The Impacts of Financial Crises on the Trilemma Configurations

Author Name Joshua AIZENMAN (University of Southern California / NBER) / Menzie CHINN (University of Wisconsin / NBER) / ITO Hiroyuki (Visiting Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. March 2022 22-E-029
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Over the years, policymakers have explored various combinations of varying degrees of monetary policy independence, exchange rate stability, and financial openness, while recognizing that not all three policies can be achieved to the fullest extent – this is known as the "monetary trilemma" hypothesis. In recent years, holding international reserves (IR) has become an important policy instrument as a buffer or insurance against liquidity shortages. Significant and fundamental economic events such as currency crises have often changed the policy mix. In this paper, we find that countries' policy mixes have been diverse and have varied over time from the perspective of both the monetary trilemma and IR holdings. We then illustrate how the combination of the three trilemma policies and IR holding drastically changed before and after the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC). However, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) did not lead to a drastic change in the policy arrangements. We find that countries that faced large terms of trade shocks or negative economic growth during the crisis increase IR holding in the post-AFC. Countries that had negative growth during the crisis also tend to pursue more exchange rate flexibility and more open financial markets. This characteristic is true for commodity exporters, but not for manufacturing exporters. Countries with large current account deficits (i.e., "large capital borrowers") tended to be more sensitive to economic growth at the time of the AFC. Countries that are under IMF stabilization programs or those with sovereign wealth funds tend to hold more IR. These characteristics were not found in the aftermath of the GFC. In general, countries increased their IR holdings after the GFC, but did not respond to the during-crisis economic and institutional conditions.