Cash management is simply defined as making the right amount of money available at the right time and the right place to meet the government's obligations in the most cost-effective way. The main features of modern cash management are centralized government bank accounts and establishment of a Treasury Single Account, ability to make accurate cash flow forecasts, use of short-term financing instruments, and capacity for the investment of excess cash reserves. Establishing a sound cash management framework with the mentioned features is beneficial not only to the governments and public entities, but also to other stakeholders including the beneficiaries of government payments, banks and lenders. Given the recent COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and locked-down measures introduced in many countries, governments had to deal with unanticipated revenue decreases, and significantly increased public expenditures due to fiscal stimulus packages and pandemic related health expenditures. Therefore, existence of a well-structured government cash management is now even more important than before. This paper aims to explore cash flow forecasting and cash management practices in 24 countries in various regions, at different income levels and technical capacity, and alignment to good practices based on the information provided at the World Bank workshops on Cash Flow Forecasting and Cash Management held in 2018 and 2019. The paper also draws on experiences and practices from other emerging and advanced countries. Cases from different countries indicate that full implementation of modern cash management is still a challenge, even though the Treasury Single Account system is common in most countries and liquidity buffers were established or increased following the Global Financial Crisis. Cash flow forecasting is an area to improve given the accuracy, horizon and frequency of the projections are frequently limited. Fragmented institutional structure makes cash management even more challenging. Country cases also demonstrate that there is a significant room to strengthen coordination between debt and cash management and the use of short-term instruments to cover cash shortages. Investment of cash balances seems to be a bigger weakness as many countries keep their liquidity buffers in the Central Bank with no remuneration.
II. Financing Cash Flow Gaps
Cash balance management encompasses two main tasks: i) raising funds to cover cash shortages; and ii) investing cash balances to minimize the cost of carry. The government will float from one side to the other depending on its current and expected cash balances (shortage or excess), and the cash flow forecasting underpins both tasks. One may argue that the main connection between cash and debt management can be seen on the use of short-term instruments to cover temporary lack of cash, which is true. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that investing cash will just make sense when government is not borrowing, given the cost of carry.
The choice of instruments to be used to cover temporary cash shortages is dependent on the expected period for the cash imbalance and associated costs. The chart below shows the funding instruments used by governments for cash and debt management, while demonstrates how T-bills and the liquidity buffer stand in the intersection and well serving both activities4.
Temporary cash shortages can be covered by cash managers through a variety of instruments illustrated in Figure 4 and explained in the following:
Overdraft facility: The Central Bank provides a short-term credit line (also referred as advances) usually with volume and time caps (used, for instance, by Eswatini, India and Uruguay). Many developing and developed countries has limited this practice to avoid inflationary and foreign currency spillover effects due to the financing of central government by the monetary authority (Brazil and Chile banned any Central Bank financing at the constitutional level). However, more recently, monetary financing has been extraordinarily used by several countries under less constrained framework than what it ideally should be5, due to the governments’ increasing cash needs resulted from the COVID-19 crisis (see Box 4). When available to the government, the overdraft facility tends to be one of the most flexible instruments, but with possible drawbacks in terms of cost and volume cap.
Box 2: Central bank financing to governments: an emergency tool (Cont.)
While monetary and fiscal policies bring undeniable interlinkages, separation between Central Bank mandate and government financing needs to be in place to avoid undesirable interferences on the implementation of each policies and support fiscal discipline.
Jácome et. al. (2012) show that in a sample of 152 countries, 57 permit the use of advances, while 40 allow the use of credit (loans) and 51 set prohibition to any kind of credit. Results from DeMPA assessments carried out in 80 countries as of end of 2019 also point out the need of narrowing the conditions in which government can directly borrow from the monetary authority.
Almost one third of the assessed countries don’t impose a legal ceiling for direct borrowing from the Central Bank (score D), which is the minimum requirement for score C under DeMPA. On the other hand, slightly less than one fourth of the countries legally prohibit or limit the monetary financing to emergency situations and to periods not longer than two weeks (score A). Besides, the approaches significantly vary across regions: majority of the countries in Latin-America does not get the minimum score, while more than two third of the European and Central Asian countries have obtained the highest score in the latest assessments.
