Regular foreign exchange (forex) interventions in Nigeria and other emerging economies create false sense of security and hope on the local currency, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has warned.
Nigeria, which operates a flexible exchange rate regime, spends about $16 billion annually to defend the naira.
A large part of the forex interventions are auctions at the inter-bank spot, sale of dollar for invisibles; Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); Bureaux De Change (BDC); Investors and Exporters (I&E) Forex window and Forwards.
In a joint report released at the weekend by IMF Director, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Tobias Adrian; Director of the Fund’s Research Department; Gita Gopinath and Director of the Strategy, Policy and Review Department Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, the trio said that while flexible exchange rates can act as a useful shock absorber in the face of capital flow volatility, they do not always offer sufficient insulation.
They said the impact of the interventions is worse when access to global capital markets is interrupted or market depth is limited.
The report quoted Fund as saying “Persistent interventions might feed a (false) sense of security about future exchange rate developments that leads firms or households to take on more foreign currency debt, thus increasing balance sheet vulnerabilities.”
The IMF team said that in a continuous effort to help countries manage volatile cross-border capital flows, it has taken a major step toward a new analytical macroeconomic framework that can guide appropriate policy responses.
IMF analysis suggests that there is no “one-size-fits-all” response to capital flow volatility, nor is it a case of “anything goes” or that all policies are equally effective.
“Optimal policies depend on the nature of shocks and country characteristics. For instance, the appropriate policy response in a country with less developed financial markets and large foreign currency debts may differ from that of a country that does not have foreign currency mismatches on their balance sheets, or those that can rely on more sophisticated (deep and liquid) markets”.
“Generally, in countries with flexible exchange rates, deep markets, and continuous market access, full exchange rate adjustment to shocks remains appropriate.
“However, when a country has certain vulnerabilities, such as shallow markets, dollarization, or poorly anchored inflation expectations, while flexible exchange rates continue to provide significant benefits, other tools can play a useful role as well.
“In particular, macro-prudential measures, foreign exchange intervention, and capital flow management measures can enhance monetary policy autonomy so monetary policy can adequately focus on containing inflation and promoting stable economic growth. The same tools—including precautionary capital flow management measures on capital inflows, applied before shocks hit—can also help lower financial stability risks.”
For them, the work reflects evolving thinking on macroeconomic policy and will feed into the upcoming review of the IMF’s Institutional View on the Liberalization and Management of Capital Flows, which currently guides the Fund’s advice and assessments of members’ policies.
According to the Fund, international capital flows provide significant benefits for economic development but can also generate or amplify shocks. This dilemma has long posed challenges for policymakers in many open economies.
It said that many policymakers reach for a mix of policy tools to complement interest rate policy when dealing with capital flows. These tools include macro-prudential measures, foreign exchange intervention, and capital flow management measures.
Such diverse approaches were also used during the COVID-19 crisis, with significant differences in responses between countries. However, despite the widespread use of the various tools, to date, there has been no clear conceptual framework to guide the integrated usage of these tools.
The new framework represents a significant advance in thinking about when various tools should and should not be used and how these tools can work together to achieve better outcomes.