India as a creditor: sterling balances, 1940-1953
No 643, Textos para discussão from Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil)
The British war effort in the Second World War depended on United States Lend Lease and the accumulation of sterling balances by neutrals, some of which would become belligerents and by the Empire. In the end of the war sterling balances corresponded to 60% of British net receipts under Lend Lease and were 15% higher than total Marshall Plan grants in 1948-52. Of the total sterling balances, about 40% were accumulated by India. This paper seeks to evaluate the costs incurred by India in the process of reduction of these balances after the war. The sources of accumulation of balances are examined and the use of the balances to repatriate India´s sterling debt is described. The issue of a British counterclaim entailing a partial cancellation of Indian balances is considered. British efforts to convince India to accept a partial cancellation of the balances are analyzed singling out the crucial role of Keynes in defining British policy The AngloIndian sterling balance negotiations after independence are detailed, including the disposal of balances through releases, transfer of assets to Pakistan, settlement of pensions, purchase of military stores and British gold sales. The possible contribution of British divestment to reduce outstanding balances is assessed, The Indian case is compared with those of other sterling balance holders such as Portugal, Brazil and Argentina. The links between the accumulation of sterling balances and inflation in India are considered. In the end there was a significant reduction in the purchasing power of sterling balances but not for the reasons anticipated by London.
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