from Sukumar Nandi
“Money and currency are very strange things. They keep going up and down and no one knows why. You want to win but you lose no matter how hard you try”.
[ Abbot Gilles de Muises of Tourani ]
Economic role of Banks
Banking is like any other form of economic activity. Like other economic agents, banks are both dealers and producers. They are dealers, in the sense that they bring together lenders and borrowers, and they are producers as they transform raw base money or cash issued by the government into more convenient checks or demand deposits, which have greater security than cash, and also they transform short-term deposits into longer-term loans. In the process they do the financial intermediation and maintain liquidity in the system.
In their role as dealers, bankers help to reduce risk in the economy. There are two types of risk: the more familiar default risk and the less familiar withdrawal risk. In reducing these risks, banks make their profits. Let us consider default risk. A would-be supplier of credit, or lender-creditor, wishes to make a loan, in order to earn interest on excess cash-balances. The creditor may search out prospective borrowers from among the public. But the creditor must evaluate the individual risks of default. Further, to the normal costs of acquiring information, there is the higher risk of concentrating the loan with one or a few individuals. Because of this, the creditor would charge a high interest rate on this loan, in order to compensate for the risk. By going to a bank, with a long-standing reputation and a diversified portfolio of assets, the creditor markedly reduces the risk of any default on the loan. The rate of interest should be lower in this case.
Intermediation and Interest-Rate Expectations
Banks do financial intermediation as they transform short-term deposits into longer-term assets or loans. Typically, short-term deposits are less risky for depositors, and so they require a lower rate of interest. Longer-term loans, on the other hand, offer borrowers a lower risk of withdrawal, so borrowers will be willing to pay a higher interest rate to the bank. For this reason, banks usually transform short-term liabilities (deposits) into longer-term assets (loans).
The banks generally borrow short to finance long term assets and use this leverage to earn the spreads which accrue to them as income. They borrow short through a sequence of, say, two one-period deposits, offering rates r1 now and expected rate r2 next period. Again, the banks can borrow long. On the lending side, the bank can offer a two-period loan at an interest rate I, or it can extend a sequence of two one-period loans at interest rates i1 now, and expected interest rate i2 next period.
The time management of both deposits and credit portfolio will depend on the difference between the short term interest and long term ones. The business of the banks is the quantum of spreads that is defined as the difference between the average returns from the created assets and average costs of deposits.
International Banking Operations
International banking operations are essentially to facilitate the movement of goods across the political boundary of countries. Banking system came along with the development of money as an institution. As civilization narrowed down the social distances and mankind learned about the benefits of exchanging commodities across political boundaries, the present day international trade developed. The transaction of commodities across countries required financial intermediation in the international level and thus international banking business was born. What started with movement of gold and silver across country borders became ultimately an efficient institution of international transfer of not only yellow metal but the currencies of sovereign countries. In this way the emergence and growth of international banking is closely interwoven with the development of international trade and international capital movement.
The above gives the general perspective of the growth of international banking. But there are many aspects of this development. From a historical standpoint, the recent growth of international banking can be regarded as a reversion to the situation before World War I when European banks dominated the world capital market. During the period 1940 1960 regulatory control on capital flow and convertibility of the currencies reduced the importance of international banking. From 1960 onwards globalization of capital market started and the emergence of surplus in petro dollars in the seventies gave the much needed liquidity to the international banking business. The latter has been characterized by an increasing turnover in international trade, a phenomenal increase in the international flow of capital and also an increasing flow of funds from the banks to non bank sectors. To understand the causative factors properly the literature has attempted to identify the factors supporting the internationalization of banking business. Thus factors like non financial multinational corporations, the proximity to customers abroad, the competitive advantage with better information technology and the benefits due to international diversification have been mentioned in the literature in the contexts when these become relevant (Nandi , 1996). These factors along with other forces of globalization have established the huge international financial architecture which rule the international financial market today. The theoretical studies mentioning the factors helping the expansion of international banking are important, but in today's scenario the major business of international banks is based on international trade , international transfer of capital and money and derivatives.
The literature abounds in the exploration of the causative link in the development of international banking, but not many studies are found testing the theory empirically. There have been several studies which attempt to measure empirically the role of the different factors behind the growth of the US banks in the international fields (Nandi, 1996).
Determinants of International Banking Activity
In today's world no country can afford to be autarkic either in the field of international trade or in international banking. But the latter is subject to much more restrictions in almost all the countries compared to the former. What determines the growth of international banks in the domestic banking sector of a particular country? Analytically we can proceed as follows:
Since international trade is closely related to international banking, volume of international trade (imports and exports together) is a determinant of the growth of international banking and the relationship is direct. Assuming that no specific restrictions are imposed on the operation of foreign banks so far as their operations are concerned in international banking vis-à-vis the practice of international banking done by home country's banks, it can be said that an increase in the turnover of international trade should have positive impact on the growth of international banking. Alternatively, the ratio of export to gross domestic product can be taken as the explanatory variable. This alternative formulation can be tested.
Foreign direct investment has been cited as an important determinant for the expansion of international banking. In fact, the presence of international banks facilitates the inflow of foreign capital and it is expected that the increase in foreign direct investment should have a positive impact on the growth of international banking.
Banking service as a commodity is supposed to have positive income elasticity. As national income is growing, demand for banking service should increase. To what extent the increase in income will help the growth of foreign banking activity in domestic soil depends on the preference of the consumers and also the participation of the foreign banks in the trade, both domestic and international, of the host country. If we take per capita income as the explanatory variable for the growth of international banking activity, then the growth of per capita income may facilitate the growth of international banking in the host country on the assumption that foreign banks have complementary role in the domestic banking structure.
