The international monetary system is a topic that encompasses a wide range of issues—reserve currencies, exchange rates, capital flows, and the global financial safety net, to name a few. Some are of the view that the current system works well enough. I take a less sanguine view. Certainly the world did not end with the crisis that began in 2008 and a recovery is under way. But, it is not the recovery we wanted—it is uneven, unemployment is not really going down, there are widening inequalities, and global imbalances are back. Reform of the international monetary system may be wide-ranging and complex. But concrete reforms are needed to achieve the kind of well-balanced and sustainable recovery that the world needs, and to help prevent the next crisis.
As the global economics crisis abates, there is an emerging consensus that a better global financial safety net is needed to enable countries with good policies to insure against bad outcomes, especially when they are innocent by-standers caught in a financial turmoil. Last week the IMF took another step toward meeting this need by further enhancing its country insurance facilities. Reza Moghadam, head of the IMF’s Strategy, Policy, and Review Department, has authored this blog to coincide with a series of speeches about the reforms, including a scheduled speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics next Monday. The blog outlines the two major changes: enhancements to our flagship insurance option—the Flexible Credit Line (FCL)—for countries with very strong policies and economic fundamentals; and the establishment of a new Precautionary Credit Line (PCL), which offers a new form of contingent protection for countries with some moderate vulnerabilities.
The IMF resource base needs to be adequate to deal with most shocks. Some observers, however, worry that a large IMF with beefed-up financing instruments would add to moral hazard, encouraging reckless lending or unsafe policies. This is less of an issue when IMF lending is targeted to deal with “exogenous” shocks, i.e., shocks that cannot be influenced by the behavior of the individual country or its creditors.
The conventional wisdom is that, when the seas get rough, it’s better to be in a big boat. But being in the European Monetary Union (EMU) hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for all its members. On the contrary, the crisis has highlighted that sound policy frameworks are more important than ever. I look at this experience from the perspective of the European Union’s new member states in the East, who are still outside the EMU but are set to join sooner or later.
By John Lipsky
The economic and financial crisis of the past two years has placed in high relief profound changes in global economic and financial realities. Most notably, the crisis has underscored the shift in relative economic weight in favor of dynamic emerging market economies. In response, the G-20— a grouping that includes both advanced and large emerging economies—has stepped forward as the premier political venue for addressing economic and financial policy challenges.
These changes are exerting significant influence on the evolution of global governance, and they directly involve the IMF in two concrete ways. First, new advances are taking place in multilateral economic policy cooperation, with Fund participation. Second, realignment of Fund governance has been put on a fast track, with delivery scheduled for January 2011.
Once upon a time, those tracking international reserves focused on simple measures of reserve adequacy—enough to cover, say, 3 months of imports or all of the external debt maturing over the next year. However, the relevance of such yardsticks evaporated as a number of countries accumulated reserves that far surpass such levels, partly in reaction to emerging market financial crises of the 1990s and early part of this decade. Brazil’s reserves now exceed $200 billion, while Russia’s are more than $400 billion—and even these numbers are dwarfed by China’s reserves, which top $2,000 billion.
Reserves are rising, driven by emerging markets and, increasingly, low-income countries
As the financial crisis pulled the rug from under the emerging markets, analysts and policymakers alike began to question the adequacy of Fund resources. This worry was neither new nor surprising. For decades, private international capital flows had grown at a much faster rate than those of the IMF, rendering our institution too small to be able to deal with systemic crises.
As one country after another approached the Fund for financial assistance, it become clear that the international community needed to act decisively. Thus in April, the leaders of the G-20 industrial and emerging market countries, supported by the entire IMF membership, called for a tripling of the IMF’s lending resources from $250 billion to $750 billion. By early September, individual country pledges, including from many non-G20 countries, had reached the promised $500 billion in contingent resources that could be called by the Fund if needed.