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When Is It Optimal to Abandon a Fixed Exchange Rate?

  • Sergio Rebelo
  • Carlos A. Vegh

The influential Krugman-Flood-Garber (KFG) model of balance of payment crises assumes that a fixed exchange rate is abandoned if and only if international reserves reach a critical threshold value. From a positive standpoint, the KFG rule is at odds with many episodes in which the central bank has plenty of international reserves at the time of abandonment. We study the optimal exit policy and show that, from a normative standpoint, the KFG rule is generally suboptimal. We consider a model in which the fixed exchange rate regime has become unsustainable due to an unexpected increase in government spending. We show that, when there are no exit costs, it is optimal to abandon immediately. When there are exit costs, the optimal abandonment time is a decreasing function of the size of the fiscal shock. For large fiscal shocks, immediate abandonment is optimal. Our model is consistent with evidence suggesting that many countries exit fixed exchange rate regimes with still plenty of international reserves in the central bank's vault.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12793.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Publication status: published as Rebelo, Sergio and Carlos Vegh. "When is it Optimal to Abandon a Fixed Exchange Rate." Review of Economic Studies 75, 3 (2008): 929-955.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12793
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  1. Flood, Robert P. & Jeanne, Olivier, 2005. "An interest rate defense of a fixed exchange rate?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 471-484, July.
  2. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela, 1999. "The twin crises: The causes of banking and balance of payments problems," MPRA Paper 14081, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Flood, Robert P. & Garber, Peter M. & Kramer, Charles, 1996. "Collapsing exchange rate regimes: Another linear example," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-4), pages 223-234, November.
  4. Maurice Obstfeld, 1984. "Speculative Attack and the External Constraint in a Maximizing Model of the Balance of Payments," NBER Working Papers 1437, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 1998. "Prospective deficits and the Asian currency crisis," Working Paper Series WP-98-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  6. Sergio Rebelo & Danyang Xie, 1997. "On the Optimality of Interest Rate Smoothing," NBER Working Papers 5947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Graciela L. Kaminsky & Carmen M. Reinhart, 1996. "The twin crises: the causes of banking and balance-of-payments problems," International Finance Discussion Papers 544, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1996. "Models of currency crises with self-fulfilling features," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 1037-1047, April.
  9. Drazen, Allan & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Stabilization with Exchange Rate Management," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 835-55, November.
  10. Rigobon, Roberto, 2002. "Disinflation and fiscal reform: a neoclassical perspective," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 265-297, December.
  11. Flood, Robert P. & Garber, Peter M., 1984. "Collapsing exchange-rate regimes : Some linear examples," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 1-13, August.
  12. Robert P. Flood & Jagdeep S. Bhandari & Jocelyn P. Horne, 1989. "Evolution of Exchange Rate Regimes," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 36(4), pages 810-835, December.
  13. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1987. "Balance of Payments Crises in a Cash-in-Advance Economy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 19(1), pages 19-32, February.
  14. Burnside, Craig & Eichenbaum, Martin & Rebelo, Sergio, 2004. "Government guarantees and self-fulfilling speculative attacks," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 119(1), pages 31-63, November.
  15. Michael Mussa, 2002. "Argentina and the Fund: From Triumph to Tragedy," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number pa67, May.
  16. Amartya Lahiri & Carlos A. Vegh, 2000. "Delaying the Inevitable: Optimal Interest Rate Policy and BOP Crises," NBER Working Papers 7734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Vegh, Carlos A., 1995. "Nominal interest rates, consumption booms, and lack of credibility: A quantitative examination," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 357-378, April.
  18. Ratna Sahay & Deepak Mishra & Poonam Gupta, 2003. "Output Response to Currency Crises," IMF Working Papers 03/230, International Monetary Fund.
  19. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1986. "Rational and Self-fulfilling Balance-of-Payments Crises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 72-81, March.
  20. Robert E. Lucas Jr. & Nancy L. Stokey, 1982. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy in an Economy Without Capital," Discussion Papers 532, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  21. Reinhart, Carmen & Vegh, Carlos, 1995. "Nominal interest rates, consumption booms, and lack of credibility: A quantitative examination," MPRA Paper 13898, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  22. Krugman, Paul, 1979. "A Model of Balance-of-Payments Crises," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 11(3), pages 311-25, August.
  23. Buiter, Willem H., 1987. "Borrowing to defend the exchange rate and the timing and magnitude of speculative attacks," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3-4), pages 221-239, November.
  24. Michael M Hutchison & Ilan Noy, 2002. "Output Costs of Currency and Balance of Payments Crises in Emerging Markets," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 44(2-3), pages 27-44, September.
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