Essays in International Macroeconomics

Samer Fathi Shousha

Essays in International Macroeconomics
Shousha, Samer Fathi
Thesis Advisor(s):
Uribe, Martin
Ph.D., Columbia University
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This dissertation combines theoretical modeling and empirical analysis in macroeconomics, with a focus on open economies. It contains three chapters that study macroeconomic dynamics in the presence of credit frictions and the scope for stabilization policies in this context. Chapter 1, "Macroeconomic Effects of Commodity Booms and Busts: The Role of Financial Frictions", studies the real effects of commodity price shocks in small open commodity exporters; and the role of financial frictions in the transmission of these shocks to economic activity. I begin by estimating a panel VAR system for two groups of countries heavily exposed to commodity goods exports, one containing only advanced small open economies, and the other only emerging small open economies. I show that commodity price shocks are important sources of business cycle fluctuations, and have stronger effects on real activity, credit, and country interest rate in emerging countries. Motivated by these results, I construct a multi-sector open economy model with a banking sector to gauge the importance of different financial frictions in the transmission of commodity price shocks. I find that the main transmission channel is the interaction between the differences in working capital constraints at the firm level and the effect of commodity prices on the country interest rate. Moreover, I show that the financial accelerator and balance sheet mismatches in the banking sector don't have a relevant quantitative amplification effect. Chapter 2, "International Reserves, Credit Constraints, and Systemic Sudden Stops", analyzes the puzzling fact that emerging markets hold very high levels of international reserves and foreign liabilities simultaneously. Moreover, these holdings are positively correlated, which leads to an income loss that might reach 2% of GDP per year. To address this issue, I propose a new motive for international reserves accumulation, namely its role as implicit collateral for external borrowing. In this context, I evaluate whether the role of international reserves as collateral can explain the high levels of international reserves that we see in practice and find that the optimal level is close to the average reserves-to-GDP ratio in Latin American countries. Additionally, the optimal behavior during crises implies an increase of reserve holdings before a Sudden Stop and a small reduction during it, which is coherent with what was observed in the recent Global Financial Crisis. Finally, an alternative policy of keeping reserves at a constant level equal to its average value all the time yields very similar result to the optimal policy during sudden stops, highlighting the stabilizing role of reserves even if Central Banks don't use them at all. Chapter 3, "The Real Consequences of Countercyclical Capital Controls'', coauthored with Savitar Sundaresan, analyzes the effects of capital controls on real activity in Brazil, the most preeminent case of controls being imposed countercyclically. We find that capital controls have a significant negative impact on investment. The macro analysis uses a synthetic control method and finds that investment could have been approximately 20% higher if controls had not been put in place. The micro analysis uses a panel data approach and finds that the controls reduced the investment to assets ratio by as much as 40%, with some of its effects mitigated by the extension of subsidized credit by the government through the development bank. These results indicate that the renewed support for controls since the Great Financial Crisis should be more cautiously evaluated as it might harm the potential growth rate of Emerging Economies for a long-lasting period.
Financial crises
International economic relations
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Suggested Citation:
Samer Fathi Shousha, , Essays in International Macroeconomics, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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