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The unique dollarization case of Lebanon

Joseph Bitar

Economic Systems, 2021, vol. 45, issue 2

Abstract: We perform a thorough analysis of the unique dollarization case of Lebanon, a heavily dollarized economy with recurring public deficits and monetary financing of the public debt, together with contained inflation and a de facto fixed exchange rate lasting for more than 20 years. What makes Lebanon’s case specific is the high level of foreign currency liquidity in the hands of the banking system due to the abundant capital inflows in the last three decades, and the high levels of the central bank’s gross international reserves, contrasting with its low and sometimes negative levels of net international reserves. We shed light on a number of areas that have so far been unexplored in international finance and monetary economics, mainly the difference between gross and net international reserves and their relative fiscal costs, together with a synthetic classification of sterilization techniques. We explain the monetary “freezing” mechanism that helped contain inflation in Lebanon, despite the monetary financing of the country’s recurring public deficits. We also assess the results of Lebanon’s monetary and exchange rate policy in the last two decades, and make a number of policy recommendations in light of previous studies.

Keywords: Dollarization; Emerging markets exchange rate regimes; Sterilization; International reserves; Lebanon (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E40 E50 F30 F41 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecosys.2020.100765

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