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Author:Aizenman, Joshua 

Conference Paper
Uncertainty and the disappearance of international credit
AUTHORS: Marion, Nancy P.; Aizenman, Joshua
DATE: 1999-09

Conference Paper
The high demand for international reserves in the Far East: what's going on?
This paper explores econometric and theoretical interpretations for the relatively high demand for international reserves by countries in the Far East and the relatively low demand by some other developing countries. Using a sample of about 125 developing countries, we show that reserve holdings over the 1980-1996 period seem to be the predictable outcome of a few key factors, such as the size of international transactions, their volatility, the exchange-rate arrangement, and political considerations. The estimating equation also does a good job of predicting reserve holdings in Asia before the 1997 financial crisis. After the crisis, the estimating equation significantly under-predicts the reserve holdings of several key Far East countries, as one might expect from the Lucas Critique. This under-prediction is consistent with models explaining the demand for international reserves by developing countries. Specifically, we show that sovereign risk and costly tax collection to cover fiscal liabilities lead to a relatively large demand for international reserves. In the aftermath of a crisis, countries that have to deal with higher perceived sovereign risk and higher fiscal liabilities (both funded and unfunded) will opt to increase their demand for reserves. The models also help us understand why some developing countries do not hold large precautionary reserve balances in the aftermath of crises. Countries with high discount rates, political instability or political corruption find it optimal to hold much smaller precautionary balances. We also show that models that incorporate loss aversion predict a relatively large demand for international reserves. Hence, if a crisis increases the volatility of shocks and/or loss aversion, it will greatly increase in the demand for international reserves. Consequently, we conclude that the ?puzzling? pattern in international reserve holdings is reasonably explained by the extended models described in this paper.
AUTHORS: Marion, Nancy P.; Aizenman, Joshua
DATE: 2002-09

Conference Paper
International reserves: precautionary versus mercantilist views, theory and evidence
This paper tests the importance of precautionary and mercantilist motives in accounting for the hoarding of international reserves by developing countries, and provides a model that quantifies the welfare gains from optimal management of international reserves. While the variables associated with the mercantilist motive are statistically significant, their economic importance in accounting for reserve hoarding is close to zero and is dwarfed by other variables. Overall, the empirical results are in line with the precautionary demand. The effects of financial crises have been localized, increasing reserve hoarding in the aftermath of crises mostly in countries located in the affected region, but not in other regions. A more liberal capital account regime is found to increase the amount of international reserves, in line with the precautionary view. We also investigate the micro foundation of precautionary demand, extending Diamond and Dybvig (1983)?s model to an open, emerging market economy where banks finance long-term projects with short-term deposits. We identify circumstances that lead to large precautionary demand for international reserves, providing self-insurance against the adverse output effects of sudden stop and capital flight shocks. This would be the case if premature liquidation of long-term projects is costly, and the economy is de-facto integrated with the global financial system, hence sudden stops and capital flight may reduce deposits sharply. We show that the welfare gain from the optimal management of international reserves is of a first-order magnitude, reducing the welfare cost of liquidity shocks from a first-order to a second-order magnitude.
AUTHORS: Aizenman, Joshua; Lee, Jaewoo
DATE: 2005

Working Paper
Sterilization, monetary policy, and global financial integration
This paper investigates the changing pattern and efficacy of sterilization within emerging market countries as they liberalize markets and integrate with the world economy. We estimate the marginal propensity to sterilize foreign asset accumulation associated with net balance of payments inflows, across countries and over time. We find that the extent of sterilization of foreign reserve inflows has risen in recent years to varying degrees in Asia as well as in Latin America, consistent with greater concerns about the potential inflationary impact of reserve inflows. We also find that sterilization depends on the composition of balance of payments inflows.
AUTHORS: Glick, Reuven; Aizenman, Joshua
DATE: 2008

Working Paper
Military expenditure, threats, and growth
This paper clarifies one of the puzzling results of the economic growth literature: the impact of military expenditure is frequently found to be non-significant or negative, yet most countries spend a large fraction of their GDP on defense and the military. We start by empirical evaluation of the non- linear interactions between military expenditure, external threats, corruption, and other relevant controls. While growth falls with higher levels of military spending, given the values of the other independent variables, we show that military expenditure in the presence of threats increases growth. We explain the presence of these non-linearities in an extended version of Barro and Sala-i-Martin (1995), allowing the dependence of growth on the severity of external threats, and on the effective military expenditure associated with these threats.
AUTHORS: Glick, Reuven; Aizenman, Joshua
DATE: 2003

Working Paper
Pegged exchange rate regimes -- a trap?
This paper studies the empirical and theoretical association between the duration of a pegged exchange rate and the cost experienced upon exiting the regime. We confirm empirically that exits from pegged exchange rate regimes during the past two decades have often been accompanied by crises, the cost of which increases with the duration of the peg before the crisis. We explain these observations in a framework in which the exchange rate peg is used as a commitment mechanism to achieve inflation stability, but multiple equilibria are possible. We show that there are ex ante large gains from choosing a more conservative not only in order to mitigate the inflation bias from the well-known time inconsistency problem, but also to steer the economy away from the high inflation equilibria. These gains, however, come at a cost in the form of the monetary authority's lesser responsiveness to output shocks. In these circumstances, using a pegged exchange rate as an anti-inflation commitment device can create a "trap" whereby the regime initially confers gains in anti-inflation credibility, but ultimately results in an exit occasioned by a big enough adverse real shock that creates large welfare losses to the economy. We also show that the more conservative is the regime in place and the larger is the cost of regime change, the longer will be the average spell of the fixed exchange rate regime, and the greater the output contraction at the time of a regime change.
AUTHORS: Glick, Reuven; Aizenman, Joshua
DATE: 2005

