Appendix A. Allocation of Special Drawing Rights for the Third Basic Period: Proposal by the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund October 25, 1978

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
January 1980
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Part I. Need to Supplement Reserves

1. Basis for Allocation

This proposal to allocate special drawing rights is made in accordance with my conclusion that, as required by Article XVIII, Section 1(a), there is at present “a long-term global need … to supplement existing reserve assets.” The basis for this conclusion is set forth below.

With greater exchange rate flexibility, countries might have been expected to make do with much smaller reserves. Moreover, important changes have taken place in world financial markets in the last decade, and most countries can obtain reserves by making use of international money and capital markets.

Experience shows, however, that countries want to increase their reserves as the level of their international transactions rises, and such increases can be expected to continue in the coming years. While it is true that most countries have a means for satisfying their need for reserves when international capital markets are as free as they are today, the decision to allocate special drawing rights does not depend on a finding that the long-term global need cannot be met except by allocation. A characteristic of a system in which countries add to their gross reserves as their international indebtedness increases is that they are faced with the need for periodic refinancing. This difficulty does not arise when additions to net reserves are made through allocation of special drawing rights.

Another consideration is the objective of making the special drawing right the principal reserve asset of the international monetary system, as set out in Article VIII, Section 7 and Article XXII. Exclusive reliance on the accumulation of reserve currencies to provide the needed reserve increases would hardly be compatible with that objective. Although the role of the special drawing right does not depend on purely quantitative considerations, the amount of special drawing rights in existence is nonetheless relevant. The volume of special drawing rights has not increased since the beginning of 1972, and thus the share of this component in international liquidity has been progressively reduced. When allocation of special drawing rights for 1970-72 was decided upon at the end of 1969, it was thought that thereafter special drawing rights might well account for the bulk of reserve increases. In the event, holdings of reserve currencies have increased much faster than expected, and the actual share of holdings of special drawing rights in reserves excluding gold has declined from about 10 per cent at the beginning of 1972 to about 4 per cent at present. In the absence of allocation, the special drawing right would continue its rapid decline as a proportion of reserves.

In view of these considerations, I have concluded that, in accordance with the Articles, a decision should be taken to resume allocation of special drawing rights.

2. Size and Period of Allocation

Views on the desirable size of allocations of special drawing rights naturally take into account the present magnitude and expected growth of official reserves. The growth of official reserves in turn bears a relationship to the value of world trade, which for the next five years can conservatively be estimated to increase by some 10 per cent a year. The ratio of official reserves to the value of international trade has varied, however, from one period to another, and the increase in reserves could thus be above or below that rate. With the present level of members’ holdings of foreign exchange and Fund-related assets of SDR 230 billion, an average increase of SDR 20 billion a year over the next five years would appear to be a low estimate of the likely growth. Figures of this kind do not, of course, provide precise guidance for determining the appropriate level and time of allocations of special drawing rights, but do offer some point of reference for consideration in making such decisions.

It can be maintained, although this view is not universally shared, that with a highly elastic supply of reserves available through international capital markets, a substantial part of any allocation of special drawing rights could be expected to substitute for increases in official holdings of foreign exchange that would otherwise have taken place. This line of reasoning would suggest that any expansionary effects of allocation would be limited in size. Whatever view is taken of these issues, there can be no question that in the world of today the possible effects on expectations with respect to inflation of a decision to allocate special drawing rights also need to be taken into account. This consideration suggests that allocations at this time should be modest in terms of both annual size and the length of the period for which they should be made.

I have therefore concluded that the Fund should make allocations of SDR 4 billion in each of the next three years 1979 to 1981. In specifying these amounts, I have also had in mind the agreement that has been reached that special drawing rights will be used in partial payment for the quota increases that are to take place under the Seventh General Review of Quotas. The first allocation would be made as of the first day of the month following the effective date of the resolution of the Board of Governors, and the succeeding two allocations would be made as of the same day in each of the subsequent two years.

Annual Report, 1979

pp. 124-26

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