The growth of domestic deposit should have influence on the activity of foreign banks. But in many countries the foreign banks are not allowed to create a domestic deposit base, though this facility is crucial for the increase in business. Foreign banks often face difficulties in the creation of domestic deposit base even when it is allowed, as the cost of the maintenance of deposits may be too high compared to business. Many foreign branches of Indian banks operating abroad have not created the domestic deposit base for this reason.
An increase in domestic deposit is supposed to have positive influence on the deposit mobilization of all banks including the foreign banks. That helps the building up of the asset portfolio. To what extent deposit mobilization will affect the activities of foreign banks depends on the competition between domestic banks and the foreign banks in the host country. Foreign banks prefer the creation of a domestic deposit base in the domestic currency as this helps in the expansion of business. Many countries do not allow the foreign banks to create a domestic base, as the latter is perceived to help the foreign bank to mount an attack on the domestic currency.
Again, the exchange rate changes affect the activities of the foreign banks. An increased volatility of the exchange rate increases the risk factor in international banking, and unless this aspect is properly taken care of, this acts negatively so far as the growth of international banking is concerned. We are to understand that the balance- sheet of the foreign banks in the head office is in their mother currency. If Indian rupee appreciates vis-à-vis their mother currency, that would show a good results in their foreign operations.
An index of activity of foreign banks may be their aggregate asset structure, though the number of branches may be another indicator. Some studies take both. We find that the expansion of international banking in a country depends on several factors like importance of trade in GDP, the dynamism of the exchange rates, the deposit base and some others as explained in earlier paragraphs. The literature also examines the quantitative strength of different variables using an econometric model (Nandi, 1996). We will pursue here another type of international banking activity which is conducted in offshore areas and specially tax-haven locations.
Offshore Banking and Tax-Haven Centers
Offshore banking initially started in offshore regions but in its current avatar it has nothing to do with its geographical indications. It is more as a type of banking sharply different from traditional type and it is operational even from some important centers like New York and London, though jurisdiction varies in offshore operations. Also it is a fact that major businesses in offshore type of banking are done from offshore areas like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bahamas etc. Offshore banking comes under the category of external and Eurocurrency banking when we find the following:
Currency location of the bank residence of the borrower / depositor
The above characterizes the international banking practice when an Indian citizen deal with Korean won in a bank at Hong Kong. Offshore banking is conducted out of primary financial centers such as London, New York, Chicago, Tokyo and also secondary centers such as the centers in the Caribbean and the Asia-pacific region. The primary financial centers benefit from a strong industrial base on which the money requirements of the customers depends, while the secondary sectors derive their importance from the proximity of the economies which are either the source of a large financial resources or have substantial independent requirements for financial services.
Why Offshore Finance Centre a Preferred Destination
In some situations very small nations with good infrastructures and strategic locations create offshore financial centres (OFC) as a matter of policy to attract foreign capital so as to invest the same for the growth of domestic economy. These countries hardly known outside the region have escaped the agony of poverty through this process of foreign capital investment.
During last two decades many OFCs have been created as part of the developing countries efforts to initiate economic growth in their small domestic markets through the provisions of international financial services. These OFCs are classified alon a spectrum of “notional” OFC to “functional” OFCs. While the former provide minimal financial services other that simply being a jurisdiction in which nameplate operation of the companies can be established, the latter provide a wide range of value added services. Notional OFCs are costless to establish, and for that competition among tiny states is tough, and it contributes little to the economic development of the region.
The functional OFC require elaborate infrastructure like communication, airport, labour force and all these call for large investment. As a result the region experiences over all economic growth and the “real” economies surrounding the region are benefited through backward and forward linkages.
The OFCs, with support from the local government, offer a large number of services to the potential investors in their banking system and these are :
• excellent communication links with the outside world
• absence of any tax burden [ or even when tax exists, it is bare minimum]
• non existence of any treaty to exchange tax information with other countries
• predominant use of major world currencies
• no exchange control
• the facility to disguise the ownership of corporate vehicles through the use of nominee directors and bearer shares
• no reporting requirements for companies like annual reports
• no system of supervision of companies such as Annual General Meetings.
• Maintenance of secrecy and confidentiality
The list is long and the main idea is to give all facilities to the foreign investors so that OFC can earn money by selling confidentiality.
A small sub-category of offshore banks exists in the tax-haven areas like Cayman Island, Nassau, Bahamas, Bahrain, Monaco, Andorra etc. All offshore centers have the common denominators of customer confidentiality, very low taxes on offshore business and an absence of foreign exchange control. However, the activities in the centers vary depending on location, convenience to other financial markets, legal and accounting matters and communications. Some of the specialized services are the following: company formation and management, administrative services for "paper' branch and subsidiary banks, portfolio management for trusts, Euro- bond underwriting and placement, incorporation and management of captive insurance companies, ship registration, storage and transshipment of merchandise etc. Thus in today's world of globalization the offshore centers have assumed great significance.
One should be clear about the difference between a tax haven and offshore centers. A tax haven is a jurisdiction with a high level of banking and commercial secrecy through which businesses or individuals can hold assets and earnings and move the same to other places and different jurisdictions with little or no tax impact. While many offshore financial centers are tax havens, many are not. These two are different and this should not be confused. Perhaps the governments in the countries creating the offshore financial centers would like to state that these centres operate in tax efficient zones and these are created to derive benefits of large scale movement of finance capital.
Capital flight and so called money laundering are two phenomena from which the developing countries suffer most. The offshore financial centers in tax haven regions are often the conduit for the large scale transfer of funds. The mechanism of transfer and volumes have been studied in the literature (Nandi, 1999 ).
