Special Drawing Rights: How Fashions Change

Graham Bird

Published: March 2010

From a situation as late as 2008, when they were largely unfashionable, special drawing rights (SDR s) have become the centre of attention in discussions about a reformed international monetary system. The G20 and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have backed a significant additional allocation of SDRs, and China and the United Nations have suggested that this should be followed up with more substantial reforms that diminish the role of the dollar and enhance that of the SDR . These proposals would incorporate a substitution account that allows holders of dollars to swap them into SDR s, but they see this as only one step towards establishing an SDR -based system. This article assesses the issues involved and the contemporary political economy of such proposals, placing them in historical context. It contemplates the likely evolution of the international monetary system, and examines the extent to which the SDR is likely to come back fully into fashion.

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