How to build a global currency

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Seventy years ago the Indian rupee was often found a long way from home. After India gained independence from Britain, the currency remained in use in sheikhdoms across the Arabian Sea. Until as late as 1970, some employed the Gulf rupee, a currency issued by India’s central bank.

Today the picture is rather different. The rupee accounts for less than 2% of international-currency transactions, even though the Indian economy is the world’s fifth-largest. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, would like to see the currency span the globe once again. Speaking at the 90th anniversary of the Reserve Bank of India on April 1st, Mr Modi told the central bank’s policymakers to focus on making the rupee more accessible. Historically, however, national leaders have been a lot more likely to express enthusiasm for the idea of making their currency a global one than to enact the reforms required to do so.

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