International capital flows have challenged economists’ models for decades. They exhibit a number of patterns that standard economic theories have struggled to explain. Over time, global capital flows go through boom and bust cycles, sudden stops, and unprecedented bonanzas. Determinants of capital flows include “pull factors,” recipient countries’ economic and structural characteristics, and “push factors” or “global factors,” which mostly depend on the global financial cycle and U.S. monetary policy. The relative importance of global factors has increased since the early 2000s. The rise in international capital flows that has accompanied the wave of globalization in the early 21st century has helped to deliver crucial capital resources that facilitated development of many economies and helped transmit technologies across borders. On the flip side, international capital flows also increased transmission of financial shocks and policy changes across countries, most prominently experienced during the global financial crisis of 2008–2009. On balance, is it beneficial for small open economies to allow for free capital flows? Mainstream economists’ and policymakers’ answer to this question has evolved from an unequivocal “yes” to a much more nuanced view.
Yanshuo Chen and Galina Hale
Alessandro Rebucci and Chang Ma
This paper reviews selected post–Global Financial Crisis theoretical and empirical contributions on capital controls and identifies three theoretical motives for the use of capital controls: pecuniary externalities in models of financial crises, aggregate demand externalities in New Keynesian models of the business cycle, and terms of trade manipulation in open-economy models with pricing power. Pecuniary and demand externalities offer the most compelling case for the adoption of capital controls, but macroprudential policy can also address the same distortions. So capital controls generally are not the only instrument that can do the job. If evaluated through the lenses of the new theories, the empirical evidence reviewed suggests that capital controls can have the intended effects, even though the extant literature is inconclusive as to whether the effects documented amount to a net gain or loss in welfare terms. Terms of trade manipulation also provides a clear-cut theoretical case for the use of capital controls, but this motive is less compelling because of the spillover and coordination issues inherent in the use of control on capital flows for this purpose. Perhaps not surprisingly, only a handful of countries have used capital controls in a countercyclical manner, while many adopted macroprudential policies. This suggests that capital control policy might entail additional costs other than increased financing costs, such as signaling the bad quality of future policies, leakages, and spillovers.