Is the Investment-Uncertainty Link Really Elusive? The Harmful Effects of Inflation Uncertainty in Brazil
Tito Nícias Teixeira da Silva Filho
After being one the fastest growing countries in the world during the 1940-80 period, with an average growth rate of 6.8%, Brazil has experienced a severe growth slowdown since the 1980s, which coincided with the steep rise in inflation as of 1980. At the same time, real investment rates have plunged, shrinking around nine percentage points just in the 1980s. Moreover, they were unable to recover their 1989 level afterwards. This is unexpected as several pro-growth reforms took place since 1990, such as trade liberalization, privatization and economic stabilization. More strikingly, in the ten years following the stabilization of the economy, real investment rates have being at their lowest levels for, at least, fifty years. One major factor that could help explaining this dismal behavior is inflation uncertainty, which have remained high despite much lower inflation since 1994. Indeed, inflation uncertainty is at the root as many types of uncertainties faced by firms. For example, it also means uncertainty about future interest rates and demand. This work aims both at uncovering the main determinants that have driven M&E investment in Brazil since 1980 and testing the link between inflation uncertainty and investment. The evidence strongly suggests that inflation uncertainty has been an important investment deterrent in Brazil, both in the short and long runs. Moreover, its effects were found to be asymmetric. Also, despite the limited role played by price variables in empirical studies of investment, the real interest rate, itself importantly affected by inflation uncertainty and inflation risk premium, seems to be another key factor in explaining low investment rates in Brazil.
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