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What Does a Currency Devaluation Cost?

Currency Devaluation

What are the main causes of the devaluation of currency? Why might a country decide to devalue its money? Is it different from depreciation? Discover how devaluation could offer certain benefits for a country and some risks. What is the difference between devaluation and depreciation of currency?

The Difference Between Devaluation and Depreciation

Devaluation of currency lowers the value of a country's currency by decreasing the amount of currency in circulation. Decreasing the amount of currency in circulation makes each unit of currency worth more, which, in turn, increases the price of goods and services in the country.

In contrast, depreciation is a decrease in the value of a country's currency caused by a reduction in its money supply relative to its goods and services.

What Are the Advantages of Currency Devaluation?

There are several benefits to currency devaluation; some of them are:

  • Control inflation: The devaluation of currency will cause the prices of goods and services to rise, which means that the currency is worth more. This will help keep inflation in check.
  • Improve the economic outlook: A devaluation of the currency will make the country's exports more competitive, which will help increase the economic outlook.
  • Lower interest rates: A country might devalue their currency to attract international investors. Lower interest rates usually attract foreign investors, who will invest their money in the economy and increase the business trade.
  • Increase profits: A devaluation of currency will also make the export of goods cheaper, which means that companies will be able to export their products for a lower price and increase their profits.
  • The country's currency is not affected: When a country devalues their currency, it makes its foreign-exchange reserves cheaper, which can help solve the country's foreign debt problem.
  • Maintain the value of assets: A devaluation of currency will make assets cheaper, which, in turn, will help maintain the value of the assets. However, this method of solving economic problems can be risky for investors, as it can cause a contradiction in domestic prices, leading to massive losses for investors.

What Are the Disadvantages of Currency Devaluation?

There are many disadvantages to devaluing a country's currency. Some of the main adverse effects of devaluing a country's money include:

Currency devaluations can lead to trade deficits, importing more goods than exporting. This leads to a trade deficit that can become so bad that the country's economy would collapse.

If a country devalues its currency too much, it might experience capital flight. Investors decide to take their money and invest it in other countries.

Currency devaluation can become a way of life, which can become an easy way to solve economic problems. Still, it can also become a worse problem if the country can't control the devaluation of their money.

What Are the Risks Associated With Currency Devaluation?

If a country decides to devalue their currency and does not have the resources to stabilise their country's economy, there are some serious risks. Some of the risks include:

  • Famine: Countries can become dependent on outside aid to have enough food to feed their population.
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  • High inflation: Due to the increase in prices of goods and services, inflation will rise.
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  • Massive layoffs and unemployment: To make their products more competitive, companies are forced to lay off workers and reduce wages to stay profitable, which makes them more competitive.
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The best way to avoid these risks is to plan a currency devaluation and have an exit strategy carefully.

Inflation and Currency Devaluation

When a country decides to devalue their currency to make its goods and services cheaper, it can cause an increase in inflation. Inflation means that as the prices of goods and services rise, the value of a currency declines. The value of a currency is based on the goods and services that a country produces.

For example, if a country produces goods that are cheap to produce and expensive goods to produce, their currency will be valued based on the cheap goods to produce.

If a country can't produce goods cheap, it will have to find other ways to make its goods more competitive. If they decide to devalue their currency, they will make the goods that are expensive to produce cheaper.

For example, let's say there's a country that produces goods that are more expensive to produce and goods that are cheaper to produce. Their currency will be valued based on cheaper goods to produce. If a country decides to devalue their currency, this will make the goods that are expensive to produce cheaper.

Examples of Currency Devaluation

As you probably know, a devaluation of currency is not uncommon today. There have been many examples of currency devaluations in the past, and more are coming up in the future. Some of the countries that have devalued their currency include:

China: In the 1980s, the Chinese government decided to devalue the yuan and make their goods and services cheaper to compete with countries like Germany, Japan, and South Korea, which were making their products cheaper by devaluing their own currencies.

Turkey: In the 2000s, Turkey was facing serious economic problems. They could not control the inflation of their currency, which led the government to take over the media, suspend some of the freedoms of the citizens, and hold protests. The government decided to devalue the currency by making it cheaper by 30 percent to make their products more competitive.

South Africa: In the 1990s, South Africa had serious economic problems and was facing a serious budget deficit. The South African government decided to devalue their currency to make exports less expensive and more competitive on the global market to solve its budget deficit.

How to Devaluate a Currency

How a country decides to devalue its currency depends on its economic situation, goals, economic resources, and how it wants its currency to be valued. In addition, some countries choose to devalue their currency to make the goods and services in their country cheaper for their neighbors and the world at large.

Some countries tend to devalue their currencies on their own, while others may agree with other countries to cooperate on a devaluation of the currency.

All countries have the right to devalue their currency. However, countries are expected to agree with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Bank of Settlements, and the Group of Ten. These bodies must approve a country's decision to devalue its currency. Countries that devalue their currency without approval violate agreements made with the IMF.

How Do Countries Devalue Currencies?

There are several ways that countries devalue their currencies. Some of the methods include:

  • Buying up their own currency: A country can decide to buy up their own currency to increase its price and make their country's products cheaper on the global market.
  • Decreasing the interest rate: Lower interest rates make it more challenging to generate income from loans, which forces investors and businesses to look for other places to invest.
  • Decreasing the value of the currency: If a currency has a high value, it will be more expensive for countries to buy them. If a country wants to make its products cheaper, it can decrease the value of its currency to lower the price of its goods and services.
  • Making it more difficult for people to move money: Countries can make it more difficult for people to move money out of their country by imposing laws and restrictions on the movement of their currency. For example, governments can make it illegal to purchase foreign currency.
  • Make purchases and withdrawals more complicated: If a country wants to decrease or remove the value of its currency, it can make it harder for people to make purchases, or they can make it harder to transfer or move money out of their country.
  • Reduce profits on exports: To make their products more competitive on the global market, countries can reduce their profits on their exports by increasing the cost of exports, which makes their products more competitive.
  • Taxing currency exchanges: Another way for countries to devalue their currency is to tax currency exchanges. If a country wants to invest in their economy, it will also pay a tax.

Top 3 Reasons Countries Choose to Devaluate Their Currency

It may seem counterintuitive, but a strong currency is not necessarily in a nation's best interest. Exports are more competitive in global markets with a weak currency, and imports become more expensive. A weak currency makes exports more competitive and encourages economic growth. It also makes imports more expensive, enabling consumers to buy locally-made products.

The terms of trade improve, the current account deficit shrinks, employment increases and the economy grows faster. These stimulative monetary policies also positively impact the nation's capital and housing markets, which in turn boost domestic consumption through the wealth effect.

A country may undergo a period of devaluation if it suffers from stagflation due to its high-interest rates. A devaluation positively impacts government revenue and positively impacts a country's exports. Additionally, a devaluation will affect the price expectations of consumers and producers, leading to an alteration in the inflation rate. However, it is worth noting that a devaluation also has its drawbacks, not the least of which include sparking "competitive devaluations" in other countries.

Here are the three top reasons why a country would pursue a policy of devaluation:

To Boost Exports

A country may devalue its currency to boost exports. Exports are the main source of revenue for a country, especially if it doesn't charge tax on its imports.

However, if the country's currency is strong, it becomes more expensive to export products outside the country. With a weak currency, the country can undercut its competitors.

A devaluation may also lead to an increase in domestic demand for the country's products. A weak currency has two positive effects on the economy:

  • It makes imports more expensive and encourages locals to spend locally. This leads to more spending and economic growth.
  • It makes exports cheaper and encourages people from other countries to buy the country's products or services. This leads to an increase in revenue.

To Lower Sovereign Debt Burdens

Sovereign debts are debts that are issued and held by governments. These debts can be issued in foreign or domestic currencies.

If a country has a large debt and its currency is strong, it will be expensive to repay the debt. A country with a debt to GDP ratio greater than 60 percent of GDP is considered a debt crisis.

When the currency is weak, it is easier to repay the debt because the debtor has fewer inflationary effects to deal with, and domestic products become cheaper.

For example, if a country has a $100 debt and a debt to GDP ratio of 120 percent, a $1 devaluation will reduce the debt to GDP ratio to 106 percent. A country may choose to devalue its currency if it has become expensive to acquire if it borrows a lot of money in another country's currency.

To Decrease Trade Deficits

If a country imports more than it exports, it has a trade deficit or a negative current account balance. This is true for the United States. A country may decide to devalue its currency if it has a trade deficit to make its exports cheaper.

In theory, the country's current account deficit will shrink, and local industries will benefit. However, this may not always be the case.

When a country increases its exports, the dollar value of its trade balance (the amount by which exports exceed imports) improves. However, the trade balance is not a good indicator of a nation's economic health because not all trade deficits are created equal.

For example, if a country has an oil sector and a trade deficit in its oil products, then a trade deficit is not a problem. A country may find that its currency becomes too weak due to a devaluation, which will cause its exports to become more expensive.


A country may opt to devalue its currency to boost its exports, lower its debt burden, and decrease its trade deficit. Although some of these devaluations are positive for a particular country's economy, some of them can negatively impact, especially if other countries choose to devalue their currencies, which will lead to competitive devaluations in other countries.

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