Abdul Halim removes an envelope from the inside pocket of his fake leather jacket and slides it carefully across the counter at MTB Exchange, a money transfer shop on Whitechapel, in London’s East End. Within hours, the £500 it contains will be picked up by his father, a chicken farmer in a remote part of northern Bangladesh. “He needs it very much,” says the impeccably mannered 30-year-old.
Every other month, Halim sends home nearly a month’s worth of wages, earned in a 20-hour-a week job as a kitchen porter in a Knightsbridge restaurant. He would like to earn more, he says, but the terms of his visa require his presence at a north London college, where despite his almost non-existent English, Halim is studying business management. Read more
People in emerging markets are a lot more satisfied than they were in 2007, according to a survey by Pew Research, with Indonesians and the Chinese surging ahead in their accumulation of contentment.
By interviewing 47,643 people in 43 countries and comparing the results to a similar survey undertaken in 2007, Pew concluded that the greatest increases in “life satisfaction” occurred in Asia. In Indonesia, satisfaction levels increased by 35 percentage points over the past seven years; in China, satisfaction grew by 26 percentage points. Read more
Economists expect the drop in global food prices to help keep inflation low across emerging Asia over the next year, benefiting consumers and allowing central banks to keep monetary policy loose.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that global commodity prices are 8.3 per cent lower than at the start of the year. This can have some complicated effects, with some winners and losers within the same country. Read more
Hopes are high for Tunisia’s economy after Nida Tunis, the country’s main secular party, won power in the second free election since an uprising that cast out autocrat Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
That was the Arab spring’s first revolution and since then Tunisia has fared better than its neighbours. It has avoided the turmoil of Egypt, the chaos of post-Qaddafi Libya and the civil war of Syria. Read more
Ethiopia, Africa’s biggest coffee producer, will benefit from unusually dry weather in Brazil that has lowered the output and helped lift the price of Arabica beans. Arabica prices surged to a three-year high – to over 200 US cents per pound – in October, which is expected to lift Ethiopia’s coffee export earnings by 25 per cent to $900m this year.
But Ethiopia is missing an opportunity to make a lot more money from arabica, which originated in the country’s highlands, and is considered the superior of two main varieties of coffee bean (the other, robusta, is more bitter and tends to be used to make instant coffee). Read more
With its hefty energy import bill and high inflation, Turkey is an obvious winner from the drop in oil prices, which economists expect to help improve its current account deficit. But will other troubles neutralize the benefit of lower oil prices?
The country’s energy import bill last year of about $50 bn – roughly equivalent to the size of its 12-month running current account deficit – puts Turkey firmly on the right side of the slide in oil prices, which have declined 25 per cent from this year’s peak in June.
But Turkey’s dependence on foreign capital, which makes it particularly sensitive to changes in global liquidity, could offset this advantage. This dependence led Morgan Stanley to put Turkey in its “fragile five” last year. Read more
Stability and bold new reforms after a period of political and economic turmoil will yield Egypt GDP growth of 3.5 per cent in the year to 2015 and 5 to 6 per cent thereafter, according to Renaissance Capital.
Last week, Egypt posted GDP growth of 2.2 per cent for the year to June 2014. That is inadequate for a country with high unemployment and a youthful population. But the GDP figures also hinted at substance behind the hope that has surged through Egypt since President Fattah al-Sisi came to power earlier this year: in the three months to June, GDP rose 3.7 per cent. Read more
Slowing productivity growth is holding back the economies of Asia, making them overly dependent on credit to sustain demand, says HSBC. And, because the root of the problem is structural, not cyclical, the only real panacea is domestic structural reform.
Things should be looking pretty good for Asia just now, said the bank in its quarterly review of the region’s macro economics, Losing Steam. Yet, positive developments – among them an uptick in growth over the summer, hopeful election results in India and Indonesia and mini stimulus measures in China, as well as growth in the US and a drop in the price of raw materials – had not removed a “nagging feeling”. Read more
The IMF has joined a rising chorus of concern over inflation in many big emerging economies. External imbalances that led to currency and bond sell-offs in emerging markets in 2013 had improved in 2014, it said in its Global Financial Stability Report, published this week, and:
Recent improvements in inflation expectations for some emerging markets provide welcome monetary policy space, and the decline in global interest rates is reflected in the performance of emerging markets assets this year. Nevertheless, inflation in several major emerging markets remains elevated and warrants caution.
