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Document Type

Articles

Abstract

Monetization—also known as “money-financed fiscal programs” or “money-printing”—occurs when a government finances itself by issuing currency or other non-interest-bearing liabilities, such as bank reserves. It poses real risks—potentially excessive inflation and encroachment on central-bank independence—and some paint it as a relic of a bygone era. The onset of the COVID-19 crisis, however, forced governments to spend heavily to combat the considerable economic and public health impacts. As government deficits climbed, monetization re-entered the conversation as a way to avoid the massive debt burdens that some nations may face. This paper describes how monetization works, provides key historical examples, and examines recent central-bank measures. Based on our definition, much of what many are calling monetization today—in particular, central banks directly buying massive amounts of their own government’s bonds—is not necessarily monetization. To our knowledge, no central bank during the COVID-19 crisis took an action that meets our definition or explicitly stated that it was conducting monetization.

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