This paper addresses the experiences and challenges of Hungary’s monetary policy during the period 1995–2000 and in view of the progress toward EU and EMU membership. The structure of relative prices changed markedly in the past and is expected to continue to change in the future. The reason, in addition to a possible Balassa–Samuelson effect, was the elimination of subsidies and introduction of turnover taxes in the past, and a future convergence toward a price structure prevalent in the EU. In the 1995–2000 period, the resulting gap between CPI and PPI led to massive foreign capital inflows. While the policy of sterilised interventions by the National Bank of Hungary was probably the right answer, it was inevitably costly, and was made costlier than necessary by the way it was carried out. Continued adjustments in the price structure in the future will confront monetary policy with the same dilemmas and, resulting in an inflation floor, will complicate the country’s conditions of joining EMU within a reasonable time frame after EU accession.
The Central and Eastern European new Member States of the European Union (CEECs) went through the transition process following the commandments of the Washington Consensus, which gradually evolved into the “integrative growth model”. External liberalisation exposed the CEECs to recurring problems over external imbalances, bubbles driven by capital inflows, and resulting growth instabilities. Large foreign direct investment inflows attracted by repressed wages and low taxes do not accelerate growth. Arguably, real convergence would be much faster under a system with built-in limitations to free trade, free capital movements – and with more scope for traditional industrial, trade, incomes, and fiscal policies.
The global crisis of 2007–2009 can be viewed as three interdependent and mutually reinforcing crises: a financial crisis, a liquidity crisis, and a crisis in the real economy. The ten East European countries that are now EU members were hit first by the global liquidity crisis, then by dramatic declines in capital inflows and plunging demand for their exports. Different impacts among the ten are explained by such factors as their exchange rate regimes, the extent to which households found it advantageous to rely on foreign-currency loans and the appropriateness of fiscal and monetary policies prior to the crisis. Since Western Europe’s recovery and growth are likely to be slow, in the future East European countries will have to rely relatively more on internally-generated sources of productivity growth and enhanced global competitiveness.