Development Knowledge and Learning

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The Development Knowledge and Learning series is geared toward making specialized World Bank knowledge rapidly available to policy makers and the development community. Studies in the series comprise the knowledge outputs of the Bank's operational work, tend to be focused on narrowly defined topics, and can include works in progress that are disseminated for discussion purposes.

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    Central Bank Reserve Management Practices: Insights into Public Asset Management from the Second RAMP Survey
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-04-27) World Bank
    In the summer of 2019, the World Bank Treasury’s Reserve Advisory and Management Partnership (RAMP) conducted its second survey on central banks’ reserve management practices, with a particular focus on governance, accounting, and other operational practices. Understanding these practices is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 crisis, as central banks use their foreign currency reserves to help their countries deal with capital outflows and sharp decreases in exports, tourism, and remittances. On governance, the survey finds that the most common practice is that boards set the investment policy and guidelines, investment committees review the proposals to the board and monitor implementation, and operational units make day-to-day decisions and develop proposals for the board. Central banks have different organizational arrangements for their operational units. The survey results also show that most central banks are well-positioned to provide foreign currency liquidity during the coronavirus pandemic, as they continue to invest their reserves in high-quality fixed-income assets. At the same time, the gradual diversification to nontraditional asset classes continues. The allocation to emerging market bonds, corporate bonds, and mortgage-backed securities of central banks reserves increased slightly since the previous survey. The data show considerable cross-country differences in the way central banks manage their reserves, and in some circumstances, the analysis suggests these differences correlate with respondents’ country income groups and levels of reserve adequacy. Regarding accounting practices, two-thirds of central banks report some degree of implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The survey also reveals multiple practices to distribute central bank net income to governments. However, data suggest that the transfers of profits between central banks and ministries of finance are not symmetrical—central banks are more likely to distribute profits than to receive financial support in case of losses.
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    Inaugural RAMP Survey on the Reserve Management Practices of Central Banks: Results and Observations
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-04-15) World Bank
    In the spring of 2018, the World Bank Treasury's Reserves Advisory and Management Program (RAMP) concluded its inaugural survey on central banks' reserve management practices. RAMP sought to assess whether there had been a significant evolution in this activity over the past two decades given: 1. The substantial increase in global foreign exchange reserves over that time period; and 2. The extraordinary policy responses to the unprecedented macroeconomic and investment environment during and after the global financial crisis. The survey results show that most central banks continue to employ a traditional approach: their reserve holdings are concentrated in high-quality fixed-income assets, and the minimum credit rating for their investments remains conservative. At the same time, the data suggest important changes are under way as a material number of central banks reported more diversified portfolios with exposure to nontraditional asset classes: a third of respondents hold corporate credit, most of which are investment grade, and almost one in five own mortgage-backed securities or equities, although mostly in limited allocations. Our analysis of this information did not find a relationship between respondents' measures of reserve adequacy and the size of their exposure to nontraditional asset classes. The data do show considerable cross-country differences in the way central banks manage their reserves and, in some circumstances, our analysis suggests these differences correlate with respondents' country income groups.