Working Paper
Takeoffs
This paper identifies factors associated with takeoff--a sustained period of high growth following a period of stagnation. We examine a panel of 241 "stagnation episodes" from 146 countries, 54% of these episodes are followed by takeoffs. Countries that experience takeoffs average 2.3% annual growth following their stagnation episodes, while those that do not average 0% growth; 46% of the takeoffs are "sustained," i.e. lasting 8 years or longer. Using probit estimation, we find that de jure trade openness is positively and significantly associated with takeoffs. A one standard deviation increase in de jure trade openness is associated with a 55% increase in the probability of a takeoff in our default specification. We also find evidence that capital account openness encourages takeoff responses, although this channel is less robust. Measures of de facto trade openness, as well as a variety of other potential conditioning variables, are found to be poor predictors of takeoffs. We also examine the determinants of nations achieving sustained takeoffs. While we fail to find a significant role for openness in determining whether or not takeoffs are sustained, we do find a role for output composition: Takeoffs in countries with more commodity-intensive output bundles are less likely to be sustained, while takeoffs in countries that are more service-intensive are more likely to be sustained. This suggests that adverse terms of trade shocks prevalent among commodity exports may play a role in ending long-term high growth episodes.
AUTHORS: Aizenman, Joshua; Spiegel, Mark M.
DATE: 2007

Working Paper
Institutional efficiency, monitoring costs, and the investment share of FDI
This paper models and tests the implications of institutional efficiency on the pattern of foreign direct investment (FDI). We posit that domestic agents have a comparative advantage over foreign agents in overcoming some of the obstacles associated with corruption and weak institutions. We model these circumstances in a principal-agent framework with costly ex-post monitoring and enforcement of an ex-ante labor contract. Ex-post monitoring and enforcement costs are assumed to be lower for domestic entrepreneurs than for foreign ones, but foreign producers enjoy a countervailing productivity advantage. Under these asymmetries, multinationals pay higher wages than domestic producers, in line with the insight of efficiency wages and with the evidence about the 'multinationals wage premium.' FDI is also more sensitive to increases in enforcement costs. We then test this prediction for a cross section of developing countries. We use Mauro's (1995) index of institutional efficiency as an indicator of the strength of property rights enforcement within a given country. We compare institutional efficiency levels for a large cross section of countries in 1989 to subsequent FDI flows from 1990 to 1999. We find that institutional efficiency is positively associated with the ratio of subsequent foreign direct investment flows to both gross fixed capital formation and to private investment. This finding is true for both simple cross-sections and for cross-sections weighted by country size.
AUTHORS: Aizenman, Joshua; Spiegel, Mark M.
DATE: 2003

Working Paper
Sovereign wealth funds: stylized facts about their determinants and governance
This paper presents statistical analysis supporting stylized facts about sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). It discusses the forces leading to the growth of SWFs, including the role of fuel exports and ongoing current account surpluses, and large hoarding of international reserves. It analyzes the degree to which measures of SWF governance and transparency compare with national norms of behavior. We provide evidence that many countries with SWFs are characterized by effective governance but weak democratic institutions, as compared to other nonindustrial countries. We also present a model with which we compare the optimal degree of diversification abroad by a central bank versus that of a sovereign wealth fund. We show that if the central bank manages its foreign assets with the objective of reducing the probability of sudden stops, it will place a high weight on the downside risk of holding risky assets abroad and will tend to hold primarily safe foreign assets. In contrast, if the sovereign wealth fund, acting on behalf of the Treasury, maximizes the expected utility of a representative domestic agent, it will opt for relatively greater holding of more risky foreign assets. We discuss how the degree of a country's transparency may affect the size of the foreign asset base entrusted to a wealth fund's management, and show that, for relatively low levels of public foreign assets, assigning portfolio management independence to the central bank may be advantageous. However, for a large enough foreign asset base, the opportunity cost associated with the limited portfolio diversification of the central bank induces authorities to establish a wealth fund in pursuit of higher returns.
AUTHORS: Glick, Reuven; Aizenman, Joshua
DATE: 2008

Working Paper
The high demand for international reserves in the Far East: what's going on?
This paper explores econometric and theoretical interpretations for the relatively high demand for international reserves by countries in the Far East and the relatively low demand by some other developing countries. Using a sample of about 125 developing countries, we show that reserve holdings over the 1980-1996 period seem to be the predictable outcome of a few key factors, such as the size of international transactions, their volatility, the exchange-rate arrangement, and political considerations. The estimating equation also does a good job of predicting reserve holdings in Asia before the 1997 financial crisis. After the crisis, the estimating equation significantly under-predicts the reserve holdings of several key Far East countries, as one might expect from the Lucas Critique. This under-prediction is consistent with models explaining the demand for international reserves by developing countries. Specifically, we show that sovereign risk and costly tax collection to cover fiscal liabilities lead to a relatively large demand for international reserves. In the aftermath of a crisis, countries that have to deal with higher perceived sovereign risk and higher fiscal liabilities (both funded and unfunded) will opt to increase their demand for reserves. The models also help us understand why some developing countries do not hold large precautionary reserve balances in the aftermath of crises. Countries with high discount rates, political instability or political corruption find it optimal to hold much smaller precautionary balances. We also show that models that incorporate loss aversion predict a relatively large demand for international reserves. Hence, if a crisis increases the volatility of shocks and/or loss aversion, it will greatly increase in the demand for international reserves. Consequently, we conclude that the 'puzzling' pattern in international reserve holdings is reasonably explained by the extended models described in this paper.
AUTHORS: Aizenman, Joshua; Marion, Nancy P.
DATE: 2002

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