Factors which cause a current account deficit in the balance of payments

A current account deficit occurs when the value of imports (of goods, services and investment incomes) is greater than the value of exports.

There are various factors which could cause a current account deficit:

1. Fixed Exchange Rate

If the currency is overvalued, imports will be cheaper and therefore there will be a higher Q of imports. Exports will become uncompetitive and therefore there will be a fall in the quantity of exports.

2. Economic Growth

If there is an increase in national income, people will tend to have more disposable income to consume goods. If domestic producers can not meet the domestic demand, consumers will have to import goods from abroad. In the UK we have a high Marginal propensity to imports mpm because we do not have a comparative advantage in the production of manufactured goods. Therefore if there is fast economic growth there tends to be a significant increase in the quantity of imports.

3. Decline in Competitiveness.

In the UK there has been a decline in the exporting manufacturing sector, because it has struggled to compete with developing countries in the far east. This has led to a persistent deficit in the balance of trade.

  • Higher inflation

This makes exports less competitive and imports more competitive. However this factor may be offset by a decline in the value of sterling.

  • Recession in other countries.

If  the UK’s main trading partners experience negative economic growth then they will buy less of our exports, worsening the current account.

  • Borrowing money

If countries are borrowing money to invest e.g third world countries

This shows a deterioration in the UK current account from the early 1980s


The UK current account as a % of GDP 2001-2015. This shows a deterioration in the current account since 2011. This was due to

  • UK economic recovery quicker than Eurozone, leading to higher import spending, but slow growth in UK exports
  • Appreciation in the Pound Sterling, making exports less competitive and imports cheaper.