On hold

UK interest rate held at a 16-year high as Bank of England holds rates at 5.25%

The decision comes as inflation, which measures price rises over a period of time, remains above the Bank’s 2% target at 3.2%. But bank says cuts are coming.

Is the 2% target still a sensible benchmark?

The 2% inflation target set by central banks has been a widely adopted benchmark for monetary policy.


The 2% inflation target became prominent in the 1990s and early 2000s. Central banks, such as the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, have aimed to maintain inflation at this level.

The Federal Reserve has typically pursued an inflation rate of about 2% since 1996.

In January 2012, then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke formally established the 2% target, and subsequent Fed chairs have continued to endorse this rate as the preferred level of inflation.

Why the 2% target?

Price stability

The 2% inflation target was selected as it provides a balance between preventing problematic inflation and avoiding damaging deflation. Does it work?

Avoiding deflation

Deflation, characterized by falling prices, can hinder economic growth. Central banks target a 2% inflation rate to avert deflation and ensure stability.

Creditor-Debtor compromise

The 2% inflation target represents a balance between creditors’ preference for lower inflation and debtors’ inclination towards higher inflation.


Changing economic environment

In recent years, the global economy has encountered distinct challenges, including sluggish growth, technological upheavals, and demographic changes. Consequently, there is a debate on whether the 2% inflation target requires reassessment.

Persistently low inflation

Despite the efforts of central banks, inflation has persisted below the 2% mark in numerous advanced economies, sparking debates over the potential need to modify the target.


Aiming for a 2% inflation rate can occasionally clash with other policy objectives, like employment or financial stability. It’s crucial for central banks to judiciously manage these competing priorities.


Several central banks are revising their strategies. For example, the European Central Bank (ECB) has adopted a more adaptable inflation target, permitting temporary exceedances to balance out extended periods of below-target inflation.

The Bank of England also considers broader economic factors when setting policy, rather than rigidly adhering to the 2% target.

IIn summary, although the 2% inflation target has been a helpful benchmark, central banks are progressively willing to adjust their strategies in response to evolving economic conditions. The current debate focuses on striking an optimal balance between stability, growth, and adaptability.

Central banks saw this period of inflation as ‘transitory’ – it wasn’t. It could be argued that their lack of action led to a bigger inflation problem overall.

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