IFM’s chief economist Alex Joiner’s first career love was flying – the now economist made his first solo flight at just 16. “It’s a fantastic pastime but I didn’t know whether I could turn that into a career,”
he says. Instead, he chose commerce at university before switching to economics, in which he added a doctorate.
After a rocky start in the discipline, Alex had a small epiphany and ended up taking an honours year where he met the first of his career-shaping mentors, renowned Australian economist Professor Mardi Dungey at LaTrobe University.
“She gave me enthusiasm through her own enthusiasm to do economics,” Alex says. “That was the first time I did well at economics. I remember distinctly it was a paper on NAIRU.”
The non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment, which is not an observable phenomenon, continues to haunt economists of Alex's generation and the Reserve Bank, which acknowledges it may now be below 4 per cent but by its nature, nobody can
After a doctorate in economics, Alex deduced academia wasn’t for him, and following a stint in Treasury, he met his second mentor – veteran economist Saul Eslake – who Alex describes as “transformative in my career”.
Like Dungey, Eslake also happened to be Tasmanian.
He joined Eslake at ANZ and then Bank of America before he was drawn to IFM Investors, where he is now the Chief Economist.
As Alex’s career evolved, so did monetary policy. “Inflation targeting was a late 1990s, early 2000 phenomenon and that has been the story of many economist careers,” he says. It is all based around trying to forecast what central
banks are doing and what they will be doing in the future.
But lower interest rates and higher debt came with the dominance of monetary policy, and imbalances are now showing up in wealth inequality and surging house prices. Alex believes there’s now too much reliance on monetary policy and that’s
curbing the economy’s growth potential.
Monetary policy was “always designed as a cyclical response to flatten out the cycle". "Monetary policy was never designed to fix structural issues in economies around productivity growth and tax reform,” he says.