As the rouble continues its decline – hitting a new low against the dollar and euro this week – it is Russian consumers who will feel the sharpest pain, says Capital Economics, thanks to increasing inflation, which had already risen in September to its fastest pace in three years. Read more
Morocco’s burgeoning automobile sector is driving the industrialisation of an economy still heavily dependent on agriculture. The country’s auto sector will help push GDP growth up 4.5 to 5 per cent in 2015-2016, from 2.5 per cent in 2014, predicted Capital Economics in a note, making Morocco “North Africa’s best performing economy over the coming years”.
Falling output in agriculture was holding back overall growth. New data showed that Morocco’s economy grew by 2.3 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2014, a bit better than the 1.7 per cent recorded in the first quarter, “but it is still sluggish by past standards”, said Capital Economics. Read more
Last week, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi launched an ambitious push to kick-start India’s relatively small manufacturing sector, lifting its share of India’s GDP to 25 per cent from 15 per cent.
This week, new data suggested how far off that goal may be. The HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to a nine-month low in September, down to 51.0 from 52.4 in August. This was probably down to weaker domestic demand, said HSBC, since new export orders had picked up. Read more
The number of payments made without handling cash will have surged more than 20 per cent in the developing world in 2013, outpacing mature markets, where growth is expected to have been just 5.6 per cent, according to a new report.
Indeed, China is likely to become the world’s biggest market for non-cash transactions within five years and, while developing markets would take a little longer to surpass mature ones, that outcome also looks likely, according to the World Payments Report by Capgemini and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), published this week. Read more
Few will have missed last week’s unfortunate tale of the Indian newsreader who was fired after she confused the first part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s name with the similar-looking Roman numeral and renamed him, live on air: “Eleven Jinping.”
Generally, though, the Chinese president’s name has given Anglophone journalists – and particularly headline writers – nothing but joy. Read more
Investors interested in India are watching Prime Minister Narendra Modi to see if he will deliver the reforms needed to kick-start the economy.
But India’s economic future is also being determined to a large degree at the state level, according to HSBC, with some states surging forward and others lagging behind. The per capita GDP of Delhi, for instance, is $3,600. In the vast state of Uttar Pradesh, which has a population roughly the size of Brazil’s, it is $690.
That puts Delhi on a par with Ukraine, and Uttar Pradesh with Rwanda. Read more
For decades, a combination of ill health and high rental prices in India’s capital, New Delhi, prevented Ramy Suneja, a fashion design graduate, from setting up her own business. Finally, three years ago, at the age of 60, she started selling her sari designs from home through e-commerce company Snapdeal (one of her creations is pictured left). Today she boasts a turnover of $1m a year.
Throughout India, from dusty one-shop operations to snazzier big brands, retailers are discovering the power of e-commerce. The market is currently tiny: online retail constitutes 0.4 per cent of India’s total retail market, according to Technopak, an Indian consultancy.
But it is growing rapidly as more of India’s 1.3bn population goes online, and its potential is huge. Read more
China’s plan to spread the wealth of coastal cities into poorer interior regions is starting to pick up speed, with better transport infrastructure in particular likely to accelerate the process, according to HSBC Global Research.
While China’s coastal regions have seen breakneck growth – the nominal GDP of seven coastal provinces has increased nearly 200 times since 1978 – its vast inland areas, remote and undeveloped, have lagged behind. Per capita income in the coastal regions of China is twice as high as in inland provinces. Read more
After 100 days in power, Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been given a cautious thumbs up by economists.
Al-Sisi, a former defence minister, won a landslide victory in Egypt’s presidential race on May 24, almost a year after he led the coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi, the elected Islamist president, from power. Political turbulence has been bruising for Egypt’s economy, which by most measures is in a worse state than it was before the advent of the Arab Spring in 2011. Read more
Kenya’s big twin deficits will become a heavier burden when higher US interest rates push up borrowing costs, Renaissance Capital warned on Monday. That would batter an economy already damaged by falling tea prices and tourism revenues.
In a note, Who’s hot and who’s not? in sub-Saharan Africa, RenCap predicted that
an increasing interest rate cycle in the US from 2015 will slow the flow of debt to Kenya, particularly the flow of external debt that finances the CA deficit and half of the budget deficit. Partly because of a higher cost of external borrowing, and fall in global appetite for EM and FM assets, as yields on US debt improves. Kenya’s capital inflows are likely to slow at a time when the CA is being undermined by insecurity, which is dampening tourism revenue.
Since the collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka’s Rana Plaza last April, which killed more than 400 people and injured many more, Bangladesh’s garment industry has been popularly associated with wretched working conditions and exploitation.
A new research paper, however, reveals an altogether more benign side to the country’s garment industry. Read more