Panama: an Offshore Center
Panama is an independent republic with no exchange control and a very liberal tax laws. It is bilingual, as both English and Spanish languages are used here. It has a very good infrastructure both in air transport and telecommunications. There are a large number of local and foreign financial institutions and also a large spectrum of legal and accounting expertise. The banking secrecy is protected by various laws. There is no tax on offshore business and its legal system is well established. Panama has a long tradition in commercial banking and offshore business. The legal system is liberal in the incorporation of companies, Eurocurrency business, banking secrecy and private banking. The huge amount of capital deposited in the banks here are often used in the domestic investment. Also the fees generated in the business and the small level of taxes facilitate the generation of income and employment. Of course, a large amount of cash of doubtful origin pass through the OFCs like Panama and this is part of international money laundering nexus.
The Isle of Man : Offshore Financial Centre
The Isle of Man is outside the sovereign jurisdiction of United Kingdom. It is in the centre of Irish Sea and eighty miles away from Manchester. This tiny territory has its own government for the last 1200 years and it has obtained the status of an offshore centre. This island takes pride in its numerous attractions along with its ability of providing a safe tax- free environment for the investors. The well established company laws of the island allow a variety of corporate vehicles including companies limited by guarantee and hybrid companies, and also companies limited by share capital.
Companies that are not owned by the residents of the Isle of Man (IM) and those that conduct their business completely outside the IM, even if they may have an office there, are granted exemption from all IM income taxes. Non- resident companies from other jurisdictions like Panama or Irish non-resident can maintain their base at IM and can apply for IM residency under Part F of Isle of Man Companies Act, and they are eligible for income tax exemption. The ownership of the companies need not be a matter of public record, and this way complete secrecy can be maintained.. The companies can carry on lawful business in any country and in any currency that they desire according to their convenience.
The island has an excellent financial infrastructure, and most banks, accountants and insurance companies are represented there. For example, Ulster Bank (Isle of Man) Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ulster Bank Limited, and the latter is a member of Nat West Group, which is one of the world's largest banking organization. Under the rule of the Financial Supervision Commission responsible for the Depositors Compensation Scheme, deposits are protected up to 75 per cent of the first GBP 20,000 per depositor. The investors are offered several options regarding the opening of account, the variations in minimum amount, minimum withdrawal and interest rate structure. For example, an investor can keep money in fixed deposits, the time may vary from one week to five years at an interest rate which is known in the beginning.
The list is not exhaustive, and some centres within well - established countries are providing the same level of services. Some OFC s are now targets of the Russia's organized crime like Nauru, and the Russian syndicate has evolved an ingenious way of using front organizations to cover Russian connections. The Crime branches of many countries in OECD group are trying to identify the Russian connections because of their potential of wrong- doing. The role of these OFC s in the illegal transfer of money across the globe has been explained in detail in Chapter 14 where money laundering has been explained.
The Fixed-Coefficient Model of the Banking System
The economic position of the banks in the society and their roles in shaping the monetary policy can better be understood with the help of a model. An early model of the banking system, based on a fixed coefficient approach, explains how banks engage in monetary expansion. The model rests on three equations:
R = r D Equation ( 6.1a)
C = k D Equation ( 6.1b)
MB = R + C Equation ( 6.1 c)
where R represents the reserves of the banking system, C the currency in circulation, D demand deposits, and MB, monetary base, equal to the sum of reserves and currency in circulation. The coefficient r represents the required reserve ratio of bank, with respect to deposits, while k is the ratio of cash to deposits, a ratio determined more by the state of communications and financial technology, as well as custom. For example, the less financially developed an economy is, the greater the need for cash for ordinary payments rather than checks. Substituting the reserve and cash equations in the monetary base definition, one can obtain the following deposit multiplier:
MB = r D + k D
And from this we get
∆ D / ∆ MB = 1 / ( r + k) Equation 6.2
With a required reserve ratio of 0.15 and a cash /deposit ratio of .05, for example, the
deposit multiplier is 1/.20, or 5. For every one dollar of monetary base that the government injects into the economy, deposits expand by a factor of 5. This model shows the role that the banking system plays in the money supply process. The government can reduce the money supply either by reducing monetary base, or by changing reserve requirement, since a higher require reserve ratio r will lower the multiplier, and reduce the amount of deposits offered by the banking system.
There is no role of interest rate in the model. Particularly deposit and lending rates can be accommodated in the model as these are important in the functioning of the banking system.
In an expanded model, let us assume that the reserve ratio would depend on the lending rates i, and the discount rate idisc, the rate at which banks can borrow to supplement reserves. Thus the interest rate r would become a function like the following:
R = r (i, idisc), with r1 <0,> 0 ….. ( 6.3)
The first negativity implies that higher lending rates would lead banks to keep less reserves. Again, the second positive sign implies that higher discount rates would force banks to hold more reserves so they would not have to borrow from the Central Bank.
Similarly, the cash-deposit ratio k would depend on the deposit rate r, or we can write,
k = k(r), with k'<0,>
Eurodollar system developed as an inter-bank market. Given the assumptions of regional imbalances in dollar deposits, differences in legislative requirements, differences in transactions costs, it made sense for US banks to shuffle funds from surplus US banks to London branch banks, for later distribution to European banks. In the process the Eurodollar system grew, in its early development, from the mid- 60's up through the early 1970's, as an inter-bank market for dollars. The interest rate in the Eurodollar markets is known as the LIBOR rate or London Inter-bank Offered Rate.
