The New Inflation Threat


By Paul Nathan

Aug 31 2009 11:00AM


Late on a Friday in August, when most people around the world were not looking, the international monetary system, in an unprecedented move, evolved. We were notified by the IMF of the following:

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The International Monetary Fund said it today pumped about $250 billion into foreign-exchange reserves worldwide, acting on an April call from leaders of the Group of 20 nations to boost global liquidity.

Countries will be able to convert the money, to come from so-called Special Drawing Rights, into hard currencies through “voluntary trading arrangements” with other members, the IMF said on its Web site today. The SDRs are the institution’s unit of account based on a basket of currencies.

The allocation, approved by the IMF’s board of governors earlier this month, will not increase the fund’s pool of money available for lending, the IMF said. “It will, however, provide members with an additional method to obtain hard currencies.”

Another smaller reserves allocation of about $33 billion will take place Sept. 9 and will be limited to members that joined the lender after 1981, such as countries from the former Soviet bloc, the IMF said.

About $110 billion of the total allocation will go to emerging-market and developing countries and $20 billion to low- income nations.

“A number of members with sufficiently strong external positions” have already said they are ready to set up or expand existing arrangements enabling the sale or purchase of SDR's, the IMF said. The lender typically acts as a broker and arranges transactions between parties at no cost.  (End News Release)

What this means is that for the first time in history we have a world central bank capable of creating money out of thin air. No longer does the IMF need to borrow money with a vote of all members plus the consent of the US congress. It can simply create whatever amount of money it needs through the creation of SDRs. Not for itself, mind you, but for the world. The SDR has been around since 1967, but never as a convertible asset. That changed Friday, August 28th, 2009.  The SDR has quietly mutated.

The decision was made August 7th, in an IMF vote. According to the IMF "global reserves will increase from just USD33bn to USD283bn or about 4% of global reserves excluding gold. In addition, the IMF will start issuing SDR notes later this year (China, Brazil and Russia will be the main buyers). These SDR notes can be counted as part of currency reserves and hence SDR assets could reach 5% of total reserve assets later in 2009 and possibly surpass GBP, JPY and CHF in importance as reserve assets."  This is a foot in the door. 

The prospect of this happening was covered in my article, The Making Of An International Monetary Crisis:

"The spectacle of billions of inconvertible dollars frozen in the vaults of central banks has brought on cries of condemnation over the dollar’s credibility as a reserve currency. The Policy Maker’s theory of a stable yet artificially ever-expanding reserve currency has failed.

The "solution" to the problem (if the Policy Maker remains consistent) will be to evolve the international monetary system from a system in which an ever-expanding reserve currency provided the world with credit and liquidity, to a system in which an ever-expanding reserve "asset" will fill that role. Like the dollar, this reserve "asset" will amount to circulating debt, i.e. something owed rather than something owned. It will be a non-market instrument, deriving its acceptability from government cooperation and decree, "immune from the laws of the free market and outside the reach of greedy speculators."

Where will this "asset" come from? Under the Bretton Woods system, dollar reserves were furnished by the U.S. central bank. Both the bank and the "asset" failed to provide sufficient stability. The next step is to create a world bank (a larger bank of last resort) controlled by an international organization (the IMF) with the power to create a new "asset," independent of any single government’s monetary policy.

As a supplement to gold and like the dollar before it, this "asset" should be a credit instrument. Unlike the dollar, it would have the backing of an entire world of central banks. The "asset" should be ever-expanding and should provide both liquidity and stability." That asset is the SDR and the potential became a reality this weekend. (For a further discussion of creating international reserves and the SDR, see my articles The Making Of An International Monetary Crisis and Bretton Woods 1944-1971, under "Other articles" by Paul Nathan).

As of this weekend, the world is 250 billion dollars "richer". No products were produced. No taxes were raised.  Not even one cent was borrowed. The IMF simply created a bookkeeping entry on behalf of those countries it felt worthy of receiving additional reserves. The reserves, SDRs, are a claim to "hard currency". The hard currency will be provided by those with "sufficiently strong external positions”, in other words, surplus nations. 

There is no reason for surplus nations to part with hard currency, save two, that I can think of: Altruism or Power. And in my opinion they are having a go at the latter. My read on this is that the surplus nations have just made an end run around the United States and the US Congress who have veto power over IMF decisions. Surplus nations can now provide “voluntary trading arrangements” with non-surplus (importing) nations with the IMF as "broker". This sounds like a mechanism for the surplus nations to provide buying power to importing nations at the expense of us all. 

The ability to inflate has now been augmented. It has transcended national boundaries from national central banks to a world central bank. This "new" bank now has the power to create money. Inflation is no longer limited to one currency but will affect all paper currencies in the world. We now have the prospect of a synchronized international inflation. It's not enough that citizens throughout the world had to keep a keen eye on their nations central bank, now we all need to keep an eye on the IMF.

The "IMF's Board Of Governors", a group never elected to office, unknown to most, and accountable to no one, has now gained the power to create new claims on production without legal limits or oversight from any regulatory body. All it need do is vote for more SDRs.

Given the "announcement in the dead of night" tactics just employed, I suggest we all sharpen our eyesight. This development doesn't change the inflation outlook for the next month or even for the next year. But make no mistake -- the "powers that be" just took the fiat system and the inflation threat to a new level.

Paul Nathan
August 31, 2009


Paul Nathan has specialized in gold and gold stocks and has written extensively on monetary and economic matters since 1968. He also writes a weekly blog and can be contacted at

© 2009 Paul Nathan All Rights Reserved