Soft Currencies, Hard Landings
Edited by Gerald A. Epstein
Chapter 6: Easing the trilemma through reserve accumulation? The Latin American case
In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis it became widely accepted that the large stock of international reserves accumulated over the past couple of decades by emerging market economies, including those in Latin America, allowed them to minimize the impact of negative global shocks. However, the opportunity costs associated with this precautionary accumulation of reserves must also be kept in mind. Using a vector autoregressive analysis for the largest seven countries in the region, this chapter tests the role that reserve accumulation has played in enhancing the policy tools available to the holding countries. It relies on the trilemma framework to assess the degree (if any) to which increases in reserves are associated with exchange rate stability, capital account openness, and monetary policy independence. Contrary to traditional arguments, it finds limited evidence for the benefits of reserves in easing the trilemma. However, one key finding does emerge, which suggests that only countries with relatively high levels of reserves obtain benefits in terms of their exchange rate stability and monetary policy independence as a result of increases in holdings of foreign reserves.
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