Since ruble was not fully convertible, The Russians wanted to store the proceeds of this gold sale in a hard currency. However, Russia could hardly deposit the money in Chase Manhattan for fear of siege. The London banks accommodated the Russians, and started taking deposits, and making loans in dollars. It is important to see the Eurodollar bank facilitating the development of the dollar as the vehicle currency or key currency, in world business. Bilateral payments imbalances were settled in dollars, or in gold, under the Bretton Woods fixed exchange-rate system. Again, multinational firms kept their consolidated accounts, across several countries, in dollars. There were obvious savings, in terms of information and accounting costs, in doing business in dollars.
The American banks doing the Euro-dollar business outside of the jurisdiction of the Federal Reserve System, could offer deposit rates that were not regulated at zero (the famous Regulation Q), and could charge borrowers rates without ceilings set by state usury laws in the United States. The result was that borrowing and lending in dollars in the Eurodollar markets was much more a "market oriented phenomena", or a much less distorted market, compared to the internal U.S. market.
The market grew and stabilized through the mid-70. Many thought that the Euro –dollar market had peaked. Then came the OPEC crisis and that paved the way for rapid expansion of the Euro-dollar markets.
Capital Inflows and Financial Opening
In Dornbusch model under a flexible exchange rate system, a capital inflow will lead to a nominal appreciation of the exchange rate, and in the short-run, a real appreciation. We see from the Mundell-Fleming model that a capital inflow will lead to an increase in reserves and an increase in the money stock. This will lead to a drop in interest rates, and lead either to inflationary pressures, or to an ensuing capital outflow. However, the inflationary pressures are hard to avoid in a fixed exchange rate system if the capital inflows are sustained and exogenous. Then some other measures become necessary.
If there is a sudden wave of massive capital inflows, it creates danger in the form of either a strong exchange rate appreciation, or a strong inflationary pressure in a fixed exchange rate system. The latter creates a real exchange rate problems, and the ensuing speculation against the currency for a probable devaluation. Capital inflows may pose acute challenges for countries beginning or in the midst of a stabilization effort.
Asian and Latin American Experiences of 1990s
There had been a marked pattern in the capital inflows to Asia and Latin America in the 1990's with some regular features: a marked increase in international reserves in the recipient countries and a surge in stock prices. However, there is one important difference between Asia and Latin America: in Latin America the inflows have been accompanied by a real exchange rate appreciation, while Asia, an appreciation has been less common.
In Asia, before July 1997, the capital inflows have gone hand-in-hand with large increases in investment as a percentage of GDP, usually an increase of 3 percentage points or more. In Latin America, by contrast, the inflows have been associated a decline in private saving. Another key difference is sterilization. Singapore was probably the most successful in limiting the expansion of credit and monetary aggregates. The literature shows that Asian countries could use foreign capital more efficiently compared to Latin America. Also the latter experienced a decline in the savings-GDP ratio.
Capital inflow into the newly emerging market economies has another implication when the latter go for financial opening. Recent research has revealed that financial sector reforms and opening that sector to international competition has increased the risk of financial crisis in such countries. But again the financial sector opening has the potential of higher long term growth of GDP. Clearly there is a trade off between short term crisis and higher long term growth. In this perspective the countries should undertake financial sector reforms with caution. The monetary policy has an important role in making the inflow of capital smooth and building up a hedge at macro level in the face of potential fragility of the financial system.
Dollarization of a country currently means replacement of its currency completely by US dollar so that the latter becomes the legal tender. In a softer sense, it also means allowing US dollar to be used as a medium of exchange side by side the domestic currency. The first , i.e. , full dollarization ensures a way of avoiding a currency and balance of payments crisis as there is no domestic currency and so no fear of sudden depreciation and capital flight from the country.
Full dollarization has some sacrifices. Currency is a sovereign symbol of the country. As the issuer of the national currency, which are mostly fiduciary issues now-a-days (which means less than 100 per cent backing by gold and foreign exchange reserve), the central bank earns the seigniorage revenue and this is passed on to the government as profit. This is lost to the government.
Further, a country adopting dollar as the currency is to relinquish any possibility of having an autonomous policy regarding monetary and foreign exchange issues, and also refrain from the use of central bank credit to provide liquidity support to the banking system.
Currency Board and Dollarization: a comparison
Currency Board (CB) is the nearest competitor of the full dollarization system. Under Currency Board system (CBS), the authority commit to trade foreign exchange for domestic currency at a fixed rate on demand. Through this mechanism the central bank can increase the base money supply and this is the only mechanism. There is no extension of domestic credit to the government or banks. So the domestic currency is fully backed by a corresponding stock of foreign exchange and the domestic currency remains fully convertible.
Under CBS the monetary authority loses much of the independence of monetary policy, but it can capture the seigniorage of issuing the domestic currency. At this stage a comparison with the dollarizationis important. A dollarization means the country loses the seigniorage and more important fact is that it would be permanent.
The loss of seigniorage is sometimes significant. One estimate puts the domestic currency in circulation in Argentina as equivalent to USD 15 billion and the annual increase in demand for currency is USD 1 billion (at a rate of 0.3 per cent of GDP). The foregone interest earning on the stock of money is estimated to be USD 0.7 billion, and that is about 0.2 per cent of GDP of Argentina.
What are the benefits of dollarization? It is an extreme step for a country suffering from chronic instability in currency and this saves the economy from currency instability. It is argued also that it helps integration to the economies of the US dollar area and Europe. We will see more of it at the end of this section.
Dollarization and the Function of Money
Non-U.S. residents having dollars in their portfolio is not really dollarization. These dollars simply serve as a store of value, much like gold. Neither it means that countries prices are quoted in dollars, especially in times of high inflation. It occurs when U.S. currency becomes a medium of exchange. This is the decisive function of money. Dollars can serve as a parallel medium of exchange, or they can serve as the only medium of exchange.
