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Hoarding international reserves versus a Pigovian tax-cum-subsidy scheme: Reflections on the deleveraging crisis of 2008-9, and a cost benefit analysis

  • Joshua Aizenman

In this paper we outline a Pigovian tax-cum-subsidy scheme that deals with concerns about the costs and efficacy of hoarding international reserves (IR) as a means of self-insurance against a deleveraging crisis. We overview the degree to which IR provided self-insurance to Emerging Markets (EMs) during the 2008-9 crisis, pointing out that the fear of losing IR constrained the use of a pre-crisis IR war-chest. The crisis validates the need for external debt management policy. EMs found that their initial large stocks of IR were not enough to prevent runs on their IR and large currency depreciations, runs that were abated in some countries only with the proliferation of deep swap-lines. The experience of EMs during the crisis raises concerns regarding the efficacy of hoarding IR as means of self-insurance. We outline the case for supporting self-insurance by imposing a tax on external borrowing. We focus on a model of an emerging market, where entrepreneurs finance tangible investments via bank intermediation of foreign borrowing. Bank intermediation exposes the economy to the risk of deleveraging, inducing a costly premature liquidation of tangible investments; a risk that increases with the ratio of aggregate external borrowing to IR. In these circumstances, price taking economic agents ignore their marginal impact on the expected cost of a deleveraging crisis, and external borrowing is associated with negative fire-sale congestion externalities. We show that an optimal borrowing tax reduces the distorted activity (external borrowing), and induces borrowers to finance the precautionary hoarding of international reserves.

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Volume (Year): (2010)
Issue (Month): Oct ()
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfpr:y:2010:i:oct:x:2
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  1. Aizenman, Joshua & Sun, Yi, 2012. "The financial crisis and sizable international reserves depletion: From ‘fear of floating’ to the ‘fear of losing international reserves’?," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 250-269.
  2. Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 2008. "Liquidity Insurance in a Financially Dollarized Economy," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Markets Volatility and Performance in Emerging Markets, pages 185-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ricardo Caballero & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2001. "Smoothing Sudden Stops," NBER Working Papers 8427, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Dani Rodrik, 2006. "The Social Cost of Foreign Exchange Reserves," NBER Working Papers 11952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Joshua Aizenman & Jaewoo Lee, 2005. "International Reserves: Precautionary versus Mercantilist Views, Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 11366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Joshua Aizenman & Stephen Turnovsky, 1999. "Reserve Requirements on Sovereign Debt in the Presence of Moral Hazard -- on Debtors or Creditors?," Working Papers 0044, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  7. Sebastian Edwards & Márcio G. P. Garcia, 2008. "Financial Markets Volatility and Performance in Emerging Markets," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number edwa05-1, October.
  8. Yin-Wong Cheung & Xingwang Qian, 2007. "Hoarding of International Reserves: Mrs Machlup’s Wardrobe and the Joneses," CESifo Working Paper Series 2065, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Aizenman, Joshua & Lee, Yeonho & Rhee, Yeongseop, 2004. "International Reserves Management and Capital Mobility in a Volatile World: Policy Considerations and a Case Study of Korea," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt65p8p9qq, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  10. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2000. "Fear of Floating," NBER Working Papers 7993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Kletzer, Kenneth M, 1984. "Asymmetries of Information and LDC Borrowing with Sovereign Risk," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(374), pages 287-307, June.
  12. Romain Ranciere & Olivier Jeanne, 2006. "The Optimal Level of International Reserves for Emerging Market Countries; Formulas and Applications," IMF Working Papers 06/229, International Monetary Fund.
  13. Holmstrom, B & Tirole, J, 1996. "Private and Public Supply of Liquidity," Working papers 96-21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  14. Aizenman, Joshua & Pasricha, Gurnain Kaur, 2010. "Selective swap arrangements and the global financial crisis: Analysis and interpretation," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 353-365, June.
  15. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann & Ugo Panizza, 2003. "Currency Mismatches, Debt Intolerance and Original Sin: Why They Are Not the Same and Why it Matters," NBER Working Papers 10036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Bryant, John, 1980. "A model of reserves, bank runs, and deposit insurance," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 335-344, December.
  17. Paul Krugman, 2000. "Fire-Sale FDI," NBER Chapters, in: Capital Flows and the Emerging Economies: Theory, Evidence, and Controversies, pages 43-58 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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