John C Williams: Managing the known unknowns

Remarks by Mr John C Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at the Suresh Tendulkar Memorial Lecture, organised by the Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai, 5 July 2024.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
09 July 2024

As prepared for delivery 

Good afternoon. It's a privilege to speak at this lecture series in honor of Professor Suresh Tendulkar, the esteemed economist and policymaker. And I'm pleased to be here with my counterparts at the Reserve Bank of India.

We all operate in a highly interconnected global economy. So, meeting with and learning from central bankers and other experts from around the world is an important part of my job. Many of the issues we face are unique, but many are similar, too.

One theme that spans the globe has to do with managing the "known unknowns" of monetary policy. Alan Greenspan, the former Chair of the Federal Reserve, once said:

"Uncertainty is not just a pervasive feature of the monetary policy landscape; it is the defining characteristic of that landscape."

That certainly sums up our experience since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic four and a half years ago. And uncertainty will continue to be the defining characteristic of the monetary policy landscape for the foreseeable future. This is especially true as we face issues like artificial intelligence, climate change, deglobalization, and innovations in the financial system-not to mention the perennial challenges of measuring the so-called star variables such as r-star.

Today, I'm going to discuss several key principles that are at the heart of inflation targeting strategies and have proven foundational and invaluable in managing extreme uncertainty. These include accountability, transparency, and well-anchored inflation expectations. While my remarks in important ways are based on the experience of the U.S., these principles have much broader application in preparing policymakers for an uncertain future.