It is easy to understand why dollars may become a parallel currency in times of high and unstable inflation rates. Domestic residents avoid the inflation tax on their domestic money holdings, and at the same time have the convenience of using dollars as a medium of exchange.
Of course, it is a flight from the domestic money. But it also reduces the inflation tax base of the domestic monetary authority. If the need for inflation tax revenue does not abate, then a higher inflation rate will be needed to wring out the same inflation tax revenue, from the diminished tax base.
This problem, of forcing a higher inflation tax on those who are unable to acquire dollars, has regressive distributional effects. While the upper and upper-middle classes acquire dollars, and protect themselves from the inflation tax, the middle and poorer classes get stuck with an increasing share of the inflation tax burden. Inflation becomes decidedly regressive once dollarization takes place, and ultimately can lead to increased social and political instability.
Dollar Deposits in Foreign Banks
In several countries in Latin America, dollar deposits were permitted, in domestic banks. The use of dollar deposits in foreign banks is similar to the Eurodollar phenomenon. The governments recognize that their citizens keep dollars as a store of value, and often use dollars as a medium of exchange. So instead of trying to de-dollarize, and forcing these citizens to put the deposits in Miami banks, why not simply permit dollar deposits in domestic banks? The country would avoid capital flight (legal or illegal), the banks would get the additional business, and finally, the government would gain additional reserves, which could be invested in U.S. Treasury bills, and thus produce much needed revenue for the government.
Seignorage and Dollarization: Multiple Equilibrium Points
Mode of financing the annual budget is the prime areas of fiscal policies and the government of any country is reluctant to sacrifice that power. In many developing countries the government tries to part finance the budget deficit by printing money. This is done by rationalization taking recourse to economic theories one way or the other. The government budget deficit, financed by money creation, is written as follows:
g − t = ∆ M / P = ( ∆ M / M ) ( M / P ) Equation 6.3
g − t = П ( M / P) , when ∏ = ∆ M / M
……. Equation 6. 3a
where g represents real government spending, t real non-inflation tax revenue, M the money supply, P the price level, the first difference operator, the long-run inflation rate, equal to the rate of monetary growth, M/ M. This second relation expresses the deficit as a tax on real balances held by the public, with (g –t) equal to (M/P). The term (M/P) thus expresses the inflation tax needs of the government, for financing its deficit.
The demand for money, especially during times of high and unstable inflation rates, is
simply a function of the long-run inflation rates.
Philip Cagan introduced the following non-linear exponential form, linear in logarithms, in his influential study of hyperinflation:
M / P = A exp ( -η )
Log M – log P = log A – η
Or, m – p = a – η …. Equation 6.4
The deficit or inflation tax need of the government is a straight line, whatever the inflation rate; the government needs fixed revenue from inflation, (M/P). The vertical line is thus a demand for seignorage or tax revenue from inflation. The non-linear curve captures the demand for money effect on the private-sector supply of inflation tax revenue to the government. At low rates of inflation, inflation tax revenue increases, but
at a certain point, when the parabola bends, higher inflation actually decreases the demand for money to such an extent, that the inflation tax revenue falls. As Professor Phillip Cagan notes:
The desire to subdue inflation is obviously not enough and must be confirmed by performance. The conclusion appears inescapable, therefore, that the reduction of inflation requires the maintenance of slack demand.
[ Phillip Cagan, Persistent Inflation, 1979, Columbia University Press, p. 249 ]
The implication of this analysis is that for a given deficit of the government, and a given
deficit-financing need for inflation tax revenue, there can be two equilibrium inflation rates, which equate the supply and demand for inflation-tax revenue. As seen in the diagram, at B, the low-inflation equilibrium, a given deficit can be financed with a relatively high demand for domestic money and a relatively low inflation rate. However, at A, the high inflation trap, the same deficit is financed under conditions of a low demand for domestic money and a relatively high inflation rate.
Figure:: Inflation Laffer curve
The lesson from this analysis is that dollarization, by decreasing the demand for
domestic money, can lead to a jump in the equilibrium inflation rate from B to A. Fiscal deficits do not have to change--they can actually fall somewhat--but inflation rates can explode, when dollarization triggers a flight from domestic money.
Such inflationary explosions have been rather common in Argentina and Brazil, before
their last stabilization plans. This analysis shows quite clearly that a continuing fiscal deficit, however moderate, can lead to both inflation and inflationary instability, once dollarization takes hold.
Of course, once a country is at the high-inflation equilibrium, there is no reason why it
cannot fall back to the low-inflation equilibrium, if there is a positive shift in demand for domestic money. This is what happened in Ecuador in the early 1980's, with its securitizations plan.
Ecuador prospered during the oil boom years. As tax and oil revenues increased, so did social expenditures. Many dollar-denominated debts were contracted by the private sector during this time. After the drop in oil prices, as one can imagine, tax revenues fell, but social expenditures remained high. As expected, the deficit increased. Dollarization set in, and inflation jumped to over 80 percent annually.
Cost of Complete Dollarization
In many Latin American countries US dollar is used as medium of exchange side by side the domestic currency. For example, it is complete legal in Mexico to have and use US dollar as medium of exchange along with peso. This is also a form of dollarization, but it is incomplete dollarization. Complete dollarization happens when the country abandons the use of its own currency issue, except perhaps for small coins, and uses dollars as the media of exchange? This is what Panama has done, and what Liberia did for several decades.
The issue of complete dollarization is akin to the issue of the euro as the medium of exchange for members of the European Monetary System. The argument for a country giving up its own currency, in favour of a currency beyond its direct control, is that it imposes a harder budget constraint on the fiscal authority. The result is that the fiscal authority no longer has the option of printing money to finance its deficits. It must either tax or borrow in the bond market. Long-awaited tax and expenditure reform may finally come when a country has no other option, other than facing the discipline of international bond markets.
