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Inflation and its remedies

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Inflation and its remedies

  1. 1. A sustained rise in the prices of commodities that leads to a fall in the purchasing power of a nation is called inflation. Although inflation is part of the normal economic phenomena of any country, any increase in inflation above a predetermined level is a cause of concern. High levels of inflation distort economic performance, making it mandatory to identify the causing factors. Several internal and external factors, such as the printing of more money by the government, a rise in production and labor costs, high lending levels, a drop in the exchange rate, increased taxes or wars, can cause inflation.Different schools of thought provide different views on what actually causes inflation. However, there is a general agreement amongst economists that economic inflation may be caused by either an increase in the money supply or a decrease in the quantity of goods being supplied.The proponents of the Demand Pull theory attribute a rise in prices to an increase in demand in excess of the supplies available. An increase in the quantity of money in circulation relative to the ability of the economy to supply leads to increased demand, thereby fuelling prices. The case is of too much money chasing too few goods. An increase in demand could also be a result of declining interest rates, a cut in tax rates or increased consumer confidence.<br />The Cost Push theory, on the other hand, states that inflation occurs when the cost of producing rises and the increase is passed on to consumers. The cost of production can rise because of rising labor costs or when the producing firm is a monopoly or oligopoly and raises prices, cost of imported raw material rises due to exchange rate changes, and external factors, such as natural calamities or an increase in the economic power of a certain country. An increase in indirect taxes can also lead to increased production costs. A classic example of cost-push or supply-shock inflation is the oil crisis that occurred in the 1970s, after the OPEC raised oil prices. The US saw double digit inflation levels during this period. Since oil is used in every industry, a sharp rise in the price of oil leads to an increase in the prices of all commodities.While money growth is considered to be a principal long-term determinant of inflation, non-monetary sources, such as an increase in commodity prices, have played a key role in triggering inflation in the past four decades.<br />CAUSES OF INFLATION<br />There are a few different reasons that can account for the inflation in our goods and services; let's review a few of them.<br />Demand-pull inflation refers to the idea that the economy actual demands more goods and services than available. This shortage of supply enables sellers to raise prices until an equilibrium is put in place between supply and demand. <br />The cost-push theory , also known as "supply shock inflation", suggests that shortages or shocks to the available supply of a certain good or product will cause a ripple effect through the economy by raising prices through the supply chain from the producer to the consumer. You can readily see this in oil markets. When OPEC reduces oil supply, prices are artificially driven up and result in higher prices at the pump.<br /> <br />Money supply plays a large role in inflationary pressure as well. Monetarist economists believe that if the Federal Reserve does not control the money supply adequately, it may actually grow at a rate faster than that of the potential output in the economy, or real GDP. The belief is that this will drive up prices and hence, inflation. Low interest rates correspond with a high levels of money supply and allow for more investment in big business and new ideas which eventually leads to unsustainable levels of inflation as cheap money is available. The credit crisis of 2007 is a very good example of this at work. <br />Inflation can artificially be created through a circular increase in wage earners demands and then the subsequent increase in producer costs which will drive up the prices of their goods and services. This will then translate back into higher prices for the wage earners or consumers. As demands go higher from each side, inflation will continue to rise.<br /><ul><li>Rising imported raw materials costs perhaps caused by inflation in countries that are heavily dependent on exports ofC these commodities or alternatively by a fall in the value of the pound in the foreign exchange markets which increases the UK price of imported inputs. A good example of cost push inflation was the decision by British Gas and other energy suppliers to raise substantially the prices for gas and electricity that it charges to domestic and industrial consumers at various points during 2005 and 2006.
  2. 2. Rising labour costs - caused by wage increases which exceed any improvement in productivity.  This cause is important in those industries which are ‘labour-intensive’. Firms may decide not to pass these higher costs onto their customers (they may be able to achieve some cost savings in other areas of the business) but in the long run, wage inflation tends to move closely with price inflation because there are limits to the extent to which any business can absorb higher wage expenses.
  3. 3. Higher indirect taxes imposed by the government – for example a rise in the rate of excise duty on alcohol and cigarettes, an increase in fuel duties or perhaps a rise in the standard rate of Value Added Tax or an extension to the range of products to which VAT is applied. These taxes are levied on producers (suppliers) who, depending on the price elasticity of demand and supply for their products, can opt to pass on the burden of the tax onto consumers. For example, if the government was to choose to levy a new tax on aviation fuel, then this would contribute to a rise in cost-push inflation.

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