In recent months, the external sector in South Africa has strengthened in ways that are somewhat perplexing. The strengthening has partly to do with weak import demand due to the economic slowdown. But the surprising aspect has been sustained inflows of foreign portfolio investment in South African domestic securities. Just as the news on the real sector and fiscal balances has gotten worse, somewhat paradoxically foreign investors’ appetite for South African securities has grown.
Private Sector Development
Co-authored with FARRIA NAEEM
Remittances have emerged as a key driver of economic growth and poverty reduction in Bangladesh, increasing at an average annual rate of 19 percent in the last 30 years (1979-2008).
Revenues from remittances now exceed various types of foreign exchange inflows, particularly official development assistance and net earnings from exports. The bulk of the remittances are sent by Bangladeshi migrant workers rather than members of the Bangladeshi Diaspora. Currently, 64 percent of annual remittance inflows originate from Middle Eastern nations.
Robust remittance inflows in recent years (annual average growth of 27 percent in FY06-FY08) have been instrumental in maintaining the current account surplus despite widening a trade deficit. This in turn has enabled Bangladesh to maintain a growing level of foreign exchange reserves.
Bangladesh’s export earnings are mostly determined by the export of readymade garments (RMG) to North American and European countries with 75% of total export earning coming from this sector. Quite understandably, the economic crisis in those countries unnerves us.
Fortunately, the clothing sector has remained more or less unscathed by the global crisis even as the trepidation among the entrepreneurs, policy makers and economists is still very high. During the last fiscal year (2007-08), the overall growth of the export of RMG was 16.16% which increased to 23.48% between July 08 and January 09 of the current fiscal year.
Readymade garments are the largest export industry and determine the dynamics of total export earnings for Bangladesh RMG is still growing at a satisfactory rate. There is no strong indication of any negative impacts of the global economic crisis on RMG as of today, but the future continues to be unpredictable.
The global economic downturn and the consequent pessimistic outlook for exports in developing countries like Bangladesh have reinvigorated voices for protectionism. Even pro-trade minds have vented their skepticism about trade liberalization, as if the punch of the ongoing crisis could be shielded with the help of an embargo on trade with the rest of the world!
Such thoughts, derived from the gloomy prospects of exports, ignore the potential benefits drawn through the imports and disregard the lessons learned from history- that economic isolation leads to further impoverishment.
As mentioned in my last post, I was in Asia just a few weeks ago, and one (favorite) destination was Beijing.
Proposals for the 2009 Global Development Marketplace are due in 2 weeks! There is still plenty of time to apply. We hope you take advantage and submit your idea today. The competition, funded by the GEF and other DM partners, aims to dentify 20 to 25 innovative, early-stage projects addressing climate adaptation. Winning projects receive up to US$200,000 in grant funding for implementation over two years.
The competition focuses on three sub-themes:
1) Resilience of Indigenous Peoples' Communities to Climate Risks
2) Climate Risk Management with Multiple Benefits
3) Climate Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management
For more information and to apply, visit our website at www.developmentmarketplace.org. The application deadline is May 18, 2009.
“We are here to listen—tell us how we can better assist you. And please, be frank,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Africa Region Vice President.
Ezekwesili asked the ministers from Liberia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to discuss capacity development efforts in their countries, and to identify what has and has not worked, and how donors can provide more effective support for human development, infrastructure, and public sector reforms.
Several common themes emerged from the ministers’ interventions, including:
- Donors prioritizing support for primary and secondary education, and not higher education
- Donors pressing a “one size fits all” approach on countries, trying to replicate programs that were successful elsewhere
- The failure by expatriate advisors in civil service posts to transfer their knowledge and skills to local counterparts
- Tension among returning members of the Diaspora and local populations that stayed behind, partly around incentive structures for civil service
- An urgent need to deliver skills-training and create job opportunities for young ex-combatants
Augustine Ngafaun, Minister of Finance for Liberia, outlined the enormity of the challenges facing his country, which has “75 percent of the educational facilities destroyed” combined with a “massive brain drain” as a result of professionals fleeing during Liberia’s recent conflict.
“We have very few doctors, teachers and hardly any engineers,” said Ngafaun, Liberia's Minister of Finance.
He also noted that, despite the importance of the mining sector for Liberia’s growth, there are not even five geologists in the entire country.
Rwanda’s Finance Minister James Musoni noted that even though the reconstruction challenges were daunting, his country has made significant progress since the 1994 genocide. He said it is crucial for the donor community to understand the context in which each country operates, as in some cases the political leadership may not be ready.
Ezekwesili stressed the need to build confidence in all sectors, pointing out that “development solutions work only to the extent that the capacities of the nation-state, the private sector, and civil society are strong.”
“The lack of capacity is magnified by the stress of the post conflict environment,” Ezekwesili said.