The problems of dollarization are many. How can a country get the dollars to serve as the currency and monetary base? The only way, of course, is to run a surplus with the United States. This once-over cost, a trade surplus equivalent of about 5 percent of GDP, is a high price to pay for a currency system.
The second cost is a continuing cost. What if the United States runs an inflation of five percent, or ten percent? By adopting the currency of the United States as legal tender, and rejecting any sort of domestic inflation tax, the citizens of this country, in effect, agree to pay an inflation tax to the United States government. Thus, complete dollarization appears to be a very drastic policy move, for a country in need of fiscal discipline.
Dollarization in Latin America
In Latin America several countries have been dollarized officially. Ecuador was dollarized in September 2000, and El Salvador was dollarized in January 2001. Unofficial or partial dollarization is wide spread in Latin America; it refers to a process when individuals substitute domestic money with US dollar in order to conduct transactions and also to protect the intrinsic value of their savings by keeping money in dollar deposits. The degree of dollarization in these countries is calculated by taking bank deposits in foreign currency as a percentage of total liquidity. The following table shows this.
Table: Deposits in Foreign Currency as a Percentage of Money Supply
Country 1990 1995 2001
Argentina 33.7 45.1 62.8
Bolivia 66. 2 67. 3 84. 8
Honduras 1.4 17.0 27.6
Mexico 10. 0 17. 5 5.5
Nicaragua 27.3 57.6 70.4
Peru 38.6 57.1 55.0
Uruguay 80.1 73.7 82.2
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Economic Review, and IMF reports
We have discussed different aspects of dollarization in the above paragraphs. A dollarized economy will become dependent on a continuous flow of international reserve to maintain liquidity and thus the conditions of international markets become important. Such an economy should be competitive internationally so that it can attract capital flows either as foreign investment or net borrowing. All these depend on how successfully the government can implement the fiscal discipline and maintain it.
Corruption and Open Economy Implications: The Developing Country Perspective
In today’s world of integrated financial system money laundering has emerged as a menace to the policy makers. When it is linked to the unofficial black economy of many developing countries, the problem becomes very complicated.
Money laundering, in general, is the disguising or concealing of illicit income in order to make it appear legitimate. The criminal anti-money laundering law of countries generally encompasses the money generated from numerous different crimes – e.g., drug trafficking, murder for hire, racketeering, prostitution, and embezzlement. There are many ways money laundering (ML) is perpetuated in different countries and we can describe some of these.
How it works in a typical Latin American environment__
Sell cocaine and get a million dollars.
Take the million in cash to the Cayman Islands.
Buy a legitimate corporation from a bank, complete with a board of directors.
Open a bank account in the corporation’s name and deposit the rest of the money.
Enjoy the islands, get some sun, and then go home.
When you get home, borrow $200,000 from the Cayman corporation’s account and have it delivered via wire transfer.
Open a restaurant.
Deposit proceeds from ongoing drug business along with proceeds from the restaurant every month into a legitimate bank account. Don’t add too much illegal money, just enough to make it look as though your restaurant is doing a good, healthy business.
Pay all of your taxes on the restaurant deposits, so the tax authorities don’t start an investigation.
As stated above, the ML method is diverse and it exploits the legal system of particular country and region. Another example of ML is the following.
Method 2. A second mode of operation___
¤ Open a Swiss bank account and routinely deposit receipts from illegal gambling operation by regular conversion of Indian rupees into US dollars through hawala operations.
¤ Buy a string of carwashes in the India worth Rs. 50 million.
¤ Put Rs. 1000,000 in legitimate cash as a down payment and get a Rs. 25 million mortgage from a legitimate financial institution in India .
¤ “Borrow” the other Rs. 24 million from the Swiss account in equivalent US dollars. When you pay interest on this “loan” you are really paying it to yourself. Much of this interest, since it is mortgage interest, is tax-deductible. Your tax refund comes from IT authorities.
¤ Once you have paid yourself back in the Swiss account, you can borrow from that account again and again and again….
Macroeconomic Effects of Money Laundering
The effects of ML on the health of the macroeconomy are negative. Such activities damage the financial sector institutions that are critical to economic growth. That also diverts resources and encourages crime and corruption. It further distorts the external sector of the economy, international trade and capital flows, to the detriment of the long term economic development.
Recent literature shows that strong financial institutions like banks, non-bank financial institutions and capital markets are critical to economic growth. These institutions allow for the concentration of capital resources from domestic savings, and efficient allocation of such resources to investment projects facilitate the generation of sustained economic development. ML impairs the development of these institutions in two ways.
First, ML erodes the credibility of the financial institutions as within these institutions there is always a correlation between money laundering and fraudulent activities undertaken by employees. At higher level of ML activities, entire financial institutions of the developing countries are vulnerable to corruption by criminal elements as they try to gain further influence over their ML channels.
Second, customer trust is fundamental to the growth of financial institutions in a developing country. But the perceived risk to depositors and investors from institutional fraud and corruption is an obstacle to the growth of such trust ( Fiorentini and Peltman, 1997 ; Quirk, 1997)
Sustained ML can also damage the economy through trade and international capital flows. The problem of illicit capital flight from the developing countries is generally facilitated by domestic financial institutions as well as their foreign counterparts ranging from offshore financial centers to major banks with branches in major financial centers of the world like London and New York. The illicit flight of capital from the capital poor developing countries impairs the growth process of such economies. This also causes significant distortions in country’s exports and imports.
