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SUMMARY

The evolution of exchange rate regimes

The last two decades have seen far-reaching changes in the structure of the international monetary system. Europe moved from the European Monetary System to the euro. China adopted a dollar peg and then moved to a basket, band and crawl in 2005. Emerging markets passed through a series of crises, leading some to adopt regimes of greater exchange rate flexibility and others to rethink the pace of capital account liberalization. Interpreting these developments is no easy task: some observers conclude that recent trends are confirmation of the ‘bipolar view’ that intermediate exchange rate arrangements are disappearing, while members of the ‘fear of floating school’ conclude precisely the opposite. We show that the two views can be reconciled if one distinguishes countries by their stage of economic and financial development. Among the advanced countries, intermediate regimes have essentially disappeared; this supports the bipolar view for the group of countries for which it was first developed. Within this subgroup, the dominant movement has been toward hard pegs, reflecting monetary unification in Europe. While emerging markets have also seen a decline in the prevalence of intermediate arrangements, these regimes still account for more than a third of the relevant subsample. Here the majority of the evacuees have moved to floats rather than fixes, reflecting the absence of EMU-like arrangements in other parts of the world. Among developing countries, the prevalence of intermediate regimes has again declined, but less dramatically. Where these regimes accounted for two-thirds of the developing country subsample in 1990, they account for a bit more than half of that subsample today. As with emerging markets, the majority of those abandoning the middle have moved to floats rather than hard pegs. The gradual nature of these trends does not suggest that intermediate regimes will disappear outside the advanced countries anytime soon.

— Barry Eichengreen and Raul Razo-Garcia