The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper compares the importance of precautionary and mercantilist motives in the hoarding of international reserves by developing countries. Overall, empirical results support precautionary motives; in particular, a more liberal capital account regime increases international reserves. Theoretically, large precautionary demand for international reserves arises as a self-insurance to avoid costly liquidation of long-term projects when the economy is susceptible to sudden stops. The welfare gain from the optimal management of international reserves is of a first-order magnitude, reducing the welfare cost of liquidity shocks from a first-order to a second-order magnitude.