Exchange rate volatility

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Chapter 1: Introduction

The relationship between exchange rate volatility and trade flows has been extensively reviewed in literature. Exchange rate volatility refers to the extent to which prices of currencies tend to fluctuate over time. Theoretical literature has provided diverging views on the effect on exchange rate volatility on trade flows.

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Some authors argue that an increase in exchange rate volatility implies that risk averse firms are faced with uncertainty with respect to their earnings and hence would generally respond by redirecting their activity to local markets. On the other hand, other researchers pointed out that when the assumption of risk aversion is lifted, it can be argued that market participants are more likely to take advantage of the fluctuations in the exchange rate so as to increase their profits which will cause an increase in international trade. The various empirical studies carried out on this topic have not been able to establish a clear link between exchange rate volatility and trade. Therefore from both theoretical and empirical point of view, the relationship between exchange rate and volatility is ambiguous. Mauritius is often cited as an example of a country which has undergone successful trade liberalization and export-led growth. It is also said that trade policies has shaped the country’s path of industrial development, contributing to over two decades of steady growth and propelling the country in the ranks of the “newly industrialized economies”. However since the 1960s, the Mauritius has experienced much changes and reforms in its trade policy. Early trade policies adopted by Mauritius involved an import substitution strategy while at the same time providing incentives for export promotion. However as from the 1980s, Mauritius moved towards a more outward-oriented strategy and embarked on trade liberalisation. Imports restrictions and tariffs were reduced while economic stability was maintained. By the mid-1990s, Mauritius had one of the most liberal economic regimes in Africa. Incentives for export promotion like tax incentives, preferential rates of borrowing and so on were maintained. One of the key factors of exports competitiveness is the level of exchange rate in Mauritius which had to be kept low. In addition the exchange rate regime itself in Mauritius has been deregulated over the years in a set of financial liberalisation measures. The exchange rate regime in Mauritius has also evolved from a fixed exchange rate system to a manage float one. In the 1970s, Mauritius adopted a pegged exchange rate system where the rupee was first pegged to the sterling. The rupee started floating vis-à-vis other foreign currencies in June 1972 while still being pegged to the sterling. However as from 1976, the Mauritian rupee was delinked from the sterling and was pegged to the SDR. The rupee-SDR peg lasted for seven years and as from 1983 Mauritius pegged its currency to a trade-weighted basket of currencies.

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