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Open Access Publications from the University of California

International reserves and swap lines: substitutes or complements?


Developing Asia experienced a sharp surge in foreign currency reserves prior to the 2008-9 crisis.The global crisis has been associated with an unprecedented rise of swap agreements betweencentral banks of larger economies and their counterparts in smaller economies. We explorewhether such swap lines can reduce the need for reserve accumulation. The evidence suggeststhat there is only a limited scope for swaps to substitute for reserves. The selectivity of the swaplines indicates that only countries with significant trade and financial linkages can expect accessto such ad hoc arrangements, on a case by case basis. Moral hazard concerns suggest that theapplicability of these arrangements will remain limited. However, deepening swap agreementsand regional reserve pooling arrangements may weaken the precautionary motive for reserveaccumulation.

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