The COVID-19 crisis raises the risk of renewed financial sector pressures in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region in the period ahead. Bank distress and its economic and fiscal fallout have been recurring features of many CCA countries, as seen after the global financial crisis and the 2014–15 oil price shock. Strong policy responses have delayed the full impact of the COVID crisis so far, but financial sector risks will increase once public support is phased out. If these risks are not preemptively addressed, banks’ ability to lend during the recovery phase could be impaired and there may be a need for costly public interventions, as in the past.
Declining commodity prices during mid-2014-2016 posed significant challenges to commodity-exporting economies. The severe terms of trade shock associated with a sharp fall in world commodity prices have raised anew questions about the viability of pegged exchange rate regimes. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures needed to contain its spread have been associated with a significant disruption in several economic sectors, in particular, travel, tourism, and hospitality industry, adding to the downward pressure on commodity prices, a sharp fall in foreign exchange earnings, and depressed economic activity in most commodity exporters. This paper reviews country experiences with different exchange rate regimes in coping with commodity price shocks and explores the role of flexible exchange rates as a shock absorber, analyzing the macroeconomic impact of adverse term-of-trade shocks under different regimes using event study and panel vector autoregression techniques. It also analyzes, conceptually and empirically, policy and technical considerations in making exchange rate regime choices and discusses the supporting policies that should accompany a given regime choice to make that choice sustainable. It offers lessons that could be helpful to the Caribbean commodity-exporters.
Some central banks have maintained overvalued official exchange rates, while unable to ensure that supply of foreign exchange meets legitimate demand for current account transactions at that price. A parallel exchange rate market develops, in such circumstances; and when the spread between the official and parallel rates is both substantial and sustained, price levels in the economy typically reflect the parallel market exchange rate. “Recognizing reality” by allowing economic agents to use a market clearing rate benefits economic activity without necessarily leading to more inflation. But a unified, market-clearing exchange rate will not stabilize without a supportive fiscal and monetary context. A number of country case studies are included; my thanks to Jie Ren for pulling together all the data for the country case studies, and the production of the charts.
Rocio Gondo, Altynai Aidarova, and Mr. Manmohan Singh
This paper discusses migration and remittances trends, and calculates the natural (or benchmark) level of dollarization in Caucasus, Central Asia and others in the region. This natural level of dollarization is conceptually linked to the currency allocation in a portfolio of deposits to maximize welfare, in line with Ize and Levy Yeyati (2003). The fall in remittances due to the economic slowdown since the spread of COVID-19 affects the macroeconomic fundamentals that determine demand for foreign currency deposits. We calculate the natural dollarization level by integrating structural macroeconomic characteristics. We show that despite the reduction in deposit dollarization, there is still a gap with respect to the natural level of dollarization, especially in a scenario of (persistent) lower remittance inflows.
This paper estimates the extent and speed of exchange rate pass-through (ERPT) in seven Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) countries using monthly data over the January 1995–May 2020 period. The estimations are performed using the local projections method. We find that the average pass-through in the CCA is about 10 percent on impact and about 25 percent after 12 months. There is no evidence of asymmetric ERPT with respect to the size and the sign of exchange rate changes. The pass-through is broadly unchanged in fixed versus floating exchange rate regimes. There has been a downward shift in the speed of ERPT in the aftermath of the global financial crisis as CCA countries have entered a relatively low inflation environment. The pass-through estimates could be used by the CCA monetary authorities for inflation projections. The absence of non-linearities in the pass-through with respect to the exchange rate regime suggests that transition from fixed to floating exchange rate regimes in the region is not likely to impose additional inflationary costs.
Mr. Peter J Kunzel, Phil De Imus, Mr. Edward R Gemayel, Risto Herrala, Mr. Alexei P Kireyev, and Farid Talishli
The Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) countries are at an important juncture in their economic transition. Following significant economic progress during the 2000s, recent external shocks have revealed the underlying vulnerabilities of the current growth model. Lower commodity prices, weaker remittances, and slower growth in key trading partners reduced CCA growth, weakened external and fiscal balances, and raised public debt. the financial sector was also hit hard by large foreign exchange losses. while commodity prices have recovered somewhat since late 2014, to boost its economic potential, the region needs to find new growth drivers, diversify away from natural resources, remittances, and public spending, and generate much stronger private sector-led activity.
The paper uses a unique survey of remittance-receiving individuals from Tajikistan to study the impact of policy awareness on consumer behavior. The results show that knowledge of deposit insurance encourages the use of formal channels for transmitting remittances and reduces dollarization. Given the size and importance of remittances in Tajikistan, improving financial literacy and better publicizing details of the social safety net may encourage a more frequent use of formal channels for transferring remittances and reduce reliance on foreign exchange for transaction purposes. This is likely to improve bank profitability, enhance financial stability, and improve access to finance.