I have read in the media of allegation that the weaker ringgit is contributing to the rising inflation in Malaysia.[1]

The allegation makes sense. If Malaysia imports stuff, which the country does, and if the ringgit gets weaker, which it has (at least against several currencies and namely the US dollar), a weaker ringgit should contribute to domestic inflation. In the absence of data, I would support the idea of weaker currency is contributing to inflation.

Except, I am not entirely convinced by the data. In fact, the data is possibly telling me something to the opposite.

I have done some modeling in the past and it is hard to get a relationship between currency and inflation. At least, my modeling skills are not there yet, I would suppose. Even if I ignore all those econometric tests which the models failed, the effect of currency fluctuation under normal times, as I remember from those models, are so small that I would rather ignore them.

But here is something that does not rely on my econometrics. It is more straight forward in answering whether a weaker ringgit is contributing to domestic inflation. There are two possible proofs dismissing the role of the weaker ringgit.

The first is the producer price index (PPI) for imports. Crazily enough, it is still deflating and it has been deflating since January 2013 at the very least:

20140211PPIImportsDecember

One would expect, if the weaker ringgit was contributing to domestic inflation, the PPI for imports would increase and from there, the PPI inflation would somehow transmit to the consumers, affecting the CPI. I have not modeled this but the result for the a priori expectation that one needs to make the assumption that the weaker ringgit is contributing to domestic inflation is not going well here.

The second involves the import value and import volume growth. I have not thought of this thoroughly but if a weaker currency is contributing to domestic inflation, I would expect faster growth on import value than import volume growth. But in December, total import value (the one you see often in the press) rose 14.8% YoY. Volume grew 15.1% YoY. That means imports really are getting cheaper, corroborating the signal from the PPI imports.

So, is the depreciating ringgit contributing to the rising domestic inflation?

No. On the contrary, imports are a counteracting factor against inflation.

Again, this is just a preliminary thought that I just had. If my thinking holds, then I do not think the weaker ringgit is contributing to domestic inflation. At least not yet.

Right now, it seems, the rising CPI inflation in Malaysia is all caused subsidy cuts and domestic demand.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved
[1] — A weakening ringgit currency, which is down 1.5 per cent since the start of the year and at five-month lows against the dollar, could add to upward pressure on prices through more expensive imports, and reinforce the case for raising interest rates. [Malaysia inflation jumps as government feels heat over living costs. Reuters. The Malay Mail Online. January 22 2014]

One Response to “[2723] Is the weaker ringgit contributing to domestic inflation?”

  1. on 17 Mar 2014 at 12:01 hishamh

    Something even easier to look at:

    http://www.statistics.gov.my/portal/index.php?option=com_content&view= article&id=896&Itemid=111&lang=en

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