As a response to the Global Financial Crisis, the Federal Reserve (USA), the Central Bank of Europe and the Bank of Japan have provided liquidity to the bonds holders (including banks and institutional investors) by purchasing government securities in the secondary market, to achieve financial markets’ stability. In this case, the Central Banks’ objective was not to support the coverage of short-term cash imbalances of governments, as targeted by the overdraft facilities. However, more recently, with the increased financing needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries have authorized Central Banks to finance governments directly through the purchase of government securities in the primary market, and to support the bond holders in the secondary market (See Arslan, Y, Drehmann, M and Hoffmann, B (2020)).
The Central Banks in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have bought government securities in the primary market, while the monetary authority has been the buyer of the bonds in the secondary market in Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Israel, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Turkey and Malaysia (Brazil and Czech Republic requested amendment to the law to be able to do so). The Central Bank of Philippines has also recently established repo transactions between the Bank and the Bureau of the Treasury to cope with temporary cash imbalances associated to the crisis.
Repo transactions: These transactions are defined as the temporary sale of a (government) security associated with the seller’s commitment to purchase it back, after a pre-defined period and on a pre-agreed price. Governments use repos to cover temporary cash shortages by delivering a government security to the lender. Repos provide good flexibility and, in most cases, are used for periods not longer than the time span between T-bills auctions. Interest rates and tenors are negotiated by the counterparts, commonly under a Global Master Repurchase Agreement6. The advantage of these transactions for the lender is to receive a collateral (government security). Several countries use repo operations for temporary borrowing, including Hungary, France, Sweden, USA and UK. Despite of the usefulness of the repo transactions for cash management purposes, countries with less developed cash management practices and shallower money markets, mostly rely on the issue of T-bills for covering cash shortages. Finally, it is important to consider the way these transactions are captured in debt statistics to avoid underestimations that may affect monetary and fiscal policies and rules, given the repos can be used by treasuries to cover cash shortages, and by central banks for drying-up financial system liquidity.
Commercial banks credit lines: Unsecuritized direct borrowing from commercial banks under bilateral arrangements is an option for countries with less developed financial markets. This instrument is simpler, but typically costlier compared to securitized transactions. Commercial bank credit lines have a high degree of flexibility in terms of tenors, but they may be constrained by exposure limits to the government7 and there are some concerns about the instrument transparency. It tends to be used just for very short-term and emergency needs. Romania and Equatorial Guinea keep commercial bank credit lines in their menu of cash management tools.
Commercial papers: These money market instruments are usually issued by corporates and financial institutions to manage their cash position, for maturities up to one year, similarly to T-bills for governments. The main benefits are the standardization and depth of the large CP markets in the US and Europe. Issuances are done under a ‘program’ arranged with a few commercial banks, that reach out to investors. The program leaves the issuer with a lot of flexibility to issue when needed through tap issuances (private placements). CP programs are popular with European DMOs (including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden), both in EUR and USD, as a way to diversify the investor base at the short end of the curve. It may also be used, in a smaller extent, for debt management.
Intra-government borrowing: Governments have been expanding their sources of short-term funding either through pooling government resources beyond the central government in the TSA, or by establishing specific borrowing mechanisms to access resources of local governments, state-owned enterprises and public funds. Intra-government borrowing mechanism mitigates unnecessary government borrowing from the market by matching public entities that have cash shortages and cash surpluses. France TSA, held at Banque de France, is composed by approximately 5,000 government accounts including the Treasury Correspondents. In Portugal, the Credit Public and Treasury Management Institute (Instituto de Gestão da Tesouraria e do Crédito Público - IGCP) is authorized to issue Special Certificates of Public Debt (CEDIC) as a mechanism for public sector corporations investing their excess of cash. South Africa TSA is held at South African Reserve Bank who outsources to its fully-owned subsidiary (Corporation for Public Deposits – CPD) the task of investing excess of cash. The resources to be invested come from the national government, provincial governments and state-owned corporations (SOCs).
T-bills: These are the zero-coupon securities with assumed maturities from weeks up to 1 year. As shown in Figure 4, T-bills are used both by cash and debt managers. For cash management purposes, T-bills may be issued under a flexible approach, not necessarily through regular issuances, offered amounts defined according to immediate cash needs and tenors determined by the length of the expected cash shortages8. On the other hand, T-bills are one of the main instruments for debt managers either to deal with debt cost-and-risk trade-off9 or cope with large financing needs in the absence of a diversified investor base (concentrated in commercial banks).
