Tag: global imbalances

The link below is to a podcast by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. It considers a new book, Fault Lines by Raghu Rajan of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Rajan argues that the global economy is severely unbalanced:

There is a fair amount of consensus that the world economy is in need of rebalancing. Countries like Iceland, Greece, Spain, and the United States overspent prior to the crisis, financing the spending with government or private borrowing, while countries like Germany, Japan, and China supplied those countries goods even while financing their spending habits. Simply put, the consensus now requires U.S. households to save more and Chinese households to spend more in order to achieve the necessary rebalancing.

Martin Wolf identifies these imbalances and discusses various possible solutions. The problem is that what may seem sensible economically is not always feasible politically.

Three years and new fault lines threaten Financial Times podcasts, Martin Wolf (13/8/10)

Three years and new fault lines threaten (transcript of podcast) Financial Times podcasts, Martin Wolf (13/8/10)


  1. What are the fault lines that Martin Wolf identifies?
  2. Have they become more acute since the credit crunch and subsequent recession?
  3. What risks do these fault lines pose to the future health of the global economy?
  4. How do political relationships make integrating the world economy more difficult? What insights does game theory provide for understanding the tensions in these relationships?
  5. Is a policy of export-led growth a wise one for the UK to pursue?
  6. Explain why global demand may be structurally deficient.

The demise of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency has been predicted for a long time now. Yet it is still way surpasses other currencies, such as the euro and yen, as the main reserve currency of most countries. Also it still dominates world trade with much of international trade being priced in dollars. Indeed, as the eurozone reeled from the Greek debt crisis in early February (see A Greek tragedy and Debt and the euro) so investors sold euros and bought dollars. The dollar gained 12 per cent against the euro from December 2009 to February 2010 (from $1 = €0.66 on 1/12/09 to $1 = €0.74 by mid February).

But a number of economists, investors and officials argue that the dollar’s dominance is gradually being eroded:

As the United States racks up staggering deficits and the center of economic activity shifts to fast-growing countries such as China and Brazil, these sources fear the United States faces the risk of another devaluation of the dollar. This time in slow motion – but perhaps not as slow as some might think. If the world loses confidence in U.S. policies, “there’d be hell to pay for the dollar … Sooner or later, the U.S. is going to have to pay attention to the dollar”, [said Scott Pardee, economics professor at Vermont’s Middlebury College and formerly on the staff of the New York Fed].

So what is likely to be the future of the dollar? Will it remain the number one world reserve currency? Will its position be gradually, or even rapidly eroded? What will happen to the exchange rate of the dollar in the process? Finally, what is the significance of the trade and budget deficits in the USA? Are these of benefit to the rest of the world in providing the necessary dollars to finance world trade and investment? Or are they a source of global imbalance and instability? The following article look at these issues.

How long can the U.S. dollar defy gravity? Reuters, Steven C. Johnson, Kristina Cooke and David Lawder (23/2/10)
Is greenback’s dominance coming to an end? Stuff (New Zealand), Tony Alexander (24/2/10)
Reconstructing The World Economy Eurasia Review, John Lipsky (25/2/10): see final part on Reforming the International Monetary System. See also the following conference paper referred to in this article:
The Debate on the International Monetary System Korea Development Institute / IMF Conference on Reconstructing the World Economy, Seoul, Korea, Isabelle Mateos y Lago (25/2/10)


  1. To what extent does the world benefit from having the dollar as the main reserve currency?
  2. What is the role of US current account and budget deficits in supporting this reserve currency role? How important is the size of these deficits?
  3. What is likely to happen to the exchange rate of the dollar against other major currencies in the coming years?
  4. What alternatives are there to having the dollar as the world’s main reserve?
  5. Does it matter if China holds $2.3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, with nearly $800 billion in US Treasury debt?
  6. Why is the value of its currency a less urgent problem for the USA ‘than it would be for other borrowers who borrow and pay for imports with dollars’?
  7. What are ‘currency swap accords’ and why are they important for China?
  8. What are the implications of the Chinese yuan being undervalued against the dollar by as much as 40%?

The article linked to below from the Guardian by Larry Elliott argues that there are significant global imbalances in the world economy and that the IMF has to an extent ignored these imbalances. He argues that the sub-prime mortgage crisis, exchange rate movements and the rapid rise in oil prices are creating significant problems for the world economy.


1. Explain the main global imbalances identified by Larry Elliott in the article.
2. Analyse the likely impact of these imbalances on the global level of economic growth.
3. Explain the statement in the article: “Like many other countries in the region, the lesson China learned from the Asian financial crisis of 1997 was that it needed to build up a war chest of foreign exchange reserves that could be deployed in the event of a speculative attack.”