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The major international financial crises of the past decades have shown that the international monetary system that evolved in an ad hoc way after the collapse of original Bretton Woods arrangements in the early 1970s must be reformed in a comprehensive way. This is particularly important from the point of view of emerging and developing countries, which are subject to strong boom-bust cycles in external financing, must “self-insure” to the associated risks through the accumulation of large foreign exchange reserves, severely face the inadequacies of the crisis management facilities currently available, and have inadequate voice and participation in the governance of the system. On the basis of an analysis of the system, this chapter proposes reforms in seven areas: (i) a better international reserve system than the current fiduciary dollar standard, and particularly one that makes counter-cyclical allocations of IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) that increase international liquidity during crises and help fund counter-cyclical IMF lending; (ii) better instruments to guarantee the consistency of national economic policies of major countries; (iii) a system of managed exchange rate flexibility that promotes stability and avoids negative spillovers on other countries; (iv) the regulation of cross-border finance to mitigate the pro-cyclical behavior of capital flows; (v) appropriate balance of payments financing during crises, particularly through financing facilities that are automatic or have simpler prequalification processes and simpler or no conditionality, to overcome the stigma associated with borrowing from the IMF; (vi) adequate international sovereign debt workout mechanisms; and (vii) reforming the governance of the system through a more representative apex organization than the current G-20, stronger voice of developing countries in the IMF, and a “dense” architecture, in which the IMF is complemented with regional and interregional institutions.
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Following Mohan and Kapur ( 2014), I use this term rather than “global financial crisis” because, although the crisis had global effects, its epicenters were the US and Western Europe.
The term “emerging economies” lacks a clear definition, in contrast with “developing countries”, to which in a broader sense they belong. Broad access to international private capital markets may be their distinguishing feature. This is why I refer, in the discussion on capital flows and capital account crises, to emerging economies and not to developing countries as a whole.
IMF Articles of Agreement, Article VIII, Section 7, and Article XXII.
See parallel consideration on pending reform issues in Obstfeld and Taylor ( 2017).
I prefer this term to “deflationary”—generally used in the literature—as this pressure is more likely to be reflected today in economic activity rather than in price deflation.
Of course, more ambitious alternatives would be to return to Keynes’ proposal for an International Clearing Union or to create a truly global reserve bank (see, e.g., on the latter, Stiglitz 2006, ch. 9), but none of these alternatives would be viable. A more active use of SDRs in the way suggested in this chapter has, in a sense, some elements of a global central bank.
Formally, they are both an asset and a liability. Countries receive interest for their net holdings and have to pay interest for their net use. This peculiar structure is a legacy of the debates of the 1960s, when France, against the view of most countries, opposed the idea of creating a pure reserve asset. See a review of this debate and the contemporary developments in the international monetary system in works by Solomon ( 1982, ch. 8) and Eichengreen ( 2008).
See, for instance, the recent analysis and proposals presented by the IMF ( 2018).
This is partly due to nominal appreciation but even more to relative wage movements, which are not captured in traditional estimations of real exchange rates. Indeed, in recent years, China has rather been making efforts to avoid a depreciation of the Renminbi, sacrificing a large amount of reserves.
The more “candid” assessment of major economies in Article IV consultations was a response to the views, held by the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IMF-IEO 2011), among others, that the Fund had lacked strong assessments of major developed countries in the run-up to the North Atlantic financial crisis.
The US backed at the time a “reserve indicator” system, under which each IMF member would have been assigned a target level of reserves and forced to adjust to keep reserves around that target.
There was also the spread of what Reinhart and Rogoff ( 2004) call “free falling” exchange rates, which were the results of high levels of inflation. The group of countries in this situation increased in the 1970s and 1980s, peaking in the early 1990s before falling sharply, as part of the worldwide reduction in inflation rates.
The terms “regulation” or “management” of the capital account should be clearly preferred to the most common use of “controls”, as they have significant similarities with other financial prudential regulations and can include price-based mechanisms. Indeed, the common use of the word “controls” carries an implicit stigma. For a broader discussion on this issue, see Gallagher ( 2014) and Ocampo ( 2017, ch. 4).
According to Bank for International Settlements data, the peak of emerging and developing countries in the issuance of bonds and notes in the international market was before the East Asian crisis and was less than 15%. Before the North Atlantic crisis, it had fallen to just 7%. See Ocampo ( 2017, Table 4.2).
For a critique of the IMF view along these lines, see Gallagher and Ocampo ( 2013).
Some of them were made available under the umbrella of the Bank for International Settlements, which was also active in raising financing packages for the UK, which faced the decline of the sterling as an international currency.
See also the considerations on debt issues in low-income countries, in the context of the aid-debt-growth debate in the chapter by Nissanke (Chap. 15, in this volume).
This is what is implicit in Krueger’s ( 2002) late proposal during negotiations regarding the Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism.
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- The International Monetary System and Economic Development
José Antonio Ocampo
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