International Gold Market Connection
Many experts who regularly monitor international funds flow are of the opinion that gold transactions from the established markets of the world are an integral aspect of money laundering scheme. The scheme operates like this: Gold is purchased with the help of funds which are of illicit origin. The gold is then exported to other location where it is converted into cash by sale and the proceeds are thus legitimized. If reporting requirements are there for the purchase of gold, it is circumvented by structuring the purchases to amounts which are below the reporting threshold.
Certain centres in the world are famous for gold markets and these are: Cordoba in Spain, Vicenza in Italy, Dubai in UAE, Paris region and Marseilles in Frances and some offshore centres. In these areas gold is often purchased by cash and mostly in non-indigenous currencies or US dollar. The yellow metal serves as both a commodity and a medium of exchange in the process of money laundering conducted between Latin America, the United States, Europe and South Asia. One such cycle is like this: Gold bullion enters into Italy via the Swiss brokers. This is converted into jewellery which is shipped to Latin America. This jewellery is then sold in the black market using the black market exchange rate of peso. This cycle is replicated elsewhere where restrictions prevail on the purchase of gold and the exchange rate of the domestic currency is pegged making it off the equilibrium rate.
Hawala Transaction and Gold
Money laundering through the use of gold as a medium of exchange has another connections and it is the hawala or hundi, which are alternative remittance system. The word ‘hundi’ means bill of exchange, and ‘hawala’ means trust. This is an alternative remittance system that facilitates the transfer of funds without the physical movement of it. People who use hawala as a means of fund transfer believe that it is cost effective and less bureaucratic compared to transfer of funds through the banking system. Hawala originated is South Asia [India is a prominent destination] and it is built on trust and close business contacts, but now this system is used in other parts of the globe as an alternative system of remittance.
A hawala broker based in one country facilitates the transfer of funds by receiving money in local currency. He then makes contact with another hawala broker (often his own men in the network) in another country and instructs him to make the necessary payments to the beneficiary in that local currency. The account is settled by sending postal money order or some other financial instrument to a gold house in the Persian Gulf region by the first broker. The gold house then effects payments to the second country hawala broker by sending gold, which is converted to cash in the South Asian country for making the payments. Gold may enter as a legal import item or in illegal way.
In the ML associated with the hawala system gold often plays the role of primary medium of exchange in some transactions and it is for two reasons. First, gold enjoys a special place in the religion and culture of the region. Gold is not only a precious metal, it is a symbol of aesthetics and purity in the religious and social rituals in Indian sub-continent and South Asia. Second is hard economics, and it is that the citizens in many countries in this region have little trust in their local currencies and gold is used as a hedge against inflation. In such a scenario gold is the primary means of protecting the intrinsic value of wealth.
Money Laundering: Other Form
Apart from the traditional form of laundering money, some other international crime is also seen among the activities like counterfeiting of currencies and other monetary instruments, the buying of banks by suspected criminal groups, cyber hacking and direct access and pass-through banking. There is continuing concern as financial crimes and money laundering are taking place with varying degrees of intensity in more than 120 jurisdictions according to one international survey (USA based), and many governments have not declared all forms of money laundering as criminal activities.
There have been concerted efforts by many governments to fight money laundering menace for the last two decades. The main international agreements addressing ML are the United Nations Vienna Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (the Vienna Convention) and the 1990 Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds of Crime.
The Basle Committee on Banking Supervision, the European Union and the International Organization of Securities Commissions are busy to frame guidelines towards the role of financial institutions regarding the detection and prevention of ML.
The Vienna Convention adopted in December 1988 prepared the groundwork for the efforts to combat money laundering by creating the rules obligatory for the member states (signatory) to make ML from drug trafficking a criminal offence. The convention promotes international cooperation in investigations and makes the extradition of the accused in money laundering case easy. It also establishes the principle that domestic bank secrecy provisions should not interfere with international criminal investigations. Thus the banks in the countries who are signatory to the Convention cannot withhold important information regarding their client if desired by the investigating authority.
The 1990 Council of Europe Convention [CEC] was adopted in November 1990 and it establishes a common definition of ML and a common policy and measure to fight it. The convention lays down the principle for the international cooperation among the signatory states, and some of them are outside the Council of Europe. Apart from money from drug trafficking the scope of the Treaty may go beyond that.
The G-10’s Basle Committee on Banking Supervision issued a “statement of principles” in December 1988 and this principle the international banks of member states are expected to comply. The principles deal with the identification of the customers, avoiding suspicious transactions and the cooperation with the investigation agencies. The committee related the transparency in operations of the member banks to their credibility to the depositors, which broadly guarantees the stability of the financial system.
The Council of the European Communities adopted a directive in June 1991 on the “Prevention of the Use of the Financial System for the Purpose of Money Laundering”. There has been measures for the liberalization of capital movements and cross-border financial movements which created opportunities for ML and the Directive is aimed at curving this type of crime. The member states are also obligatory to enact laws for the financial institutions so that the latter conform to rules for the prevention of ML.
The International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) adopted a Report in October 1992 which encourages its members to take necessary steps in the form of making legislation to combat ML in securities and futures markets. A Working Group of IOSCO Consultative Committee is set up to collect information on ML and exchanges that among the members to combat the crime.
The Financial Action Task Force
The Financial Action Task Force [FATE] is the main international body which is engaged in comprehensive efforts to promote the adoption of countermeasures to combat ML worldwide. FATF was set up by governments of the G-7 countries in 1989 and at present its membership comprises a large group of countries like Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the united States and Japan.
The FATF has pursued three main functions: (i) monitoring countermeasures of the members to combat ML, (ii) Reviewing the ML techniques periodically and planning countermeasures, and (iii) promoting countermeasures of ML in non-member countries.
