Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Dr. Warren Coats (former IMF) Proposes "A Future Digital SDR"

Readers here know we have long covered monetary system reform proposals from Dr. Warren Coats. Dr. Coats is formerly the head of the SDR Division and is in my view a leading expert in the world on the SDR along with IMF rules and regulations. So we feature him here as the best source of information on this topic. 

Dr. Coats recently sent me his new article, The IMF's $650bSDR Allocation and a future 'digital SDR' recently published on (8-3-2021) that outlines his proposal for the IMF to promote a broader adoption of the SDR as a globally used form of currency. It's important to note that Dr. Coats proposal includes issuing SDR's under currency board rules

In this article, Dr. Coats is responding to the current proposal to issue a new $650 billion (SDR) allocation of SDR's in response to the Covid pandemic as one way to assist developing nations. Below I have selected a few extracts from the article and then a few summary comments.


"While a strong case can be made for financial assistance by high-income countries to low-income ones to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, an SDR allocation cannot properly be justified on that basis. This link is unfortunate, and mixes the monetary contribution of SDRs to the stock of international reserves with the case for aid to developing countries. Such aid, while potentially justified, is a fiscal issue – and should be addressed as such. The case for a new allocation must be based on “the objective of meeting the long term global need to supplement existing reserve assets”

. . . . . 

"As indicated in the opening paragraphs, the case for expanding the role of SDRs in international payments is strong. But, in fact, their role has been very limited beyond the IMF. To become a serious supplement to, if not replacement for, the US dollar in the international monetary system, the SDR would need to be usable for payments by private-sector parties. This would require the creation of private or market SDRs. Following the model of national currencies in which central banks create base money that backs the deposits created by banks (broad money), the IMF’s ‘official’ SDRs could back private digital SDRs.

Article XXII of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement provides that: “In addition to the obligations assumed with respect to special drawing rights under other articles of this agreement, each participant [in the SDR department] undertakes to collaborate with the fund and with other participants in order to facilitate the effective functioning of the special drawing rights department and the proper use of special drawing rights in accordance with this agreement with the objective of making the special drawing right the principal reserve asset in the international monetary system.”

In support of member obligations to make “the special drawing right the principal reserve asset in the international monetary system” the IMF needs to facilitate and encourage the private-market uses of the SDR for pricing and paying for globally traded goods, as well as for denominating financial assets. The breath, depth and liquidity of such uses of the US dollar are important factors in the dollar’s widespread use in international payments and as a reserve currency."

. . . . 

Digital SDR currency 

"As with national currencies, the internationally issued SDR needs a central issuer of the base money version of market SDRs (M-SDRs). The IMF should oversee the development of a procedure for issuing M-SDRs following currency board rules and backed 100% by official SDRs or by an appropriate mix of sovereign debt of the five basket currencies."

. . . . .

"Banks offering M-SDR deposits/currency to their customers would hold an SDR reserve backing with the IMF SDR trust fund. The base money M-SDRs issued by the IMF trust fund would perform the same payment settlement function as do central banks for the base money they issue, with the critical difference that depositors/participants would be global, rather than national. This would enable virtually instantaneous final settlement of M-SDR payments globally."

Find the full article on here


Added comments: These proposals may sound as if we are about to see some major changes to the present global monetary system which is what this blog was created to monitor. However, a question that I always ask Dr. Coats when this topic arises is if he sees any signs of movement towards this kind of change. I am quite confident Dr. Coats would know that. I asked him that again and here is his reply to that:

"The IMF has no plans for a digital SDR and they say they are too busy with the allocation itself and related covid lending to focus on my other private SDR promotion suggestion though they might in the future."  

This reply is in line with what we have reported here for some time. If anything changes in this regard and I am aware of the change, I will report it here. But I continue to see no indication that this kind of major monetary system change is on the near term horizon. There is no better source on this than Dr. Coats in my view.