The world’s worst central bankers and their infamous legacies

Central bankers have the responsibility of keeping a country’s economy in check through various monetary policies and measures. These include keeping the value of the currency in check, ensuring interest rates and inflation are at reasonable levels. This also includes the purchasing parity of the country’s currency, which is particularly important in maintaining a healthy trade balance.

Every year, Global Finance magazine awards the top central bankers worldwide, citing accomplishments in keeping their economies healthy amid global crises, and generally ensuring a healthy state of their respective countries’ financial sectors. However, if there are good central bankers, there are certainly central bankers who qualify as the worst in the world. Here are a few.

Gideon Gono, Zimbabwe

One word can summarize Gideon Gono’s tenure as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe: hyperinflation. Only in this economy can you consider hundreds of billions in currency as basically equivalent to junk.

This basically stemmed from currency instability that began in the 1990s, shortly after government confiscated private farms from landowners, and nearing the end of the country’s involvement in the Second Congo War. During these years, the RBZ printed large quantities of the Zimbabwe dollar in order to keep the economy afloat amid economic sanctions placed upon the country due to its involvement in the aforementioned war.

During this time, the currency supply went from billions to quadrillions circulating within Zimbabwe’s economy. However, even if any ordinary citizen could be a billionaire, it meant nothing, if quadrillions of Zimbabwe dollars were only worth $US 5 or so.

The RBZ – currently under governorship of John Panonetsa Mangudya – is currently attempting to stem hyperinflation in the country. One measure is to fully adopt the US dollar as the country’s official currency by 2015, to facilitate both domestic and international trade and business. But before that happens, it’s only in this country where stacks of currency are not worth the paper they’re printed on.

Marek Belka, Poland

Marek Belka najgorszym szefem banku w Europie - SE.pl

There are central bankers considered to be in the “worst” list because of policies that have resulted in weak economies or those that are ill reactions to global economic turns. However, Marek Belka, current Head of the National Bank of Poland, is in this list due to some political indiscretions.

Belka has held various positions throughout his career, including a stint as Prime Minister of Poland, director of the IMF’s European Department, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

In 2014, Belka was caught on tape trying to engineer the dismissal of the country’s finance minister in exchange for economic policies that will lead to an economic rebound. This is aimed at helping the current government win re-election.

The implication here is that Belka is blackmailing elected government representatives to bending to his will. In particular, it implies the governor is unwilling to implement measures to rescue a slow economy if his personal goals are not met. The idea that a central bank governor is attempting to work toward the benefit a certain political party certainly does not hold favor among the banking and finance community.

Mercedes Marcó del Pont, Argentina

Marcó del Pont: “El Banco del Sur es muy importante” para ...

Global Finance has given Mercedes Marcó del Pont, Governor of Banco Central de la Republica Argentina, a grade of “D” for several periods due to poor economic conditions in Argentina. In 2012, for example, core inflation was at 9.8%, unemployment at 7.5% and benchmark interest rates at 14.125%.

Moreso, del Pont has been quoted as saying printing more money does not necessarily lead to inflation. She claims that financing the public sector is not necessarily inflationary, because increase in prices are not caused by increased demand, at least in Argentina. The central banker blames price tensions mostly on the supply side of the equation.

It’s hardly surprising that Argentina does not report nor publish inflation figures. It has gone to the extent that government has banned independent economists from publishing their own figures. The lack of credible numbers has resulted in bond-holders losing billions of dollars due to inflationary effects.

Lack of statistics notwithstanding, the fact that a central banker does not subscribe to basic supply-and-demand economics says something about her institution and the government’s policies.

Conclusion

Being considered a “bad” central banker may have to do with policies, reaction to economic crises, or even personal and professional indiscretions. Whatever these are, there is likely to be a derogatory effect on the domestic economy, whether directly or indirectly. It goes to show how important monetary policies are in today’s global economy.