The Surge in Capital Inflows to Developing Countries: Prospects and Policy Response

54 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Eduardo Fernandez-Arias

Eduardo Fernandez-Arias

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Peter J. Montiel

Williams College - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 1995


After being excluded from world capital markets during the debt crisis, many developing countries have experienced large capital inflows in the past five years. The challenges these inflows pose for domestice policy have generated a substantial literature. The authors review and extend that literature. They characterize the new inflows, assess their causes and the likelihood of sustainability, analyze the policy issues they raise, and evaluate the possible policy responses. Their conclusions tie desirable policy responses to characteristics of both the flows themselves and to those of the recipient economy. Regarding the forces driving the current episode, they conclude that generally, the role of foreign interest rates as a "push" factor driving capital inflows and determining their magnitude has been well-established. On the other hand, country creditworthiness has helped determine both the timing and destination of the new capital flows. Even if creditworthiness is maintained, the early level of inflows is unlikely to be sustained. The pace of reduction in flows to countries that have been receiving them since the early 1990s depends on the path of foreign interest rates and the role of stock adjustment. But a loss of creditworthiness caused by a deterioration in domestic policy would stop inflows quickly and, depending on the circumstances, inflows may be replaced by substantial outflows and an outright balance of payments crisis.What are the implications for policy in recipient countries? Briefly, the receipt of capital inflows may strengthen the case for removing macroeconomic distortions, either because such inflows aggravate the cost of such distortions or because they ease the constraints that originally motivated their adoption. While direct intervention may not be feasible (because controls may be easily evaded), controls may sometimes be a second-best policy. To the extent that capital inflows are permitted to materialize, the desirability of foreign exhcange intervention depends on what is required for macroeconomic stability. Sterilized foreign exchange intervention to prevent overstimulation of demand with a fixed exchange rate may not be feasible or effective. A commensurate reduction in the money multiplier, achieved by increasing reserve requirements, may also have limited effects. The effectiveness of both measures depends on the structure of the domestic financial system. If domestic monetary expansion is not avoided, or if an expansionary financial stimulus is transmitted outside the banking system, the stabilization of total demand will require fiscal contraction.

Suggested Citation

Fernandez-Arias, Eduardo and Montiel, Peter J., The Surge in Capital Inflows to Developing Countries: Prospects and Policy Response (June 1995). Available at SSRN:

Eduardo Fernandez-Arias (Contact Author)

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) ( email )

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Peter J. Montiel

Williams College - Department of Economics ( email )

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