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Do the Benefits of Fixed Exchange Rates Outweigh Their Costs? The Franc Zone in Africa

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  • Shantayanan Devarajan
  • Dani Rodrik

Abstract

We develop a simple formal framework to clarify the trade-offs involved in the choice between a fixed and flexible exchange-rate system. We then apply the framework to the CFA Zone countries in Africa, which have maintained a fixed parity with the French Franc since independence. Thanks to the predominance of a few agricultural products and natural resources in their exports, CFA member countries have suffered frequent shocks in their terms of trade. A flexible exchange rate could have possibly alleviated the costs of these external shocks. On the other hand, CFA member countries have managed to maintain lower inflation levels than their neighbors. Our framework provides a way of weighing these costs and benefits. The inflation differential between CFA and non-CFA African countries has been around 14 percentage points. We attribute this differential to the standard time-consistency problem inherent in discretionary macroeconomic policy. Nonetheless, our highly stylized calculations suggest that fixed exchange rates have been, on the whole, a bad bargain for the CFA member countries. Under reasonable output-inflation tradeoffs, the output costs of maintaining a fixed exchange rate have outweighed the benefits of lower inflation.

Suggested Citation

  • Shantayanan Devarajan & Dani Rodrik, 1991. "Do the Benefits of Fixed Exchange Rates Outweigh Their Costs? The Franc Zone in Africa," NBER Working Papers 3727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3727 Note: LS
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    1. Boyer, Russell S, 1978. "Optimal Foreign Exchange Market Intervention," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1045-1055, December.
    2. Guillaumont, Patrick & Guillaumont, Sylviane & Plane, Patrick, 1988. "Participating in African monetary unions: An alternative evaluation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 16(5), pages 569-576, May.
    3. Devarajan, Shantayanan & de Melo, Jaime, 1990. "Membership in the CFA zone : Odyssean journey or Trojan horse?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 482, The World Bank.
    4. Corden, W. Max, 1990. "Exchange rate policy in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 412, The World Bank.
    5. Peter J Montiel & Bijan B. Aghevli & Mohsin S. Khan, 1991. "Exchange Rate Policy in Developing Countries; Some Analytical Issues," IMF Occasional Papers 78, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Devarajan, Shantayanan & de Melo, Jaime, 1987. "Evaluating participation in African monetary unions: A statistical analysis of the CFA Zones," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 483-496, April.
    7. Fischer, Stanley, 1990. "Rules versus discretion in monetary policy," Handbook of Monetary Economics,in: B. M. Friedman & F. H. Hahn (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 21, pages 1155-1184 Elsevier.
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