III. Liquidity Buffers and Managing Excess Cash Balance
The establishment of a liquidity buffer10, similarly to what was discussed for the T-bills, is part of cash and debt management policies (as reflected in Figure 4). It serves for the mitigation of risks that are mostly, but not solely, present in cash management (liquidity, operational, settlement and payment) and debt management (refinancing and related to market volatility). As the accumulation of large liquidity buffers mean increasing the cost of carry related to keeping these resources, there is a trade-off between the cost and the risks that are meant to be mitigated by the cash cushion. The cost of carry can be minimized by determining the size of required cash balance and investing the cash not for immediate use. There are different approaches across countries to determine the size of liquidity buffers (Box 7).
Box 3 – Defining the size of liquidity buffer (Cont.)
The definition of the liquidity buffer size is not necessarily a function of a single parameter, but commonly a combination of more than one factor. Below are some examples on how countries define the size of liquidity buffer, based on an OECD survey undertaken in 2017 with 35 member countries, complemented by countries specific practices.
Albania– a liquidity buffer floor is defined by the average of expenditures of the three last days of the previous month (when outflows are concentrated), while the ceiling is determined by expected expenditures of the first week of the current month.
Brazil – an informal minimum cash balance is targeted aiming to cover 6 months of domestic debt refinancing needs. There is also a separate liquidity buffer for external debt (capped on the debt maturing in 1,500 days).
Ghana – minimum cash balance is (not formally) defined as a nominal number (roughly USD 170 million) based on the historical data of debt maturity profiles and above the line items.
Romania – no specific level for the liquidity buffer, but if cash is decided to be invested, a minimum (non-invested) balance is required (approximately EUR 200 million) during the investment period.
Thailand – minimum balance is required to cover at least 2 weeks of future expenditures.
Turkey – minimum cash balance is determined as a percentage of the maturing debt in the coming months, and the level is calculated through considering (i) average demand decrease in the market (on volatile times); (ii) share of planned financing in stress periods; (iii) forecasted inflows and outflows for the year; and (iv) maturity profile of debt obligations.
Uruguay – cash buffer is determined as a range, where the minimum target is expected to cover the debt service under an extreme stress period (12 months without new issuance). Statistical calculations, based on the historical volatility of cash flows, are also considered to define the interval.
Sources: OECD WPDM 2017 Survey on Liquidity Buffer Practices, and country cases presented in the WB Cash Flow Forecasting and Cash Management Workshops (2018 and 2019).
A. Minimizing the Cost of Carry
Although active investment of excess cash in the market requires prior conditions, it does not mean that less developed countries which do not meet above-mentioned prerequisites are unable to reduce the cost of carry. To this end, the first possible action is refining the matching of cash inflows and outflows to reduce cash imbalances (including excess of cash). Different from cash rationing, this is an effort to smooth out cash balances by matching the calendars of expenditures payments and revenues receipts. This is a two-way avenue: defining large above-the-line expenditures distant from large debt maturities (and vice-versa) and setting collection dates of large revenues closer to these significant outflows. Potentially it is also possible to define a borrowing plan where issuance volumes are increased closer to the periods of expected low cash balances. However, it may not be practical and desirable given the regularity and predictability valued by investors on the debt issuance profile. Cash flow matching needs to be underpinned by strong cash flow forecasting and robust coordination between government entities (bottom-up approach).
The second way to minimize the cost of carry is to explore arrangements with the Central Bank for the remuneration of the cash balances deposited in the TSA, ideally at the market rates, as stated as a minimum requirement11 at DeMPA DPI 11.2. This second dimension of “Cash flow forecasting and cash balance management” DPI assesses the “decision of a proper cash balance (liquidity buffer) and effectiveness of managing this cash balance in government bank accounts”. For countries being remunerated by the Central Bank, the conditions may significantly vary. Brazil, Colombia and Turkey have their cash balances remunerated by market interest rates12, while Peru and Bolivia do not (the latter receives remuneration linked to inflation). Chile and Slovenia use time deposits offered by the Central Bank and South Africa outsources the cash investment for the Corporation for Public Deposits, a subsidiary of the South African Reserve Bank.
