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How Jamaica Found A Creative Solution To An Age-Old Problem For Central Bankers


Every word spoken by the Federal Reserve is pored over by investors and traders. One wrong word could send the markets into a frenzy. So when Fed chair Jerome Powell speaks, like he did last week, he is cautious and, well, a bit dull.


JEROME POWELL: In light of global economic and financial developments and muted inflation pressures, the committee will be patient.

KELLY: Now, compare that to the bank of Jamaica.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) BOJ, committed to the Jamaica and the economy.

KELLY: Quite a contrast. Darian Woods from our Planet Money podcast tells us how Jamaica found a creative solution to an age-old problem for central bankers.

DARIAN WOODS, BYLINE: Here's the problem - keeping price inflation low. Jamaica has struggled with inflation over the years. The Caribbean nation started printing its own currency in the 1960s. Since then, the Jamaican dollar has lost more and more of its value. In the 1990s, price inflation even got past 70 percent annually. We all know this is bad. In the past few years, inflation has come down, and the central bank wants it to stay that way. But an important part of keeping it down means convincing everyday Jamaicans that it's going to stay down. It's a public relations problem.

TONY MORRISON: My name is Tony Morrison.

WOODS: Tony Morrison, he's the head of public relations for Jamaica's central bank, and he knows inflation is fueled by this virtuous or vicious cycle. If people think prices are going to rise a lot, they'll spend their money faster, further speeding up inflation. If they think inflation will be low, that in itself will help slow inflation. Economists call this anchoring inflation expectations. So last year, Morrison was thinking about this problem. One more dry speech from the bank's governor wasn't going to cut it. He had a different idea - an extremely catchy song.

MORRISON: One of those annoying songs that you hear in the morning and then you find yourself singing it in the evening.

WOODS: So you first find it annoying, but then you find you can't get it out of your head. Is that the goal?

MORRISON: Absolutely.

WOODS: So he brought this idea, a song that sticks, to the deputy governor of the bank, one of the most important economists in Jamaica. He found it hilarious.

MORRISON: When I wrote him, he burst out laughing.

WOODS: Laughing - not quite the reaction he wanted. But wait a second, the economist said - this is really important.

MORRISON: This one is so important that it has to be bigger than anything we've ever done before.

WOODS: Morrison wrote a 30-page plan, got the minister of finance' approval. He even showed it to the International Monetary Fund. Then he hired some musicians and made some reggae music videos.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) Predictable, stable and low, jah (ph) getting inflation to boost the economy. BOJ.

WOODS: This video shows a race car zooming through Jamaica's city streets, and then it pulls up at Jamaica's central bank.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) Using an Inflation targeting strategy.

WOODS: Jamaica is introducing what's called inflation targeting, committing to an inflation range every year.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Can't be too high or too low.

WOODS: At the moment, that's between 4 percent and 6 percent.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Inflation is the real heartbeat of the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Inflating targeting the way to go.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: A message from Bank of Jamaica.

WOODS: The bank got the songs played all over national radio, and the videos have been viewed over 200,000 times. Morrison says the songs are working, a nice companion to a dry policy speech.

MORRISON: And using reggae music came somewhat naturally.

WOODS: Whether we want the U.S. Federal Reserve to make their own music videos is an open question of both economics and taste. Darian Woods, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Darian Woods is a reporter and producer for The Indicator from Planet Money. He blends economics, journalism, and an ear for audio to tell stories that explain the global economy. He's reported on the time the world got together and solved a climate crisis, vaccine intellectual property explained through cake baking, and how Kit Kat bars reveal hidden economic forces.