Central banking in nineteenth-century Belgium: was the NBB a lender of last resort?
The creation of the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) in 1850 marked a fundamental reform of the Belgian financial system. It clearly aimed at rendering the financial system more crisis resistant, especially by restricting the leverage of the banking sector. The NBB, which received the privilege to issue banknotes, was subject to strict rules to grant only short-term credit against collateral. The NBB took up a key role in maintaining monetary stability, especially by safeguarding the convertibility of banknotes. The NBB also took part in certain rescue operations of financial institutions. However, this was mostly on explicit demand from the finance minister and for crises concerning discount banks. It would then be an exaggeration to consider it as a lender of last resort, in the sense of taking responsibility for the stability of the financial system. This should be no surprise, given the limitations imposed by its statutes, especially the limitation to short-term credits and the strict rules on collateral, the role of the profit motive in its commercial activities and the priority for safeguarding the convertibility of banknotes.
Volume (Year): 15 (2008)
Issue (Month): 02 (October)
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