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Relevance of Sterilization Issues in Selected SEE Countries

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The Experiences of Slovenia and Lessons for Countries in Southeastern Europe 1

3. Relevance of Sterilization Issues in Selected SEE Countries

sterilization efforts may push up the interest rates on sterilization instruments, and thus also the required market rate of return.

b. Authorities’ sterilization capacities are usually limited by an inadequate supply of marketable instruments, which means that the central bank needs to develop sterilization instruments.

c. The scale of sterilization operations can be limited by thin and segmented markets – conditions that usually accompany an inadequate supply of marketable instruments.

4. Heavy fiscal costs may eventually curtail sterilization operations. Lee (1996) divides fiscal costs into three categories: debt-service burden costs, possible operating losses at the central bank, and potential vulnerability to capital flow reversal.

Because of the aforementioned practical limits, it is desirable for monetary authorities to seek techniques and instruments which could expand the scope of effective sterilization operations. In practice it may be necessary to use classical open-market operations in combination with some supplementary sterilization measures (e.g. discount policy and direct lending, reserve requirements, government deposits, foreign exchange swap), or even with more direct controls on capital inflows, such as a variable deposit requirement on foreign borrowings or an interest equalization tax on certain capital transactions.

Before we turn to the case of Slovenia and the presentation of techniques and instruments employed by Banka Slovenije to provide effective sterilization, we shall examine some challenges to sterilization in selected SEE countries.

endogenous, while they are exogenous in the case of quantity targeting (Ganley, 2002).

As a rule, central banks in transitional and/or emerging economies have to deal with surplus instead of deficit liquidity positions in the banking system, since these economies often attract a sizeable capital inflow as they open and undergo privatization (Ganley, 2002). Generally, two major types of changes on central bank balance sheets can be a source of surplus reserves in the banking sector:

1. increases in net foreign assets, which are linked to current account balance and exchange rate, and/or to capital account inflow; and

2. increases in net lending to the government, which are a direct consequence of the monetization of the fiscal deficit.

In the rest of this section, we shall try to identify developments in the net liquidity positions of central banks in Slovenia and five countries in the SEE region that could be considered prospective euro area members (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia), or at least strong aspirants for such a status in the more distant future (Macedonia, Albania). Decomposition of central bank balance sheets is used as a tool for the detection of liquidity positions (surplus or deficit) and identification of approaches (instruments) used by central banks for the management of their liquidity positions.

The data presented later in this section clearly show that all central banks included in this study primarily need to deal with surplus liquidity positions, and therefore to employ instruments (approaches) for mopping up excess liquidity from the banking sector. To this end, they can use market-based or non-market approaches. Market-based approaches involve any financial transaction between a central bank and its counterparties which leads to the withdrawal of liquidity.

Liquidity absorption transactions should create a regular shortage in the market, but in practice this is rarely achieved (Ganley, 2002). The non-market approach involves quantitative barriers, rules or restrictions on market activity, which try to keep potential injections of liquidity outside the banking system. The latter of the two approaches involves increases in reserve requirements as well. Of course neither of the approaches, non-market nor market-based, is likely in itself to remove the underlying causes of surplus reserves (Ganley, 2002).

In order to analyze the magnitude and dynamics of surplus reserves in the banking sectors of individual countries, we shall use a simple decomposition of central bank balance sheets. By using IFS statistics, we first try to construct a stylized central bank balance sheet for each country, as depicted in table 1.

Table 1: A Stylized Central Bank Balance Sheet

Assets Liabilities

Net foreign assets (NFA) Cash in public circulation (Cash) Net lending to government (NLG) Bank reserves

Net lending to banks (NLB) –

Net other items –

Source: Ganley (2002).

Based on the stylized balance sheet, we are able to calculate the “cumulative autonomous liquidity position”2 for each country on a quarterly basis. The cumulative position depicts the historical activities of the central bank as they are reflected in individual central bank balance sheet items. So, for example, the stock of “net foreign assets” (NFA) reflects the cumulative injection (if “foreign assets”

> “foreign liabilities”) or cumulative withdrawal (if “foreign assets” < “foreign liabilities”) of liquidity in the banking system to date. Similarly, the stock of “net lending to government” (NLG) reflects the cumulative injection (if “claims on government” > “government deposits”) or cumulative withdrawal (if "claims on government" < “government deposits”) of liquidity in the banking system to date.

) ( /

) (

) (

) (

net Items Other

Banks Outside Currency

Deposits Government

Central Government

Central on Claims

s Liabilitie Foreign

Assets Foreign

position Autonomous










Developments in the three main contributing factors (net foreign assets, net lending to government, cash in public circulation) to the cumulative autonomous position in selected countries are displayed in tables 2 and 3. All three contributing factors are expressed relatively in terms of GDP, so we can compare three different ratios:

NFA to GDP, NLG to GDP, and cash to GDP.

2 Borio (1997) and Ganley (2002) define the autonomous liquidity position (ALP) as a result of changes in major sub-segments of the central bank balance sheet:

ALP = ∆NFA + ∆NLG + ∆ Other net items - ∆ Cash

Therefore we have chosen to denote the net positions calculated on the levels as

Four major conclusions can be drawn by observing the ratios:

1. In all six countries the NFA to GDP ratio has increased dramatically in the period from the beginning of the 1990s to the end of 2005. With only a few exceptions (e.g. Albania and Romania in the first half of the 1990s), NFA positions have always been positive, meaning that the NFA continuously contributed to the injection of liquidity into the banking sectors of individual countries.

