Reserve Accumulation, Growth and Financial Crises

Abstract

We present a model that reproduces two salient facts characterizing the international monetary system: Fast growing emerging countries i) run current account surpluses, ii) accumulate international reserves and receive net private in flows. We study a two-sector, tradable and nontradable, small open economy. There is a growth externality in the tradable sector and agents have imperfect access to international financial markets. By accumulating foreign reserves, the government induces a real exchange rate depreciation and a reallocation of production towards the tradable sector that boosts growth. Financial frictions generate imperfect substitutability between private and public debt flows so that private agents do not perfectly offset the government policy. The possibility of using reserves to provide liquidity during crises amplifies the positive impact of reserve accumulation on growth. The optimal reserve management en- tails a fast rate of reserve accumulation, as well as higher growth and larger current account surpluses compared to the economy with no policy intervention. The model is also consistent with the negative relationship between in flows of foreign aid and growth observed in low income countries.