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Speculative attacks on debts and optimum currency area: a welfare analysis

Aloisio Araujo and Marcia Leon

No 514, FGV EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) from EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil)

Abstract: Traditionally the issue of an optimum currency area is based on the theoretical underpinnings developed in the 1960s by McKinnon [13], Kenen [12] and mainly Mundell [14], who is concerned with the benefits of lowering transaction costs vis-à- vis adjustments to asymmetrical shocks. Recently, this theme has been reappraised with new aspects included in the analysis, such as: incomplete markets, credibility of monetary policy and seigniorage, among others. For instance, Neumeyer [15] develops a general equilibrium model with incomplete asset markets and shows that a monetary union is desirable when the welfare gains of eliminating the exchange rate volatility are greater than the cost of reducing the number of currencies to hedge against risks. In this paper, we also resort to a general equilibrium model to evaluate financial aspects of an optimum currency area. Our focus is to appraise the welfare of a country heavily dependent on foreign capital that may suffer a speculative attack on its public debt. The welfare analysis uses as reference the self-fulfilling debt crisis model of Cole and Kehoe ([6], [7] and [8]), which is employed here to represent dollarization. Under this regime, the national government has no control over its monetary policy, the total public debt is denominated in dollars and it is in the hands of international bankers. To describe a country that is a member of a currency union, we modify the original Cole-Kehoe model by including public debt denominated in common currency, only purchased by national consumers. According to this rule, the member countries regain some influence over the monetary policy decision, which is, however, dependent on majority voting. We show that for specific levels of dollar debt, to create inflation tax on common-currency debt in order to avoid an external default is more desirable than to suspend its payment, which is the only choice available for a dollarized economy when foreign creditors decide not to renew their loans.

Date: 2003-11-14
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