If a country with a balance of payments problem, that is, insufficient foreign exchange receipts to meet foreign exchange requirements, seeks to remedy the situation by currency devaluation, things may get worse before they get better. This so-called J-curve effect occurs if the domestic-currency prices of exports are sticky, whether because they are cost based or subject to longer term contracts, so that export prices in foreign currency fall. Until favourable volume effects outweigh the unfavourable price effect, the balance of payments deteriorates. Such a J-curve effect should be distinguished both from the longer term erosion of the beneficial effects of devaluation as domestic costs and the prices of non-tradables rise and from the apparent J-curve due to the 'valuation effect'. If the current account is in deficit before devaluation, as will usually be the case, devaluation will widen the deficit in domestic currency because domestic-currency imports rise by a larger amount than exports. This is a pure valuation effect, of no significance for external balance. But it is liable to lead to unduly pessimistic judgements about the effectiveness of devaluation. In Australia during 1985-86, the current account deficit increased by $A3.5 billion, despite substantial depreciation of the $A. The main reason was a sharp deterioration in the terms of trade which is estimated to have worsened the current account by $A4.25 billion. Most of this was exogenous, though J-curve effects may have made a contribution. In addition, the valuation effect contributed a further, illusory, widening of the deficit, valued in domestic currency, by over $A1 billion. To avoid misleading inferences from the valuation effect, it is suggested that the balance of payments should, if possible, be presented in foreign currency. Copyright 1987 The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
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Volume (Year): 20 (1987)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
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