The central bank has often been described as “the lender of last resort” which means it is responsible for providing its nation’s economy with funds when commercial banks cannot cover a supply shortage. In other words, the central bank prevents the country’s banking system from failing. However, the primary goal of central banks is to provide their countries’ currencies with price stability by controlling inflation. A central bank also acts as the regulatory authority of a country’s monetary policy and is the sole provider and printer of notes and coins in circulation. Time has proved that the central bank can best function in these capacities by remaining independent from government fiscal policy and therefore uninfluenced by the political concerns of any regime. A central bank should also be completely divested of any commercial banking interests.
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The Bottom Line
Central banks are responsible for overseeing the monetary system for a nation (or group of nations), along with a wide range of other responsibilities, from overseeing monetary policy to implementing specific goals such as currency stability, low inflation, and full employment. The role of the central bank has grown in importance in the last century. To ensure the stability of a country’s currency, the central bank should be the regulator and authority in the banking and monetary systems.
Contemporary central banks are government-owned, but separate from their country’s ministry or department of finance. Although the central bank is frequently termed the “government’s bank” because it handles the buying and selling of government bonds and other instruments, political decisions should not influence central bank operations. Of course, the nature of the relationship between the central bank and the ruling regime varies from country to country and continues to evolve with time.
A complete listing of all the worlds central banks and monetary authorities can be located here.