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UN report calls for world to ditch dollar, migrate to new global currency

By Reuters
Thursday, July 1, 2010 22:14 EDT
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A new United Nations report released on Tuesday calls for abandoning the U.S. dollar as the main global reserve currency, saying it has been unable to safeguard value.

But several European officials attending a high-level meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Council countered by saying that the market, not politicians, would determine what currencies countries would keep on hand for reserves.

“The dollar has proved not to be a stable store of value, which is a requisite for a stable reserve currency,” the U.N. World Economic and Social Survey 2010 said.

The report says that developing countries have been hit by the U.S. dollar’s loss of value in recent years.

“Motivated in part by needs for self-insurance against volatility in commodity markets and capital flows, many developing countries accumulated vast amounts of such (U.S. dollar) reserves during the 2000s,” it said.

The report supports replacing the dollar with the International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights (SDRs), an international reserve asset that is used as a unit of payment on IMF loans and is made up of a basket of currencies.

“A new global reserve system could be created, one that no longer relies on the United States dollar as the single major reserve currency,” the U.N. report said.

The report said a new reserve system “must not be based on a single currency or even multiple national currencies but instead, should permit the emission of international liquidity — such as SDRs — to create a more stable global financial system.”

“Such emissions of international liquidity could also underpin the financing of investment in long-term sustainable development,” it said.

MARKETS DECIDE

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a Malaysian economist and the U.N. assistant secretary general for economic development, told a news conference that “there’s going to be resistance” to the idea.

“In the whole post-war period, we’ve essentially had a dollar-based system,” he said, adding that the gradual emission of SDRs could help countries phase out the dollar.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who previously chaired a U.N. expert commission that considered ways of overhauling the global financial system, has advocated the creation of a new reserve currency system, possibly based on SDRs.

Russia and China have also supported the idea.

But Paavo Vayrynen, Finland’s Foreign Trade and Development Minister, told reporters that he doubted it was possible “to make any political or administrative decisions how to formulate the currency system in the world.”

“It is based on the markets,” he said. “I believe that the economic players in the market are going to have the decisive influence on that issue.”

European Union development commissioner Andris Piebalgs said it would be a bad idea to dictate what the reserve currency should be.

“It is markets that decide,” he said. “Any intervention would just create additional challenges and make things even less predictable.”

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