Aussies including leading economists have a bit of beef with the RBA, and they reckon the RBA’s decision making isn’t meeting the mark.

What’s the beef?

Over the past 12 months, the RBA has been tackling rising inflation by increasing the cash rate from 0.1% to 3.85%.

That’s despite pinky promising in 2020 that interest rates won’t change until 2024.

The RBA, have been criticised for taking too long to start raising the cash rate, and when they finally started, they were criticised for going too hard too fast.

They've also been criticised for their rigid approach of using monetary policy (aka upping interest rates to bring down inflation), not considering alternatives, and being out of touch with the everyday Aussie’s struggles.

In July 2022, Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced that the RBA will be formally reviewed -  with its culture, its board, and inflation targets scrutinised. 

And it’s the first time since the 1990’s that a review of the RBA is happening.

Explain this review to me pls.

The RBA review is pretty much under a major performance review - kinda like you get from your boss at work, or a report card from school.

The review, which was released in April this year, highlights what the RBA is doing well, what they’re not doing well, and makes recommendations on how they should move forward.

The RBA review was done by a crew of world-leading economists that made a total of 51 recommendations - all of which were accepted by the government.

The five main changes to come out of the review are:

  1. Less meetings: The RBA will move from eleven meetings a year to eight meetings a year.
  2. New board: The RBA will introduce a new board, the Monetary Policy board which will be made up of monetary policy experts who will set the interest rates. The existing RBA board will oversee the central bank's operations.
  3. Expanding expertise: The current board is mostly business people and the new monetary policy board will be made up of economic experts.
  4. Press conferences: The RBA Governor will hold a press conference after each meeting to increase transparency. 
  5. More accountability: External monetary policy board members will publicly discuss their decisions in public engagements. 

The idea is that the changes will hold the RBA up to a higher standard, and make sure the decisions they make are in the best interest of Australians.

So, what happens next? Will interest rates keep going up?

The RBA’s target inflation rate of 2-3% is still the same, so they will keep working towards that.

And at the moment, using interest rates is the main strategy.

But, the review has “opened doors” for a possible shift away from just using interest rates according to Renee Fry-McKibbin, one of the panellists who reviewed the RBA.

The panel looked at a number of alternative frameworks, but nothing has been landed on so far. It would take future reviews to decide if the RBA will potentially ditch monetary policy for a different strategy.

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