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What is ‘Balance of Payment’?

Balance Of Payment (BOP) is a statement which records all the monetary transactions made between residents of a country and the rest of the world during any given period. This statement includes all the transactions made by/to individuals, corporates and the government and helps in monitoring the flow of funds to develop the economy. When all the elements are correctly included in the BOP, it should sum up to zero in a perfect scenario. This means the inflows and outflows of funds should balance out. However, this does not ideally happen in most cases.

BOP statement of a country indicates whether the country has a surplus or a deficit of funds i.e when a country’s export is more than its import, its BOP is said to be in surplus. On the other hand, BOP deficit indicates that a country’s imports are more than its exports. Tracking the transactions under BOP is something similar to the double entry system of accounting. This means, all the transaction will have a debit entry and a corresponding credit entry.

Why balance of payment is vital for a country?

A country’s BOP is vital for the following reasons:

  • BOP of a country reveals its financial and economic status.
  • BOP statement can be used as an indicator to determine whether the country’s currency value is appreciating or depreciating.
  • BOP statement helps the Government to decide on fiscal and trade policies.
  • It provides important information to analyze and understand the economic dealings of a country with other countries.

By studying its BOP statement and its components closely, one would be able to identify trends that may be beneficial or harmful to the economy of the county and thus, then take appropriate measures.

Elements of balance of payment

There are three components of balance of payment viz current account, capital account, and financial account. The total of the current account must balance with the total of capital and financial accounts in ideal situations.

Elements-of-balance-of-payment

Current Account

The current account is used to monitor the inflow and outflow of goods and services between countries. This account covers all the receipts and payments made with respect to raw materials and manufactured goods. It also includes receipts from engineering, tourism, transportation, business services, stocks, and royalties from patents and copyrights. When all the goods and services are combined, together they make up to a country’s Balance Of Trade (BOT).

There are various categories of trade and transfers which happen across countries. It could be visible or invisible trading, unilateral transfers or other payments/receipts. Trading in goods between countries are referred to as visible items and import/export of services (banking, information technology etc) are referred to as invisible items. Unilateral transfers refer to money sent as gifts or donations to residents of foreign countries. This can also be personal transfers like –  money sent by relatives to their family located in another country.

Capital Account

All capital transactions between the countries are monitored through the capital account. Capital transactions include the purchase and sale of assets (non-financial) like land and properties. The capital account also includes the flow of taxes, purchase and sale of fixed assets etc by migrants moving out/in to a different country. The deficit or surplus in the current account is managed through the finance from capital account and vice versa.

There are 3 major elements of capital account:

  • Loans & borrowings – It includes all types of loans from both the private and public sectors located in foreign countries.
  • Investments – These are funds invested in the corporate stocks by non-residents.
  • Foreign exchange reserves – Foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank of a country to monitor and control the exchange rate does impact the capital account.
    Financial Account

The flow of funds from and to foreign countries through various investments in real estates, business ventures, foreign direct investments etc is monitored through the financial account. This account measures the changes in the foreign ownership of domestic assets and domestic ownership of foreign assets. On analyzing these changes, it can be understood if the country is selling or acquiring more assets (like gold, stocks, equity etc).

Illustration

if for the year 2018 the value of exported goods from India is Rs. 80 lakhs and the value of imported items to India is 100 lakhs, then India has a trade deficit of Rs. 20 lakhs for the year 2018.

BOP statement acts as an economic indicator to identify the trade deficit or surplus situation of a country. Analyzing and understanding the BOP of a country goes beyond just deducting the outflows of funds from inflows. As mentioned above, there are various components of BOP and fluctuations in these accounts which provide a clear indication about which sector of the economy needs to be developed.

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