The GCC Monetary Union: Choice of Exchange Rate Regime

Working Paper
April 2009

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Mohsin S. Khan

The creation of a monetary union has been the primary objective of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members since the early 1980s. Significant progress has already been made in regional economic integration: The GCC countries have largely unrestricted intraregional mobility of goods, labor, and capital; regulation of the banking sector is being harmonized; and in 2008 the countries established a common market. Further, most of the convergence criteria established for entry into a monetary union have already been achieved. In establishing a monetary union, however, the GCC countries must decide on the exchange rate regime for the single currency. The countries' use of a US dollar peg as an external anchor for monetary policy has so far served them well, but rising inflation and differing economic cycles from the United States in recent years have raised the question of whether the dollar peg remains the best policy.

Mohsin Khan considers the costs and benefits of alternative exchange rate regimes for the GCC. These include continued use of a dollar peg, a peg to a basket of currencies such as the SDR or simply the dollar and euro, a peg to the export price of oil, or a managed floating exchange rate. In light of the structural characteristics of the GCC countries, Khan considers the dollar peg the best option following the establishment of a GCC monetary union. The peg has proved credible and is easy to administer. If further international integration in trade, services, and asset markets makes a higher degree of exchange rate flexibility desirable in the future, implementing a basket peg could provide this flexibility. Regardless, the choice of exchange rate regime for the GCC countries need not be permanent: The countries could initially peg the single GCC currency to the US dollar and then move to a more flexible regime as their policy needs and institutions develop.