Monetary independence is at the core of the macroeconomic policy trilemma stating that an independent monetary policy, a fixed exchange rate and free movement of capital cannot exist at the same time. This study examines the relationship between monetary autonomy and inflation dynamics in a panel of Caribbean countries over the period 1980–2017. The empirical results show that monetary independence is a significant factor in determining inflation, even after controlling for macroeconomic developments. In other words, greater monetary policy independence, measured as a country’s ability to conduct its own monetary policy for domestic purposes independent of external monetary influences, leads to lower consumer price inflation. This relationship—robust to alternative specifications and estimation methodologies—has clear policy implications, especially for countries that maintain pegged exchange rates relative to the U.S. dollar with a critical bearing on monetary autonomy.
The experiences of Caribbean Economic Community countries show that exchange rate depreciation in these countries is inflationary, and that, while changes in the relative prices of tradables may affect exports, tourism, and imports, nominal exchange rate changes have no predictable effect on those relative prices. Under these circumstances, economic literature indicates that a fixed exchange rate regime is optimal, and Caribbean countries with (quasi-) currency boards have been successful in maintaining durable exchange rate pegs. Commitment to a currency board is a potentially vital step in achieving a currency union for the Caribbean.