The Demand for International Reserves: A Case Study of Pakistan

Foreign exchange reserves have clear implications for exchange rate stability, financial markets, and hence, for overall economic activity. Stakeholders have different views about reserves holding. Some economists believe that foreign exchange reserves are useless and unutilised as Friedman (1953) criticised the fixed exchange rate system with the argument that it contains unutilised foreign exchange reserves. On the other hand, some economists argue that foreign exchange reserves should be there to smooth out the imbalances in balance of payments [see Kemal (2002)]. There is continuous debate about the need to hold reserves.1 The critics are worried about the cost of holding reserves. The cost of holding reserves is the investment that nations must forego in order to accumulate reserves. In contrast, the supporters of reserves holding argue that the cost of reserves holding is small compared to the economic consequences of exchange rate variations. For instance, a depreciation in the value of the currency, caused by either financial crises or others internal or external shocks, may raise a country’s costs of paying back debt denominated in foreign currency as well as its costs of imported items. Besides, it also creates high inflation expectations.