2. NFA positions strongly dominated NLG positions in all countries after the year 2000. These characteristics clearly indicate the crucial importance of foreign currency capital flows for domestic liquidity in all observed countries.

3. The NLG to GDP ratio has demonstrated quite different dynamics and directions of movement in different countries and different sub-periods. In some countries, NLG cumulatively provided an injection of additional liquidity into the system (e.g. Albania), while in other countries (e.g. Slovenia) the government cumulatively was a net depositor with the central bank and therefore did not increase the cumulative net liquidity position of the banking system.

4. The cash-in-circulation to GDP ratio as an important absorption factor has cumulatively increased in most of the countries, the only exception being Romania, although this growth has not been as strong as in the case of the NFA to GDP ratio.

Table 2: Autonomous Components of the Cumulative Autonomous Position Expressed as a Percent of GDP in Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia

Slovenia Croatia Macedonia

Year NFA/GDP NLG/GDP CASH/GDP NFA/GDP NLG/GDP CASH/GDP NFA/GDP NLG/GDP CASH/GDP 1992 4.4% 0.3% -1.6% 0.1% 0.0% -0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

1995 9.2% -0.7% -2.2% 8.4% -0.3% -3.1% 4.1% 0.6% -2.9%

2000 16.6% -1.1% -2.6% 16.5% -0.6% -3.9% 14.7% -3.8% -3.4%

2005 25.1% -1.2% -2.7% 23.7% -0.3% -5.4% 18.7% -4.5% -5.0%

Source: IFS and authors’ calculations.

Table 3: Autonomous Components of the Cumulative Autonomous Position Expressed as a Percent of GDP in Albania, Bulgaria and Romania

Albania Bulgaria Romania

Year NFA/GDP NLG/GDP CASH/GDP NFA/GDP NLG/GDP CASH/GDP NFA/GDP NLG/GDP CASH/GDP 1992 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 3.2% 2.7% -7.4% -0.7% 0.1% -5.3%

1995 -5.4% 18.4% -15.2% 5.7% 4.2% -5.7% -0.2% -1.2% -3.9%

2000 11.1% 13.7% -17.0% 14.7% 0.4% -7.7% 6.0% 1.6% -2.7%

2005 15.2% 7.0% -16.6% 29.8% -5.3% -11.9% 20.3% -1.9% -3.5%

Source: IFS and authors’ calculations.

Evidently, in all countries except Albania, NFAs strongly dominate NLG in their contribution to the cumulative liquidity position in the banking sector. Further inspection of data as they are presented in table 4 and chart 1 reveals the annual dynamics of contributing factors across countries. It is very obvious that in the Slovenian banking sector, net foreign exchange inflows have represented the heaviest burden for the national central bank relatively speaking, because the share of NFAs in the GDP has risen to more than 25%. Clearly Banka Slovenije was compelled to develop adequate offsetting operations enabling it to manage excess liquidity efficiently.

When observing NFA dynamics, the growth trend of the proportion of NFA in GDP can be clearly identified for all six countries in the sample. Likewise, one can easily recognize important differences across countries. So, for example, the NFA of Banka Slovenije amounted to 4.4% of GDP in the beginning of the observation period, while Albanian, Croatian, Romanian and Macedonian banks at the same time experienced NFA-to-GDP ratios close to zero. Only in the case of the Bulgarian central bank, with 3.2%, did the situation happen to be similar to that of Slovenia. In the first half of the 1990s, only the Slovenian and Croatian central banks experienced steady growth in the NFA-to-GDP ratio, which in the case of Banka Slovenije climbed to 10%, and in case of the Croatian National Bank to 9.7% by the end of the year 1996. In rest of the countries, including Bulgaria, the ratio stayed at levels close to 5% or substantially less.

Table 4: Proportion of NFA in GDP in Individual Countries for the Period 1992–2005


1992 4.4% 0.0% 3.2% 0.1% -0.7% 0.0%

1993 5.9% 0.0% 2.0% 2.2% -1.2% 2.2%

1994 7.9% -5.0% 1.6% 6.6% 0.2% 3.6%

1995 9.2% -5.4% 5.7% 8.4% -0.2% 4.1%

1996 10.0% 5.5% 0.8% 9.7% -1.2% 4.6%

1997 15.4% 9.4% 11.2% 10.8% 2.4% 5.2%

1998 17.0% 8.8% 14.8% 11.2% 2.6% 6.3%

1999 16.3% 9.2% 14.0% 13.0% 3.3% 8.9%

2000 16.6% 11.1% 14.7% 16.5% 6.0% 14.7%

2001 19.7% 14.2% 15.1% 20.1% 9.7% 24.6%

2002 25.4% 15.1% 18.1% 22.4% 13.0% 19.6%

2003 28.0% 14.0% 21.8% 22.5% 13.0% 16.4%

2004 25.6% 14.0% 26.1% 22.9% 15.5% 15.8%

2005 25.1% 15.2% 29.8% 23.7% 20.3% 18.7%

Period 92-05 16.2% 7.6% 12.8% 13.6% 5.9% 10.3%

Source: International Financial Statistics.

Central banks confronted by surplus cumulative liquidity positions need to react adequately to those positions in order to equilibrate liquidity in the banking system.

Again, the cumulative consequences of these reactions are always, directly or indirectly, reflected on the central bank balance sheet. In order to observe different types of central bank reactions, we shall again analyze stylized central bank balance sheets in the six selected countries.

Chart 1: Proportion of NFA in GDP in Individual Countries for the Period

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