The FATF made a detailed definition of countermeasures to combat ML and that is known as “Forty Recommendations” which was adopted in 1990. These recommendations are placed in four categories according to themes and these are:
-The Overall Context giving the Perspective
-The Legal Framework
-The Role of Financial System
-The Strengthening of International Cooperation
In the overall context category, the recommendations urge member countries to ratify the Vienna Convention, and to ensure that the secrecy laws of the financial system do not facilitate ML.
The set of recommendations in the legal framework category prepare the ground rules so that the ML activities can be put in the category of criminal activities. It should make it possible for the government to monitor the movement of the funds that are related to crimes of ML type and if necessary, make seizure of the cash and other assets.
The elements within the role of financial system category define the role of banks, life insurance companies, other non-bank institutions and the regulatory authorities. In the recommendations it is expected that the financial institutions will be able to identify their customers, maintain the records sufficient to allow the reconstruction of transactions, and will be able to hand over the records to the investigating authorities for criminal cases and prosecution.
The recommendations in the last category encourage authorities to exchange information on currency flows and ML techniques and on doubtful transactions. International cooperation should be supported by bilateral and multilateral treaties based on generally shared common legal concepts. Also there should be mutual assistance and cooperation regarding the identification, freezing, seizure and confiscation of criminal proceeds, and further legal actions as needed.
The FATF members continue to re-examine their anti-ML measures and refine them when necessary. Several countries are working to extend preventive measures beyond the traditional ban king sector. The Netherlands and some other European countries have introduced the legislation that requires money transfer businesses to report any doubtful transaction. Thus the upgrading of countermeasures to fight ML is a continuous process (FATF, 1999).
There are also other means available to fight ML at the international level and some of these are:
The united Nations Model Bill on Money Laundering and Proceed of Crime, 1998.
The United Nations Model Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 1998.
The United Nations Model Foreign Exchange Bill, 1998.
The United Nations Model Law on Money Laundering, Confiscation and International Cooperation in Relation to Drugs, 1995.
The provisions of these laws are stringent enough to prevent ML, but the real issue is the enforcement of the provisions as often the political will is lacking.
India: The Prevention of Money-Laundering Bill, 1999
The prevention of Money-Laundering Bill, 1999 has been passed in Indian parliament recently and it is now a law in the statute book. The provisions in the law are rigorous enough and these are comparable to the rules as in vogue in the FATF countries.
The definition of ML as stipulated in the Law is as follows;
Whoever (a) acquires, owns, possesses or transfers any proceeds of crime, or
(b) knowingly enters into any transaction which is related to proceeds of crime either directly or indirectly, or,
(c) conceals or aids in the concealment of proceeds of crime, commits the offence of money laundering.
The person who commits the crime of ML shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment and the property connected to ML shall be attached. The provisions in the ML bill are sufficiently stiff and there are provisions in the bill for the cooperation with other countries to combat the crime of ML.
Role of Financial Derivatives
It has been observed by the experts that the derivatives and the securities markets have become the vehicles of ML in recent years. Perhaps the reason is that compared to the banking transactions derivative markets and associated products give a better opportunity for cover operations so that the ML trail becomes difficult to track by the investigations. This poses a threat to the operation of the markets of derivative and other type of insurance products.
Generally the derivative markets are not subject to strict regulatory control because of the presumption that the market operators are efficient enough to protect themselves as they are the providers of security against risks. The introduction of strict control will scare away the investors from the market and this is not good for the smooth operation. Again, lack of rigorous government control in the derivative market makes it attractive to the operators of ML to use this as a vehicle of ML. The derivative instruments are used to structure the different phases of layering of funds transfer so that the origin of funds remains difficult to trace even after investigation.
A Policy Problem
Money laundering has become a global problem and its impact is most in the developing countries where the size of informal sector is relatively large, the legal system is not sufficiently effective, corruption has attained some degree of tolerance, the public in general are not conscious either for lack of proper education or wrong propaganda and the nexus between politics and social life is strong. The offshore centers provide the necessary conduit to siphon money from the country first and then bringing the money back in another form. Also the illicit trade in drugs and narcotics is a flourishing business in such economies. A prudent monetary policy is a first casualty in such a situation and the link between money supply and price level, or the link between credit and gross domestic product are not significant. Economic development in such society becomes highly distorted and a small minority controls the levers of both economic and political power (Lilley, 2002).
The following gives some idea of the strength of ML that goes on in the world and that derives strength from the grey economy of different countries.
• "Illegal grey economy in Czech Republic about 10% of GDP” (Hospodárské Noviny, 2 Apr 98)
• Model estimates 14.8% of GDP
• "$30bill illegal drugs reach the US from Mexico each year" (Chicago Tribune, 25 Mar 98)
• Model estimates $26bill laundered in Mexico each year
• "More than $2bill is laundered in Poland each year" (National Bank of Poland, reported on 15 Apr 98)
• Model estimates $3bill laundered in Poland each year
• "Share of shadow business in Russia's economy may range between 25% -50%" (TASS 17 Mar 98)
• Model estimates money laundering 15% of Russian GDP
• "Switzerland is implicated in $500bill of money laundering each year" (Swiss Finance Ministry, reported on 26 Mar 98)
• Model estimates $59bill - including only "first-stage" laundering.
• "UK black economy between 7-13% of GDP" (Sunday Telegraph, 29 Mar 98)
• Model estimates total money laundering 7.4% of UK GDP
• "$50-250bn illegally moved from Russia to Western banks in 5 years" (Russian Interior & Economics Ministries, April 99)
• Model estimates $28bn per year from Russia to western banks
• "Money Laundering in Belarus about 30% of GDP" (European Humanities University, 20 Nov 98)
• Model estimates 22.2% of Belarus GDP is laundered money
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