Prospects for the Evolution of Global Reserves

Graham Bird

Published: September 2011

The global reserve system has returned to the top of the agenda in debates about international monetary reform. Much of the contemporary discussion draws on familiar issues but it has been given a new relevance in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008/09. One particular focus relates to the composition of international reserve assets and the role of the dollar. Will the dollar’s preeminent position be eroded and will the dollar be replaced by other international currencies? This paper examines the factors that determine a currency’s international status and assesses various candidate currencies including the euro and the Chinese renminbi. It also analyses the Special Drawing Right (SDR ) as an international reserve asset. It concludes that, while there may be advantages in enhancing the SDR ’s role and endeavouring to implement the commitment made in the Second Amendment to the IMF’s Articles of Agreement to encourage it to become the world’s principal international reserve asset, the more likely outcome is that the dollar will retain its status as the main international currency, although it may be joined by other currencies in a multiple currency system.

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