Balance of Payments

Balance of payment can be defined as systematic record of all economic transactions between the residence of one country and the residence of another country during a given period of time.Economic transactions can broadly be categorized in to four heads which are:

1. VISIBLE ITEMS : visible items include all those tangible goods which can be imported and exported. These are visible as they are made up of some matter or material. this is known as merchandise also.

2. INVISIBLE ITEMS: invisible items include all types of services like shipping,banking,tourist etc.

3. UNILATERAL TRANSFERS: These are those payments which are made without expecting anything in return of it like donations ,gifts etc.

4. CAPITAL TRANSFERS: Capital transfers are concerned with capital receipts and capital payments. It includes the transfer of assets.

1. CURRENT ACCOUNT: current account deals with the movement of exports and imports of goods and services. Merchandise may be private or government .It is the major item of the current account. Items of current account are as under:

A Exports and imports of visible items i.e. goods. It is also known as balance of trade.

B invisible items

C services

D unilateral transfers

E miscellaneous- commission, advertisement, royalties, patent fee etc.

Each one of these items has credit and debit depending on the principle of double entry book keeping.

2. CAPITAL ACCOUNT: deals with financial transactions between one country and rest of the world. These financial or capital transactions can be private ,government or institutional. It can be classified as short term and long term capital movements. These capital movements are of two types:

1. Autonomous capital : refers to those capital flows which take place because of economic considerations such as earning of interest income, dividends and other income by foreign investment etc. e.g. if MNCs are making investment in India ,this is done with the objective of earning income.

2. Accommodating capital : It takes place to bring the BOP in equilibrium.e.g. if there is current account deficit in BOP. This deficit is settled by capital inflows from abroad either by borrowing from abroad or by running down cash balances by the government.

Main Components of Captial Account :

1. FOREIGN INVESTMENT : It has two sub parts (a) Foreign direct investment : it refers to the investment undertaken in the firms belonging to other countries by acquiring control over them. e.g. purchase of a firm by reliance in a foreign country.

(b) Portfolio investment : It refers to the form of investment under which companies and residents of a country purchase shares of foreign companies or buy bonds issued by foreign governments.e.g. purchase of shares of a company by reliance in foreign country.

2. LOANS :

(a) Commercial borrowing

(b) Borrowing as external assistance

(c) Banking capital transactions

When there is either deficit or surplus balance of payment it is said to be in disequilibrium.When a country is incurring more payments from abroad than it has to make then it is considered favourable balance of payment which is in surplus. Contrary to it if a coubtry makes more payments abroad than what it receives then BOP is said to be unfavourable because it is in deficit.The main causes of adverse BOP are:

1. Fall in export demand: When demand for the country’s goods fall in the foreign market

Due to changes in the taste and preferences of the consumers export decreases and the BOP will be unfavourable.However the deficit in BOP due to fall in export demand is more inclined in underdeveloped countries than advance countries.

 2. Growth of population : In underdeveloped countries aggregate consumption demand rises due to rapid growth of population consequently imports of goods increases and the export decreases.This creates the deficit in the balance of payment of less developed countries.

3. Inflation: Increase in prices due to higher wages and higher prices of raw materials etc.makes export costlier.The export in this case decreases and at the same time demand for imports increases .This results in deficit BOP.

4. Huge international borrowings : Acountry may tend to have an adverse BOP when it borrows heavily from other country while the lending country will tend to have a favourable BOP.

5. Development programmes :The other reason for adverse BOP in developing countries is a large investment in development schemes. These development schemes require import of huge quantity of capital goods ,technical knowledge and essential raw materials. This increases imports which makes BOP unfavourable.

6. Change in foreign exchange rates : When external value of the domestic currency goes up imports become cheaper and exports costlier.Thus imports encouraged and exports discouraged leading to disequilibrium of BOP.

7. Demonstration effect : It is another most important factor causing deficit in BOP of a country especially of an underdeveloped country. When people of underdeveloped countries come into the contact with those of advanced countries they start adopting western style and pattern of consumption. Due to this reason their import increases and it leads to adverse BOP.

There are several methods to correct BOP disequilibrium. The methods can be classified in to two groups:

1. Monetary methods : Monetary methods of correction effect the BOP by changing the value or flow of currencies both domestic and foreign. Following are the monetary methods:

    (a) Deflation : Deflation means a reduction in the quantity of money so as to bring about a fall in the prices and the money income of the people .Falling prices encourage exports and discourage imports .Hence deflationary policy restores equilibrium in BOP.

Deflation is not considered as a suitable method of correcting adverse BOP because it reduces income and causes unemployment in the country

    (b) Devaluation: It means decreasing the value of domestic currency in respect of a foreign currency. Devaluation is done by the government of the country which has unfavourable BOP. It is done deliberately to get its advantages . The government officially declares devaluation indicating the extent of decrease in the value of currency. specific currency will be determined with which it is devalued. Devaluation is irreversible. The country can not change the value of currency frequently.

