Valuutakontrolli rakendamine Eestis 1930. aastatel [Abstract: Implementation of exchange control in Estonia in the 1930s]

Karl Stern


Exchange control is generally managed by the national bank. Exporters have to transfer all of their earnings from foreign exchange to the national bank. The national bank considers different factors in redistributing foreign exchange among importers.
After the devaluation of the British pound in the autumn of 1931, cash cover for Estonia’s currency decreased rapidly. The leaders of monetary policy ignored the statutes of the National Bank of Estonia and urgently decided to implement exchange control.
The implementation of exchange control did not go very smoothly during its first years. Hurried implementation and lack of preceding explanation caused problems for entrepreneurs and citizens who were in need of foreign exchange. At first there was a great deal of dissension between the National Bank of Estonia and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The ministry issued import licenses to importers but often the National Bank did not want to sell them any foreign currency (to be used to pay for goods) regardless of their legitimate licenses. The bank’s rationale for this course of action was the low level of cash cover for Estonia’s currency. This fact confirms the opinion prevalent in previous historiography that in its first years, exchange control was implemented for monetary policy purposes. Exchange control influenced almost everybody who needed to use foreign currency. Reasons had to be given even for the purchase of smaller amounts of foreign exchange.
After the devaluation of Estonia’s currency in the summer of 1933, exchange control was used to protect the interests of Estonian foreign trade. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the National Bank started collaborating more efficiently. National Bank Exchange Commission decisions approving exchange applications demonstrate this as well. The commission accepted almost all applications for foreign exchange after the devaluation. The number of applications nearly doubled during the second half of the 1930s. Cash cover for Estonia’s currency increased and the National Bank’s exchange policy became more liberal. After the devaluation, one of the important criteria for giving foreign exchange to importers was the trade balance between the source country and Estonia. Preference was given to traders who imported goods from countries with which Estonia had a positive trade balance. Comparison of export and import in the 1930s shows that in general, Estonia managed to maintain its trade balance. At the same time, exchange control had a negative effect on incentives. In countries where exchange control was implemented, trade volume recovered more slowly in the latter half of the 1930s than in countries where it was not implemented.


exchange control, trade policy, interwar period, protectionism, small countries, non-tariff measures, Estonia

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ISSN 1406-3859 (print)
ISSN 2228-3897 (online)
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