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Title: NBER Working Papers Series: Pillars of Financial Repression
Category: Economy
Date: 2013-04-15
Type: News Articles

(i) Explicit or indirect caps or ceilings on interest rates, particularly (but not exclusively) those on government debts. These interest rate ceilings could be effected through various means including: (a) explicit government regulation (for instance, Regulation Q in the United States prohibited banks from paying interest on demand deposits and capped interest rates on saving deposits). (b) In many cases ceilings on banks’ lending rates were a direct subsidy to the government in cases where the government borrowed directly from the banks (via loans rather than securitized debt); (c) the interest rate cap could be in the context of fixed coupon rate nonmarketable debt; (d) or it could be maintained through central bank interest rate targets (often at the directive of the Treasury or Ministry of Finance when central bank independence was limited or nonexistent). Metzler’s (2003) monumental history of the Federal Reserve (Volume I) documents the US experience in this regard; Cukierman’s (1992) classic on central bank independence provides a broader international context.

(ii) Creation and maintenance of a captive domestic audience that facilitated directed credit to the government. This was achieved through multiple layers of regulations from very blunt to more subtle measures. (a) Capital account restrictions and exchange controls orchestrated a “forced home bias” in the portfolio of financial institutions and individuals under the Bretton Woods arrangements. (b) High reserve requirements (usually non-remunerated) as a tax levy on banks (see Brock, 1989, for an insightful international comparison). (c) Among more subtle measures, “prudential” regulatory measures requiring that institutions (almost exclusively domestic ones) hold government debts in their portfolios (pension funds have historically been a primary target); and (d) transaction taxes on equities (see Campbell and Froot, 1994) also act to direct investors toward government (and other) types of debt instruments. (e) prohibitions on gold transactions.

(iii) Other common measures associated with financial repression aside from the ones discussed above are, direct ownership (China or India) of banks or extensive management of banks and other financial institutions (i.e. Japan). Restrictions of entry to the financial industry and directing credit to certain industries are also features of repressed financial markets (see Beim and Calomiris, 2000).

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