With a decrease in the value of its currency the country has to pay more in exchange for a foreign currency. In this case the export becomes cheaper at the same time import becomes expensive. With this export increases and import decreases. However the success of devaluation depends on the following:

(i) The elasticity of demand for the country’s export should be high.
(ii) The elasticity of demand for country’s import should be fairly elastic

Devaluation as a method of correcting adverse BOP suffers from the following defects:

(i) It reduces the public confidence in country’s currency as it is an indicator of country’s weakness.

(ii) It increases the burden of public debt

(iii) It encourages inflationary tendencies in the home country.

    (c) Exchange Depreciation : Depreciation refers to decline in the rate of exchange of one currency in terms of other currency. It is similar to devaluation but not done by the government. It is done in the exchange market with the help of demand and supply of the currency. It takes place in a flexible exchange rate system.It is automatic and can correct the adverse BOP of the country.But method of exchange depreciation suffers from following defects:

(i) It is not suitable for a country which has adopted a fixed exchange rate system

(ii) It makes international trade riskyand thus reduces the volume of trade.

(iii) The terms of trade go against the country whose currency depreciates

(iv) Depreciation may generate inflationary pressure by making the commodity more expensive.

    (d) exchange control : It is the most widely used method for correcting adverse BOP. It refers to the control by the central bank over the use of foreign exchange. In this method all the exporters are directed by the Central bank to surrender the foreign exchange earnings and it is rationed out among the licensed importers, It means only license holders can import goods.

  Exchange control, does not remove the process of adverse BOP, It simply does not allow the situation to worsen. Hence it is not considered a proper method to correct adverse BOP.

    (e) Capital movement: In flow of capital from the individuals and government of other countries as well as borrowings from international financial institutions like World bank,IMF etc. can be used to correct the deficit in BOP.

    (f) Pegging operation: Pegging down the value. The central bank depending on the need may artificially increase or decrease the value of currency temporarily. Pegging operation can be done any no. of times. It is reversible. It offers the flexibility to the government to manage the currency of value for its advantage.

2. Non monetary measures : Non monetary measures deal with the real sector for correcting disequilibrium in BOP. Following are the important non monetary measures:

    (a) Export promotion : To control adverse BOP the country may adopt export promotion measures which are as follows:

(i) Cash assistance and subsidies can be given to exporters to increase export

(ii) Export duties may be reduced to encourage exports.

(iii) Goods meant for exports can be exempted from all types of taxes

(iv) Export oriented industries can be encouraged by providing better infrastructure, better raw material, making favourable loan facilities etc.

    (b) Import substitutes : The economy can develop technology of import substitution. Industries producing import substitutes can be encouraged by capital goods ,better technology etc. Policy of import substitution can help the country to become self reliant.

    (c) Import licensing : The government can have strong control over the exports by having strict rules and regulations for providing licenses to importers

    (d) Import quotas : Fixing import quotas may be a better device for correcting the adverse BOP as they have the immediate effect of restricting imports .Import quotas are important non tariff barriers. They are positive restrictions on incoming of goods.

    (e) Tariff : It is a tax duty imposed on imports .The objective is to make imports expensive .It reduces the demand for imports and the deficit in BOP gets corrected.

    (f) Monetary policy: The central bank can reduce the volume of credit by raising the bank rate, by selling securities in open market and by increasing cash reserve ratio. This will make borrowing from commercial banks costlier .It will lead to fall in investment and hence fall in income and employment and output. Any such decrease in income decreases the demand for imports and disequilibrium in BOP can be corrected.

    (g) Fiscal policy: A restricted fiscal policy can also be used to wipe out BOP deficit by reducing the total expenditure in the economy and increase in direct taxes will reduce the disposable income and hence there will be reduction in demand for imports. The decrease in government expenditure will also have the same effect on decreasing the demand for imported goods.

Every country has to use the combination of monetary and non monetary methods to correct BOP disequilibrium and also prevent retaliation from any developed country.


In accounting sense BOP of a country is always in equilibrium. It is because of the reason BOP is prepared in terms of credits and debits based on the system of double entry book keeping. Under this system each transaction gives rise to two equal entries. One credit entry and one debit entry. Thus total debits and total credits must be equal. Similarly an international transaction generates two equal entries and sum of all international receipts are equal to sum of international payments. Surplus on current account can lead to the grant of loans to other countries by the government or it can lead to increase in the country’s foreign exchange reserve. Contrary to it a deficit on current account can be met by borrowing from abroad or by running down country’s foreign exchange reserves. Thus the two sides are necessarily balanced.

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