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    European Department

    Copyright © 2016

    International Monetary Fund

    Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Joint Bank-Fund Library

    Names: Belhocine, Nazim. | Crivelli, Ernesto. | Geng, Nan. | Scutaru, Tiberiu. | Wiegand, Johannes. | Zhan, Zaijin. | International Monetary Fund. | International Monetary Fund. European Department.

    Title: Taking Stock of Monetary and Exchange Rate Regimes in Emerging Europe / Nazim Belhocine, Ernesto Crivelli, Nan Geng, Tiberius Scutaru, Johannes Wiegand, and Zaijin Zhan.

    Description: Washington, D.C. : International Monetary Fund, 2016. | At head of title: European Department. | Includes bibliographical references.

    Identifiers: ISBN 978-1-47555-662-9 (paper)

    Subjects: Exchange Rates. |Monetary policy. | Europe—Economic Conditions. | Emerging Markets.

    Classification: LCC HC412.A893 2016

    The Departmental Paper Series presents research by IMF staff on issues of broad regional or cross-country interest. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.

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    This paper was prepared by a staff team consisting of Nazim Belhocine, Ernesto Crivelli, Nan Geng, Tiberiu Scutaru, and Zaijin Zhan (all EUR), led by Johannes Wiegand (RES, EUR at the time when the paper was written), under the general guidance of Philip Gerson (EUR), and with contributions from Christoph Klingen, Anita Tuladhar (both EUR), Jorgovanka Tabakovic, and Ana Ivkovic (both National Bank of Serbia).

    The staff team benefited from bilateral discussions in early April with the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the central banks of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Serbia, as well as from comments and advice by numerous colleagues at the IMF, in particular Bas Bakker, Jörg Decressin, and Jiri Podpiera.

    Executive Summary

    In the quarter century since transitioning from socialism, countries in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe (CESEE) have adopted a multitude of monetary strategies. Today, almost every type of monetary and exchange rate regime can be found in the region, from inflation targeting and floating to pegs and the unilateral use of the euro.

    The demands on monetary and exchange rate regimes in the region have evolved. In the early to mid-1990s, the main task was to control inflation, following the liberalization of prices. Once this was achieved—often by means of exchange rate–based stabilization—the focus shifted to aligning monetary conditions with the economies’ needs, among other reasons to manage the process of income convergence with Western Europe.

    Against this yardstick, flexible exchange rate regimes have been associated with more favorable outcomes, owing to better alignment of monetary conditions with cyclical needs. Economies with flexible regimes experienced a more muted boom-bust cycle in 2003–13, and have displayed greater resilience more recently in the face of deflationary pressures, imported in part from the euro area. Their growth outlook also appears, on average, stronger, as they are less saddled with private sector debt, have preserved higher investment ratios, and have suffered lesser human capital losses from unemployment.

    However, obstacles to more exchange rate flexibility are large. Fixed exchange rate regimes in CESEE are often rooted in traumatic experiences with hyperinflation during the transition from socialism, which created lasting distrust in domestic currencies. One consequence is high deposit and loan euroization in many countries, which leaves central banks with little room for maneuver. Some countries also face capacity constraints due to their small size and inadequate institutions. In such circumstances, tying the currency to a strong anchor like the euro provides monetary stability and can support confidence, which can be more important than fine-tuning monetary conditions.

    Looking ahead, both options—sticking to existing fixed-rate regimes and transitioning to more flexibility—come with challenges and require policy efforts to make the regime work, with the balance of benefits and risks depending on country characteristics. Countries that stick to fixed exchange rates should seek to make stronger use of countercyclical fiscal and, especially, macroprudential policies to compensate for monetary misalignment. Alternatively, transitioning to more exchange rate flexibility requires a carefully planned and executed strategy to contain monetary and financial stability risks that an uncontrolled shift could trigger.


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