February is starting with Janet Yellen as the new chair of the US central bank, known as the Federal Reserve. Her appointment means both change and continuity. Change, because Ms. Yellen is the first woman, in the hundred years of the Federal Reserve’s existence, to direct the monetary policy of the United States. Continuity, because Ms. Yellen has occupied key positions within the Federal Reserve.
Six years, from 2004 to 2010, as head of one of the system’s regional banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Since October 2010, she was Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve board of Governors, under outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke. Previously, from 1994 to 1997, she was member of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve and during the Clinton Administration she was head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, from 1997 to 1999. She has a PhD in economics from Yale and she is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught economics, since 1980.
If the US economic reactivation turns more vigorous, Ms. Yellen will face an immediate challenge. How to dismantle the stimulus measures the central bank has applied to sustain the still modest recovery. The timing of these measures is essential. Too soon may hinder the recovery, too late may generate inflation.
*International analyst and consultant. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio. Former Director, UNECLAC Washington Office.