Central Bank of Argentina
|Central Bank of the
Banco Central de la
|Established||28 May 1935|
|Ownership||Government of Argentina|
|President||Juan Carlos Fábrega|
|Central bank of||Argentina|
|ISO 4217 Code||$|
Established by six Acts of Congress enacted on May 28, 1935, the bank replaced Argentina's Currency board, which had been in operation since 1899. Its first president was Ernesto Bosch, who served in that capacity from 1935 to 1945.
The Central Bank's headquarters on San Martín Street (in the heart of Buenos Aires' financial district, known locally as the city), was originally designed in 1872 by architects Henry Hunt and Hans Schroeder. Completed in 1876, the Italian Renaissance-inspired building initially housed the Mortgage Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires. The Central Bank's offices were transferred to an adjacent address upon its establishment, and were expanded to their present size by the purchase of the Mortgage Bank building in 1940, as well as by the construction of a twin building behind it.
Drawing from a 1933 study on Argentine finance by Bank of England director Sir Otto Niemeyer, the institution's charter was drafted by Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch; Prebisch would serve as general manager until 1943. The Central Bank was a private entity during its first decade, and British Empire interests held a majority stake; the president of the Central Bank was appointed by the president of Argentina, but 11 of its 12 directors were private bank CEOs. Pursuant to the Roca–Runciman Treaty of 1933, Central Bank reserves accrued from Argentine trade surpluses with the United Kingdom were deposited in escrow at the Bank of England, and this clause, which had led to over US$1 billion in inaccessible reserves (more than half the total) by 1945, prompted the BCRA's nationalization by order of Juan Perón on March 24, 1946.
Normally subordinate to the Economy Ministry in matters of policy, the Central Bank took a more prominent role during the Latin American debt crisis when, in April 1980, it enacted Circular 1050. This measure, enacted to shield the financial sector from the cost of receiving payments in suddenly devalued pesos, bankrupted thousands of homeowners and businesses by indexing mortgages to the value of the US dollar locally, which rose around fifteenfold by July 1982, when Central Bank President Domingo Cavallo rescinded the policy. During the years of Cavallo's Convertibility Law, which established a 1:1 fixed exchange rate between the Argentine peso and the United States dollar on April 1, 1991, the BCRA was mainly in charge of keeping foreign currency reserves in synch with the monetary base.
Since the repeal of the Convertibility Law in January 2002, the devaluation and depreciation of the peso and the end of the economic crisis, its role has been the accumulation of reserves in order to gain a measure of control of the exchange rate. The BCRA buys dollars from the market to neutralize the large surplus of the foreign trade balance and keep the official exchange rate at internationally competitive levels for Argentine exports and import substitution.
Near the end of 2005, President Néstor Kirchner announced the payment of Argentina's public debt with the International Monetary Fund in a single, anticipated disbursement. The payment was effected on January 3, 2006, employing about US$9.8 billion from BCRA reserves. This decreased the amount of reserves by one third, but did not cause adverse monetary effects, save from an increased reliance on the local bond market, which requires somewhat higher interest rates.
The BCRA continues to intervene in the exchange market, usually buying dollars, though occasionally selling small amounts (for example, reacting to rumors of a possible increase of the Federal Reserve's reference rate, which caused a minor spike in the dollar's value). Its reserves reached US$28 billion in September 2006, recovering the levels prior to the IMF payment, and rose to US$32 billion at the close of the year. The exchange rate was maintained relatively undervalued, prompted by the BCRA's market intervention as a buyer.
In its October 2006 issue, the influential Global Finance magazine gave Martín Redrado, President of the Central Bank, a D grade in its survey of global central bankers. The magazine held that Redrado "missed the opportunity to act to curb inflation when the economy was expanding at its fastest ... with inflation expected to reach 12% in 2006, up from 7.7% in 2005 and 4.4% in 2004." Inflation for 2006 eventually amounted to 9.8%, helped by price controls, though the public's perception of it was higher due to the composition of the sample used to measure the index. The BCRA obtained exceptionally high returns on investment funded by its reserves, for a total of US$ 1.4 billion USD (a yearly rate of 5.7%) in 2006.
Since early 2008, the Central Bank of Argentina has held foreign exchange reserves of between US$47 and US$50 billion. The official exchange rate, which had oscillated around 3 Argentine pesos per US dollar since early 2003, was adversely impacted by the international, 2008 financial crisis, and weakened to nearly 4 pesos per dollar by the first half of 2010.
Fallout from the 2008 financial crisis later forced the left-wing Argentine government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to seek domestic financing for growing public spending, as well as for foreign debt service obligations; her administration, like many of her predecessors, has used the nominally independent Central Bank to prop up government finances and to support political goals. The president ordered a US$6.7 billion account opened at the Central Bank for the latter purpose in December 2009, implying the use of the Central Bank's foreign exchange reserves, and drawing direct opposition from Redrado. He was dismissed by presidential decree on January 7, 2010, prior to which Economy Minister Amado Boudou had announced that Mario Blejer (who had expressed support for the measure) would be appointed in his stead. Following an impasse, Redrado was ultimately replaced by Mercedes Marcó del Pont, President of the Bank of the Argentine Nation, on February 3.
Redrado's removal triggered a vocal rebuke from opposition figures in Congress, who, citing the need to preserve the Central Bank's nominal autarky, expressed doubts as to the decree's legality. A court injunction blocked Kirchner's planned use of reserves for the retirement of high-interest bonds, a move that could have provided numerous vulture funds (holdouts from the 2005 debt restructuring who had resorted to the courts in a bid for higher returns on their defaulted bonds) a legal argument against the central bank's autarky, and thus make judgement liens against the central bank's overseas accounts possible.
The BCRA acquired a greater role as a commercial lender subsequently. The Bicentennial Fund, established in January 2010 as the vehicle for the controversial refinancing plan that led to Redrado's removal, financed fixed investment projects totaling US$2.4 billion in its first two years; a change proposed by President Fernández de Kirchner to the bank's governing statutes would allow it to function as a commercial lender outright.
On 22 March 2012, the Argentine Senate approved a reform of the Central Bank charter, effectively allowing the government unlimited access to bank reserves. Under the new regime the government will be free to pay public debt using the Central Bank's reserves, estimated to be around US$47bn. The bank will also be able to expand its lending capacity to the Treasury, effectively giving a boost to the government's finances. 
As of 30 November 2013, its international reserves are estimated to be around US$31bn.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Central Bank of Argentina.|
- "El BCRA y su historia". Banco Central de la República Argentina.
- Lewis, Paul. The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism. University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
- Hadida, Ernesto. Una pesada herencia. Terra, 2001.
- Levy, Rafael. "Acerca del pago al FMI".
- "Pago al FMI: cambios después de la sorpresa". Clarín.
- La Nación, 17 June 2006. La Nación: Las reservas llegan a US$ 25.000 millones (Spanish)
- La Nación, 27 September 2006. El Central recuperó las reservas del pago al Fondo Monetario.
- La Nación, 5 January 2007. La gente percibe mayor inflación.
- La Nación, 7 January 2007. El BCRA obtuvo un rendimiento récord de las reservas internacionales.
- Official website BCRA.
- "Argentina’s economy: Piggy bank". The Economist. 31 March 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- Clarín (1/7/2010) (Spanish)
- Télam (Spanish)
- Redrado volvió al Banco Central luego de que la Justicia lo restituyera
- Clarín: Embargaron fondos del Central en EE.UU. (Spanish)
- "Reforma del Central: El capital de los bancos debe financiar la economía real". Info News.
- (Spanish) (English) Central Bank of Argentina official site