There are also countries which deposit TSA cash balances in the Central Bank receiving no remuneration (Albania, The Gambia, Ghana, Honduras, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Thailand and Uruguay). Some of them face legal restrictions and entered into agreements where there is a “compensation” represented by free-of-charge services provided by the Central bank for the Ministry of Finance, normally related to the TSA operational activities. Even in the cases where the Central Bank’s profit is transferred to the Treasury (somehow compensating the lack of remuneration of TSA cash balances), a possible route might be to strengthen transparency through regulations to enable the monetary authority to remunerate the TSA balances and on the other hand charge for its services, under an arrangement where proper cost allocation is clearer (Turkey adopted these measures in 2011).
Brazil has recently published a report on the relationship between the National Treasury and the Brazilian Central Bank13 that sheds light on CB profit and losses composition and transfer framework, TSA structure and earnings, and CB treasury securities portfolio used for repo transactions. Pessoa and Williams (2012) present a thorough discussion about this relationship, which details are beyond the scope of this paper.
B. Investing Cash Balances in the Market
Besides the possibility of having TSA balances remunerated by the Central Bank, provided that prior conditions are in place, investing government cash balances in the market not only may lead to better remuneration, but also has the positive collateral effect of fostering the development of mone strengthening of price references. On the other hand, it creates counterpart credit risk to be accounted and monitored closely.
Coordination with the Central Bank is highly critical when investing the cash in the financial markets. The monetary authority welcomes information on cash flow forecasting, including planned short-term borrowing and investment resulting flows (that also affect the liquidity in the financial system). When sharing this information, cash managers mitigate the risk of competition with the Central Bank as it will carry out its monetary policy transactions taking into consideration government cash needs or excess of it. The coordination should ensure that the two government entities will not be unnecessarily at the same side of the market, competing for raise cash (drying-up liquidity) or invest it (injecting liquidity). Investing all the excess of cash in the market facilitates Central Bank’s own cash flow forecast and liquidity management since all the government liquidity is re-injected immediately in the market.
Regarding investment instruments, cash managers may opt to use more than one (when available) to access different risk-return alternatives, according to investment time horizons and government risk appetite. The most common ones are illustrated in Figure 4 and their characteristics are described below.
Deposits: Commercial bank deposits are one of the fastest and easiest ways to invest cash, given that they are uncollateralized (no settlement system and margin calls14 are needed), do not have maturity dates as oppose to short-term instruments (possible automatic rollover) and tend to offer good remuneration compared to other alternatives. India, for instance, carries out auction of government cash balances to maximize the return. On the other hand, considering that the deposits are subject to the credit risk of the recipient banks and not backed by any asset in case of default, these are more commonly used only for overnight or very short-term tenure. Investing in multiple banks to diversify the risk can be good strategy, keeping in mind that it requires multiple credit risk assessment and permanent monitoring of all counterparties
Government securities: Using the excess of cash to buy government securities is another widespread practice. Cash managers can either buy-back the government’s own domestic bonds in the secondary market or invest in sovereign bonds of other countries (e.g. Slovenia). The latter is more usual for investment of liquidity buffers held in foreign currency, where investing in the US Treasuries is the most common practice, given its liquidity, low credit risk and denomination in USD. Countries such as France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany set arrangements between them to do cash deposits with each other since there is no currency risk. These inter-country cash transactions may involve government securities as collateral.
Corporate bonds: It is less common to invest cash in corporate bonds, either issued by financial institutions (e.g. certificates of deposits) or companies (e.g. commercial papers, debentures). Given the low liquidity of these securities compared to government bonds, cash managers can either seek an early redemption option, or invest in a medium- to long-term horizon, targeting a better remuneration. Assessment and permanent monitoring of counterpart credit risk is also an outmost, which requires technical and human resources capacity. The UK is an example using certificate of deposits and commercial papers, although most of the liquidity is invested in reverse-repo transactions
Reverse repo: This is probably the most common investment instrument used by cash managers. Reverse repo transactions present comparative disadvantages to the other previously explored options but have one determinant advantage: it is backed by a collateral. Therefore, government gets exposure to the credit risk of the collateral issuer (most commonly itself) in lieu of the one associated to the transaction counterpart. The management of the collateral adds complexity (and cost) and the lower risk of this instrument results in lower remuneration. Given the strengthened credit risk, it is commonly used for longer periods, from few weeks to 1-3 months. The liquidity of the collateral, which is usually government securities, drives the liquidity risk assumed by the government in the transaction.
|Central Bank deposits
Note: Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, The Gambia, Ghana, Honduras, Kosovo, Lesotho, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Romania, Rwanda, Seychelles, Thailand and Uruguay have not invested excess of cash in the market (reasons range from lack of capacity, lack of legal authorization or lack of idle cash).
