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How to spend it: Commodity and non-commodity sovereign wealth funds

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  • Reisen, Helmut

Abstract

Sovereign wealth funds have become important players in global financial markets. But their investments have repeatedly raised concerns, such as fear of industrial espionage or geopolitical threats. This paper argues that the principal motivation for setting up SWFs should put such concerns into the appropriate perspective. Development economics can explain both the funding sources and the motives that have led to the recent SWF boom, thus helping to prevent the imposition of investment restrictions in OECD countries. The basic principles of public finance and development economics leave little room for conspiracy theories, but draw attention to the fact that funding sources and economic motives differ between commodity and non-commodity SWFs. These principles point to several major motives for countries to build up sovereign wealth funds, rather than merely accumulating official foreign exchange reserves. Foreign exchange reserves can become excessively large, additional economic diversification and efficiency gains can be achieved, technology transfer and network benefits can be fostered, and demographic pressures can be tackled. When using the excess funds, governments have to take important, fundamental decisions. The Hotelling and Hartwick Rules provide theoretical guidance, demonstrating the benefits of transforming oil or other resources into other forms of wealth, rather than consuming them. This not only benefits the investing but also the recipient countries: Protectionism, such as restrictions imposed on SWFs from oil-rich countries, will tend to reduce the risk-adjusted return for oil exporters, and may well contribute to higher oil prices as oil supply is withheld.

Suggested Citation

  • Reisen, Helmut, 2008. "How to spend it: Commodity and non-commodity sovereign wealth funds," Research Notes 28, Deutsche Bank Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:dbrrns:28
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    4. Aaditya Mattoo & Arvind Subramanian, 2009. "Currency Undervaluation and Sovereign Wealth Funds: A New Role for the World Trade Organization," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(8), pages 1135-1164, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Murtinu, Samuele & Scalera, Vittoria G., 2016. "Sovereign Wealth Funds' Internationalization Strategies: The Use of Investment Vehicles," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 249-264.
    2. Steffen Kern, 2008. "Control Mechanisms for Sovereign Wealth Funds in Selected Countries," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 6(4), pages 41-48, December.
    3. Bahgat, Gawdat, 2011. "Sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf - an assessment," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 55015, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Sun, Xiaolei & Li, Jianping & Wang, Yongfeng & Clark, Woodrow W., 2014. "China's Sovereign Wealth Fund Investments in overseas energy: The energy security perspective," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 654-661.
    5. Schalast, Christoph & Tiemann, Marcel & Tuppi, Pascal, 2009. "Staatsfonds - neue Akteure an den Finanzmärkten?," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 114, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
    6. Alhashel, Bader, 2015. "Sovereign Wealth Funds: A literature review," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-13.
    7. Steffen Kern, 2009. "Sovereign Wealth Funds : New Economic Realities and the Political Responses," Revue d'Économie Financière, Programme National Persée, vol. 9(1), pages 255-269.
    8. Steffen Kern, 2009. "Fonds souverains : nouvelles réalités économiques et réponses politiques," Revue d'Économie Financière, Programme National Persée, vol. 9(1), pages 275-289.

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