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Can Central Banks Go Broke?

34 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2008  

Willem H. Buiter

Citigroup New York; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2008

Abstract

Central banks can go broke and have done so, although mainly in developing countries. The conventional balance sheet of the central bank is uninformative about the financial resources it has at its disposal and about its ability to act as an effective lender of last resort and market marker of last resort.

As long as central banks don't have significant foreign exchange-denominated liabilities or index-linked liabilities, it will always be possible for the central bank to ensure its solvency though monetary issuance (seigniorage).

However, the scale of the recourse to seigniorage required to safeguard central bank solvency may undermine price stability. In addition, there are limits to the amount of real resources the central bank can appropriate by increasing the issuance of nominal base money. For both these reasons, it may be desirable for the Treasury to recapitalise the central bank should the central bank suffer a major capital loss as a result of its lender of last resort and market maker of last resort activities.

The fiscal authorities of the Euro Area should as a matter of urgency agree on a formula for dividing the fiscal burden of recapitalising the European Central Bank/Eurosystem, should the need arise.

Keywords: central bank insolvency, lender of last resort, market maker of last resort, recapitalising central banks

JEL Classification: E31, E41, E44, E52, E58, E63, F31, F41

Suggested Citation

Buiter, Willem H., Can Central Banks Go Broke? (May 2008). , Vol. , pp. -, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1143190

Willem Buiter (Contact Author)

Citigroup New York ( email )

Citigroup Global Markets Inc
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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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