Capital Controls: When Are Multilateral Considerations of the Essence?


By Jonathan D. Ostry

One of the main arguments against capital controls is that, though they may be in an individual country’s interest, they could be multilaterally destructive in the same way that tariffs on goods can be destructive.

A particular concern is that a country might impose controls to avoid necessary macroeconomic and external adjustment, in turn shifting the burden of adjustment onto other countries.

A proliferation of capital controls across countries, moreover, may not only undercut warranted adjustments of exchange rates and imbalances across the globe, it may lead in the logical extreme to a situation of financial autarky or isolation in the same way that trade wars can shrink the volume of world trade, seriously damaging global welfare.

So should multilateral considerations trump national interests?

Possible rationales for controls

To begin, it is worth reviewing some of the reasons why countries may wish to impose controls.

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The Case for a Managed Float under Inflation Targeting


By Jonathan D. Ostry

(Version in Español)

The global financial crisis has reminded emerging market economies, if they needed reminding, that capital flows can be highly volatile and that crises need not be home grown.

Emerging markets have been affected in a variety of ways, not least by the sharp ups and downs in exchange rates that volatile capital flows engender.

These ups and downs may be less benign in emerging markets than they might be in advanced economies for a number of reasons.

  • First, emerging markets may have more fragile balance sheets—essentially they are less well hedged against currency risk—so depreciations may engender financial distress and even bankruptcies and adverse effects on economic activity.
  • Second, they may be less flexible, so that when the exchange rate strengthens and the traded goods sector loses competitiveness, this may have permanent effects on the economy even if the exchange rate later reverts to its initial level.

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Haves and Have Less—Why Inequality Throws Us Off Balance


Jeremy CliftBy Jeremy Clift

We used to think that overall economic growth would pull everyone up. While the rich might be getting richer, everyone would benefit and would see higher living standards. That was the unspoken bargain of the market system.

But now research is showing that, in many countries, inequality is on the rise and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, particularly over the past quarter-century.

With taxpayers footing the bill for troubles in the financial industry in advanced economies during the global economic crisis, this discrepancy seems particularly galling to wage-earners who have seen their pay stagnate or worse. Inequality has started to attract more research by economists.

The September 2011 issue of Finance & Development (F&D) looks at income inequality around the world and how it matters. Continue reading

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