CGD's Mark Plant and University of Oxford's Adrienne Cheasty, formerly of the IMF, discuss how SDRs work, what the IMF's new allocation means, and what needs to happen to ensure its effectiveness.
CGD Policy Blogs
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The puzzle for development finance experts has been that the capital flows from developed financial markets to developing countries are nowhere large enough to meet financing needs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), even if official assistance were to be ramped up significantly. Cyclically low investment returns in the developed world should make investment in developing countries quite attractive, yet investments in frontier markets, particularly in Africa, do not begin to meet the development needs of these countries.
A new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) amounting to some $650 billion is now expected the end of August. This allocation of an IMF reserve asset, intended to help countries weather the economic crisis created by COVID-19, will be more than 2½ times the size of the last allocation and substantially boost countries’ gross international reserves. For many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) these added reserves will provide policymakers much needed room for maneuver as they continue to struggle with huge economic impact of the global pandemic and its aftermath.
President Biden’s announced target to achieve a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions within a decade is a tremendous boon to the Paris Climate Agreement goals. Without diminishing the positives of this reset of US policy, it is still important to remember that, with any seismic shift, there will be winners and losers. Recent research has discussed the emerging challenge of fossil fuel producing countries, which risk losing entire swathes of their economies’ production capacities, and thus their wealth.
The decision to allocate $650 billion of special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund to the global economy is welcome. One way to use this extra ration of global liquidity will be to bolster the concessional lending pot the IMF has to help low-income countries—the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.
Even before the Biden-Harris administration took office, they made clear that one of their top international priorities would be renewing the United States’ commitment to multilateralism. Within the international financial institutions (IFIs)—the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—as well as the United Nations, the US agenda over the next four years will be one of re-engaging with management and rebuilding coalitions with allied shareholders to advance priority issues and approaches. One of these priority areas will be improving the effectiveness of engagement in fragile states.
As it looks likely that the IMF membership will approve special drawing rights, not all countries will feel the effects equally. Is there a way that these new “excess” SDRs in rich countries could be used to help poorer countries?
The market value of the IMF’s gold—about US$170 billion at end 2020—far exceeds its historic cost on the Fund’s balance sheet of under $5 billion. Not surprisingly, this has led some to see the IMF’s gold as a “free” resource that should be tapped to meet pressing global needs. And these calls have become louder as the demands of meeting new challenges—from climate change to the pandemic—have confronted flat or shrinking aid budgets.
As global leaders begin to put together an international financing package to help low-income countries (LICs) recover from the COVID-19 crisis, they are looking to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be a critical financial and policy anchor for LIC’s sustainable economic recovery. We propose a five-step plan that ensures sufficient resources are available to meet a high level of demand for new loans over the next few years.