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The Optimal Level of Reserves for Low-Income Countries: Self-Insurance against External Shocks

  • Regis Barnichon

This paper develops an analytical framework that helps to quantify the optimal level of international reserves for a small open economy with limited access to foreign capital and subject to natural disasters or terms-of-trade shocks. International reserves allow the country to relieve balance of payments pressures caused by external shocks and to avoid large fluctuations in imports. The paper calibrates the model to two regions—the Caribbean and the Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa—and assesses the sensitivity of the results. The conclusion is that popular rules of thumb, such as maintaining reserves equivalent to three months of imports, only give imprecise benchmarks.

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Article provided by Palgrave Macmillan in its journal IMF Staff Papers.

Volume (Year): 56 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 852-875

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Handle: RePEc:pal:imfstp:v:56:y:2009:i:4:p:852-875
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  1. Alfaro, Laura & Kanczuk, Fabio, 2009. "Optimal reserve management and sovereign debt," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 23-36, February.
  2. Olivier Jeanne, 2007. "International Reserves in Emerging Market Countries: Too Much of a Good Thing?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(1), pages 1-80.
  3. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Caselli, Francesco & Feyrer, James, 2005. "The Marginal Product of Capital," CEPR Discussion Papers 5203, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Masao Ogaki & Qiang Zhang, 2000. "Decreasing Relative Risk Aversion and Tests of Risk Sharing," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1588, Econometric Society.
  6. Agenor, Pierre-Richard & Bayraktar, Nihal & El Aynaoui, Karim, 2005. "Roads out of poverty? assessing the links between aid, public investment, growth, and poverty reduction," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3490, The World Bank.
  7. Jonathan D. Ostry & Carmen M. Reinhart, 1992. "Private Saving and Terms of Trade Shocks: Evidence from Developing Countries," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 39(3), pages 495-517, September.
  8. Caballero, R.J., 1988. "Consumption Puzzles And Precautionary Savings," Discussion Papers 1988_05, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  9. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(2), pages 275-98, May.
  10. Huggett, Mark & Ospina, Sandra, 2001. "Aggregate precautionary savings: when is the third derivative irrelevant?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 373-396, October.
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