Sources: Debt Management Offices/Agencies websites and countries presentations made in the WB Cash Flow Forecasting and Cash Management Workshops (2018 and 2019).
Countries experiences show that investing cash in the market is directly associated to the level of market development, in other words, availability of instruments, infrastructure and players. The deepening of domestic debt and money markets is a common objective of cash and debt managers, as well as of the CB and a medium-term plan to this end should be devised. Lienert (2019) offers an interesting approach on sequencing cash management reforms where active investment of cash balances comes in the later stages of the reforms, given supporting pillars needs to be built in earlier stages.
While debt management implementation is guided by the MTDS, when it comes to cash management, investments are driven by investment policies rather than strategies 15. These policies take care of credit and liquidity risk management, commonly setting exposure limits to counterparts and instruments16. Table 3 shows an example from Chile.
|Money Market (Instruments shorter than 1 year)
|Instruments maturing from 1 to 3 years (fixed-rate)
|Instruments maturing from 1 to 3 years (inflation-linked)
|Maximum limit by instrument (% Domestic Portfolio)
|Central Bank deposit
|Instruments issued by the Central Bank
|Commercial bank deposit
|Short-term debt mutual funds
|Foreign Currency (USD)
|Money Market (Instruments shorter than 1 year)
|Instruments maturing form 1 to 3 years (fixed-rate)
|Instruments maturing from 1 to 3 years (inflation-linked)
|Maximum limit by instruments (% International Portfolio)
|Certificate of deposits
|Shor-term debt mutual funds (Money Market Funds and ETFs)
1 IMF Fiscal Monitor, April 2020.
2 Cashin, C., S. Sparkes and D. Bloom (2017).
4 Commercial papers may also be used for debt management, although are more commonly applied to solve short-term cash imbalances (cash management)
5 The WB Debt Management Performance Assessment (DeMPA) scores countries in its Development Policy Indicator – DPI 7.3 (Extent of the limit of direct access to financial resources from the Central Bank) according to the imposition of ceilings on the volumes and tenor, getting maximum score the countries who prohibit the direct financing or limit the advances to emergency situations for periods not longer than two weeks. Red color for the overdraft facilities in Figure 4 represents the emergency character of these instruments, ideally not used on regular basis for government financing.
6 For further details see https://www.icmagroup.org/Regulatory-Policy-and-Market-Practice/repo-and-collateral-markets/legal-documentation/global-master-repurchase-agreement-gmra
7 Prudential regulations usually require that lenders allocate capital once the credit line is established, even if it is not used.
8 Investors don’t request the same level of predictability compared to longer-term instruments.
9 Even countries with wide access of long-term funding use T-Bills to shift the issuance and portfolio profile, temporarily shortening them to avoid excess cost when yield curve slope is uncommonly steep.
10 Commonly also referred as cash cushion or cash buffer.
11 Score C (minimum) requires that Issuance of short-term instruments is planned according to the forecast of monthly cash balances. In addition, the central government manages its surplus cash (that is, cash in excess of the target) through investment in the market in line with appropriate credit risk limits or with the central bank at market-related rates.
12 Even in those cases, countries still bear a cost of carry as they usually invest cash in shorter maturities than the ones used for debt issuance, and the yield curve commonly present a positive slope (meaning higher interest rates in the long end).
14 Provision of additional collateral when its price goes down.
15 Investment policies will define limits and conditions for the use of instruments, while debt strategies set directions for the government financing (possibly setting targets).
16Buy-back can be an alternative to reduce cost of carry if the cost of new debt is lower than of the existing ones (and the differential higher than “other investments” remuneration), provided that there is an excess of cash to be invested/allocated.
17 None of the 24 participant countries in the WB Cash Flow Forecasting and Cash Management workshops use repo transactions to cover cash shortages.
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