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Although rarely acknowledged explicitly, the financial strength of an independent and credible central bank must be commensurate with its policy tasks and the risks it faces. This paper explores the relationship between central bank financial strength and policy outcomes, stressing the importance of financial independence as a fundamental support to policy credibility. The attributes of an adequate central bank capital policy are discussed and implications drawn for the appropriate way in which central banks ought to be recapitalized. Reasons why this issue has not been clearly analyzed in the past—primarily owing to idiosyncratic and obscure central bank accounting—are also presented. [JEL E42, E58, E61]


Central bank capital and accounting measures of capital adequacy potentially constrain central bank policy outcomes. Historical and institutional factors explain why central banks are organized as public corporations; however, capital structure design provides little predictive insight into policy outcomes. In fact, focusing on accounting measures of capital adequacy and similar performance indicators potentially interferes with monetary policy, especially in extraordinary economic circumstances such as deflation. The Bank of Japan, like the Federal Reserve in the 1930s, has overemphasized accounting measures of central bank performance at the cost of nonoptimal policy outcomes. [JEL E58, E31, E63]