John Exter, the American who formed Central Bank of Sri Lanka

John Exter

Sri Lanka People’s Party MP Bandula Gunawardane recently mentioned in a newspaper interview that the nation’s Monetary Law Act was designed by US national John Exter. According to Gunawardane, the amendments brought to the Monetary Law Act separates the responsibilities of the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. They are to be allowed to function independently.

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In this backdrop, we searched to learn more about Mr. Exter.

John Exter was the first Governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka. He assumed duties on 28 August 1950 and served until June 1953. Following excerpt was adapted from the website of Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

John Exter was an American economist who graduated from the College of Wooster (1923 – 1928). After attending the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, his interest in the Great Depression and its causes led him to Harvard University where he completed his studies in economics. He proceeded to teach economics at Harvard and specialised in money and banking. Exter then joined the Federal Reserve System as an economist.

In response to the request made by the Government of Ceylon to the United States of America for technical expertise to set up a central bank, Mr. John Exter was nominated by the Federal Reserve Board of USA to carry out this task. Prior to his appointment as Governor of the Central Bank of Ceylon, he was also involved in the establishment of the Central Bank of the Philippines.

The Central Bank of Ceylon (as it was then identified) was established in 1950 as per the recommendations outlined by Mr. Exter in what is now known as the Exter Report. His main task as the first Governor was to establish the bank, recruit relevant staff, and lead it in its formative years. Mr. Exter handed over his post as Governor to a Sri Lankan after 3 years. Mr. Exter joined the World Bank for a year and returned to the US Federal Reserve System. Until 1959 he held the post of Vice President of International Operations of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Thereafter he joined the First National City Bank (Citibank) as Senior Vice President from 1960 to 1972 responsible for foreign relations with central banks and governments. 

He retired in 1972 and took on private consultancy work.

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