Discussion paper

DP161 Smugglers' Blues at the Central Bank: Lessons from Sudan

The ineffectiveness of real devaluation as a stabilization policy does not imply that the nominal exchange rate should be held constant in the face of a domestic inflation. In this circumstance, import duties and export subsidies would have to be escalated to counter the potential erosion of the trade balance. Such an escalation of trade barriers, however, generates a rising black market premium and increases the incentive to smuggle, already a pervasive problem in the African countries. As a consequence, the central bank would find it more and more difficult to hold the nominal exchange rate constant. This leads us to consider a passive exchange rate policy of stabilizing the real exchange rate by moving the nominal rate in line with domestic inflation. Unless such a passive policy is accompanied by the elimination of trade barriers, however, the black market premium will not disappear. Unless exchange rate policy and trade policy are consistent with each other, the smuggler's blues will reach the central bank. Indeed, this is not just a theoretical possibility. It is the major lesson to be drawn from the recent experience of Sudan.


Branson, W and J Braga de Macedo (1987), ‘DP161 Smugglers' Blues at the Central Bank: Lessons from Sudan‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 161. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp161