What Is Capital Control?

Capital control represents any measure taken by a government, central bank, or other regulatory body to limit the flow of foreign capital in and out of the domestic economy. These controls include taxes, tariffs,聽legislation,聽volume restrictions, and聽market-based forces. Capital controls can affect many asset classes such as equities, bonds, and foreign exchange trades.

Understanding Capital Controls

Capital controls are established聽to regulate financial flows from capital markets into and out of a country's capital account. These controls can be economy-wide or specific to a sector or industry. Government monetary policy can enact capital control. They may restrict the ability of domestic citizens to聽acquire聽foreign assets,聽referred to as capital outflow controls,聽or foreigners' ability to聽buy聽domestic assets, known as capital inflow controls.

Tight controls are most often found in developing economies聽where the capital reserves are lower and more susceptible to volatility.

Key Takeaways

  • Capital control represents any measure taken by a government, central bank, or other regulatory body to limit the flow of foreign capital in and out of the domestic economy.
  • Policies may restrict the ability of domestic citizens to聽acquire聽foreign assets,聽referred to as capital outflow controls.
  • Capital inflow controls limit foreigners' ability to聽buy聽domestic assets.
  • Critics believe capital control inherently limits economic progress and efficiency, while proponents consider聽it prudent because they increase the聽economy's safety.

The Debate Over Capital Controls

Critics believe capital controls inherently limit economic progress and efficiency while proponents consider聽them prudent because they increase the聽safety of聽the economy. Most of the world's largest economies have liberal capital control聽policies and have phased out stricter rules from the past.

However, most of these same economies have necessary stopgap measures in place to prevent a mass exodus of capital outflows during a time of crisis or a massive speculative assault on the currency. Factors such as聽globalization and the integration of financial markets have contributed to an overall easing of capital controls.

Opening up an economy to foreign capital typically provides companies with聽easier access to funds and can raise the overall demand for domestic stocks.

Real World Example

Capital controls are often established after an economic crisis聽to prevent domestic citizens and foreign investors from extracting聽funds from聽a country. For example, on June 29, 2015, the European Central Bank聽froze support to Greece during the European sovereign debt crisis.

Greece responded by closing its banks and implementing capital controls聽from June 29 through July 7, 2015,聽out of fear that Greek citizens would initiate a run on domestic banks. The monetary capital controls put limits on allowable daily cash withdrawals at banks and placed restrictions on money transfers and overseas credit card payments.

On July 22, 2016, Greece's Finance Minister reported that the country聽would ease its聽capital controls to increase confidence in Greek banks. The easing was expected to increase the amount of money held at Greek banks.

According to , while Greece was putting the worst of the economic crisis behind it as it exited the bailout program. The government loosened the limits on cash withdrawals and increased the allowance for business cash transfers.