COVID-19

The International Monetary Fund and capital flows

Vol: 
2021/16
Author name: 
Stephen Grenville
Year: 
2021
Month: 
July
Abstract: 

Controls on international capital flows were a central issue for the International Monetary Fund at Bretton Woods in 1944. But by the 1970s, mainstream thinking was encouraging open capital flows. A succession of damaging crises followed: Latin America in the 1980s, Mexico again in 1994 and Asia in 1997. Fund policies were tweaked, but the causes were seen as being largely in the recipient countries. Capital controls were specifically rejected. Nevertheless, the Fund’s view began to shift, probably encouraged by the 2008 global financial crisis. There was a growing recognition that the capital-flow surges at the heart of these crises were often externally driven, reflecting global factors. The appropriate response would include capital flow management (CFM). The Fund recognized this in its 2012 Institutional View, but CFM was at the bottom of the policy toolbox, surrounded by conditions and constraints, maintaining the stigma on CFM. Meanwhile many emerging economies were enhancing their ability to cope with excessive capital flows, although at some cost (slower growth, tighter fiscal policy, large foreign-exchange reserves). At the same time the flows were increasing, with a bigger component of flighty portfolio flows. CFM measures still have an important place in this new environment, but the Fund’s reluctance to embrace them means that a deep discussion on operationalizing effective CFMs is still lacking.

JEL Codes: F32, F33, F34, F42, F65 Key words: International Monetary Fund; capital flow management; economic crises

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