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.
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.
Co-authored with FARRIA NAEEM
There is widespread belief among Bangladeshi media, civil society and think tanks that collusion exists in the supply chain of many essential commodities, and many blamed this for the price hike in the first half of 2008. Keeping prices low is a high priority for the government. It is therefore important to measure the presence of market collusion through empirical evidence and design appropriate policy responses to mitigate its impact on prices in order for the government to continue to meet its election promise.
Bangladesh is a net importer of major food items. In the absence of market influences and duties, domestic and international prices are expected to be similar. The convergence may not be exact due to transportation and taxation costs but price should follow similar trends as movements of international commodity prices do not of domestic and international markets do not often vary.
We examine and compare the co-mol prices of four essential food items (coarse rice, flour (atta), salt and soybean oil) over time to look for signs of market influences.
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.
I apologize for the lack of recent posts, but I have been traveling in the region and then getting over a cold, so I’m finally back in action. One of the stops during the trip last month was to Jakarta to participate in our internal Economist’s Forum. This forum was very interesting and included sessions with the Indonesian Minister of Finance, as well as the
Yesterday, the IMF and the World Bank released the 2009 Global Monitoring Report, saying that the global financial crisis is imperiling attainment of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and creating an emergency for development.
Justin Lin, World Bank Chief Economist, spoke about the crisis at the launch of the report:
"Worldwide, we have an enormous loss of wealth and financial stability. Millions more people will lose their jobs in 2009, and urgent funding must be provided for social safety nets, infrastructure, and small businesses in poor countries, for a sustainable recovery."
For more information:
BBC World yesterday hosted a debate at World Bank headquarters in Washingtonon on how the world's poorest are being affected by the global economic downturn and what can be done to avert a major international human disaster. While the rich world pours billions of dollars into banks and companies, why can’t it spare more for the poorest nations now suffering the effects of the downturn, asked BBC Host Zeinab Badawi.
The five-person panel–including World Bank President Robert Zoellick, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Mozambique Prime Minister Luisa Dias Diogo, Indian economic planner Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and activist Bob Geldof—agreed that a solution to the crisis can’t be business as usual and needs to come now.
Unlike the tsunami of 2004, the victims of the financial crisis aren’t so easy to visualize, said Wieczorek-Zeul, making it harder for governments to commit aid money. But there are victims. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 children will die annually as a result of the crisis, she noted.
Zoellick stressed that for those in the developing world, the crisis isn’t a matter of losing your financial cushion—it’s a matter of eating, of going to school. And the impact won’t end when the crisis ends; it will be felt over a generation.
Responding to the crisis with economic isolationism and protectionism will only hurt everyone, especially the world’s poorest, Zoellick added.
Prime Minister Diogo warned that if we don’t act, there is a potential for instability. “Instability increases nervousness… poverty increases conflict,” said Geldof.
A number of panelists noted that the G20 meeting in London last month was the beginning of the basis for a new global architecture.
“We’re living through an historic period,” said Geldof. “It could all still collapse. There must be new rules for a new world. We must include the most vulnerable on this planet. If not, the 21st Century is up for grabs.”
“We all agree that a global problem requires a global solution with global ownership,” said Ahluwalia.
The debate airs on BBC World on Saturday, April 25.
In terms of big newsworthy events in Asia, one of the biggest has to be the anti-government protests in Thailand. A relatively small number of protesters dramatically caused the cancellation of an ASEAN+3 meeting held in Pattaya this past weekend where 10 regional heads of state were evacuated. The World Bank President, as well as the head of the IMF and UN, were turned around at the airport in Bangkok. Although the protests around the country have effectively ended after martial law was declared and two protesters died, the damage of this may be longer-lasting. Although a discussion of the politics would be interesting, let's concentrate on the finance-related issues.