He was making a point about the 2008 bailouts. The Federal Reserve played a leading role, applying trillions in paper-clip and rubber-band solutions. The Fed’s balance sheet swelled from $900 billion in September 2008 to $4.4 trillion as we go to press.
Luckily for you, our friend Jim Rickards is just as good at elucidating the muddled world of finance as the government is at obscuring them.
Boiled down to its essence, the SDR is a kind of super money printed by the IMF…
“Since Federal Reserve resources were barely able to prevent complete collapse in 2008,” Jim writes in his recent New York Times best-seller, The Death of Money, “it should be expected that an even larger collapse will overwhelm the Fed’s balance sheet.”
Simply put, next time, printing another $3 trillion-plus won’t be politically feasible. “The specter of the sovereign debt crisis suggests the urgency for new liquidity sources, bigger than those that central banks can provide, the next time a liquidity crisis strikes. The logic leads quickly from one world to one bank to one currency for the planet.”
Leading the way, says Rickards, will be the International Monetary Fund. “The task of re-liquefying the world will fall to the IMF because the IMF will have the only clean balance sheet left among official institutions. The IMF will rise to the occasion with a towering issuance of SDRs, and this monetary operation will effectively end the dollar’s role as the leading reserve currency.”
Ah… the SDR. That’s shorthand for “special drawing rights.”
The name is cryptic. The mechanism will prove far more inscrutable than the Fed’s alphabet-soup bailout programs in 2008. But the objective will be the same… to print money in the interest of keeping a rotten system functioning.
Boiled down to its essence, the SDR is a kind of super money printed by the IMF and then circulated among central banks and governments. Indeed, the IMF has issued SDRs three times since their creation more than 40 years ago. Each time was linked to a crisis of confidence in the U.S. dollar…
1969: The French and others recognized the United States was printing too many dollars. At the time, foreigners could still exchange dollars for gold, and there was a run on Fort Knox. The IMF created the SDR to smooth the rough monetary seas, issuing 9.3 billion SDRs through 1972.
1979: U.S. inflation soared out of control, past 14%. Oil-producing countries fretted the value of their dollar reserves was plunging. The IMF issued 12.1 billion SDRs through 1981.
2009: In response to the Panic of 2008, the IMF issued 182.7 billion SDRs during August and September.
A 42-page IMF paper published in January 2011 with the innocuous-sounding title “Enhancing International Monetary Stability — A Role for the SDR?” — lays out what Rickards describes. “A multiyear, multistep plan to position the SDR as the leading global reserve asset. The study recommends increasing the SDR supply to make them liquid and more attractive to potential private-sector market participants such as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup… The IMF study recommends that the SDR bond market replicate the infrastructure of the U.S. Treasury market, with hedging, financing, settlement and clearance mechanisms substantially similar to those used to support trading in Treasury securities today.”
Not that you’d use it to buy a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread. “SDRs will perhaps never be issued in bank note form and may never be used on an everyday basis by citizens around the world. But even such limited usage does not alter the fact that the SDR is world money controlled by elites.”
In fact, it enhances that role by making the SDR invisible to citizens. “The SDR can be issued in abundance to IMF members and can also be used in the future for a select list of the most important transactions in the world, including balance-of-payments settlements, oil pricing and the financial accounts of the world’s largest corporations, such as Exxon Mobil, Toyota and Royal Dutch Shell.”
The genius of the scheme is that the SDRs would create inflation… but ordinary people wouldn’t know SDRs were causing it. “Any inflation caused by massive SDR issuance would not be immediately apparent to citizens. The inflation would show up eventually in dollars, yen and euros at the gas pump or the grocery, but national central banks could deny responsibility with ease and point a finger at the IMF.”
The most provocative proposition in Rickards’ book, however, isn’t hidden global inflation. It’s this: Before the SDR can assume its role as the new leading global asset, China must accumulate a much larger stash of gold. And the gold price is being manipulated for the express purpose of making sure China gets it relatively cheaply.
We’ve long chronicled China’s gold accumulation. When we interviewed Mr. Rickards last year, he explained the rationale: “They want to be in a position where they just raise their hand and say to the world, ‘Hey, we’ve got our gold, now we’re a player. Now when the international monetary system collapses and the world has to reconfigure the system, we get a big seat at the table.’”
In The Death of Money, Rickards goes a step further: He says Western powers are making room at the table for China — using the precise mechanism we described in our “Zero Hour” scenario. Western central banks have “leased” their gold to commercial banks, and those commercial banks have sold that gold to Asian buyers — including the Chinese central bank.
“The gold price must be kept low,” Rickards writes, “until gold holdings are rebalanced among the major economic powers, and the rebalancing must be completed before the collapse of the international monetary system.”
The metric the power brokers are using to judge when China is ready to take its seat at the table? Gold reserves as a percentage of GDP. Recall the Chinese central bank last disclosed its gold holdings in April 2009 — 1,054 tonnes. Conservative estimates put that figure today at 2,710 tonnes. And as you see from the before-and-after tables nearby, it won’t take much more before China’s gold-GDP ratio equals America’s.
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