Reserve accumulation - objective or by-product?
This paper examines whether the level of reserves in emerging market countries has become excessive. It presents a discussion of “adequacy” versus “excessive” levels of reserves, and presents calculations of reserve adequacy for a large number of emerging market countries. Two categories of countries can be distinguished: i) those whose reserves have grown on account of a need for self-insurance against financial crises, and which tend to be reasonably in line with adequacy measures (mainly Latin American countries and countries in central and eastern Europe), and ii) those whose reserve accumulation is nowadays primarily the result of rapid export-led growth supported by a lack of exchange rate flexibility. This is especially the case for several emerging Asian countries, whose reserve levels have grown far beyond what can reasonably considered adequate. Various opinions on Asian exchange rate and reserves policies are examined, and the costs and benefits of currency undervaluation are assessed. Attention is also paid to the composition of the reserves. The paper concludes by bringing together the various strands of the analysis and enumerating the main implications of largescale reserve accumulation for the international monetary system. JEL Classification: F31, F41.
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