The ‘Debt’ Trap

Sri Lanka and its population continues to take the brunt of food and economic crisis as the country is grappling with various issues like protests, inflation, economic crisis, shortage of essential items like food, medicine and fuel. On 12th April 2022, the country revealed that it was going to default on its external debt of US$ 51 billion as the country is on the verge of running out of its foreign reserves.

What led to the Crisis?

The current crisis in Sri Lanka is a result of large tax cuts, external debt, a debt trap, a fall in foreign remittances, a fall in its tourism industry, an agricultural crisis, the Russo-Ukrainian War, etc. The country was a long way into an economic crisis in 2015. Large tax cuts made under the rule of Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, affected government revenue and fiscal policies, leading to soaring budget deficits. This massive loss of revenue due to tax cuts resulted in rating agencies downgrading the country’s sovereign credit rating making it harder for the country to take on more debt.
Followed by this, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka began printing money to cover the government’s spending while ignoring warnings from the IMF of an economic explosion. IMF’s advice to hike interest rates and raise taxes while cutting spending was ignored. On 6th April 2022, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka has allegedly printed 119.08 billion Sri Lankan rupees, the highest amount printed by CBSL on a single day for the year 2022.

Source: Central Bank of Sri Lanka

Apart from this, a major reason of crisis is the Sri Lankan foreign debt that has increased from USD 11.3 billion in 2005 to USD 56.3 billion in 2020.  The current foreign debt is 119% of its GDP in 2021. The country announced an economic emergency in the year 2021 due to falling national currency exchange rate, inflation rate rising as a result of higher food prices, and pandemic restrictions in tourism led to further decrease in country’s income. Loans to Sri Lanka by the Exim Bank of China, to build Hambantota International Port and Mattala Rajapaksa International airport turned out to be unprofitable white elephants for the country. Easter Bombings in 2019 and COVID-19 pandemic effected the country’s tourism industry which contributed to over one-tenth of GDP of Sri Lanka.

Source: Central Bank of Sri Lanka

Banning inorganic fertilizers and agro-chemicals based fertilizers in April-2021 to promote organic farming negatively impacted the self-sufficient rice production of the country. Such farming under the organic program was ten times more expensive and producing half of the yield by farmers.

Russo-Ukrainian War exacerbated the sluggish economic conditions of Sri Lanka as the country is heavily reliant upon these two nations in terms of tourism and Russia is the second largest market to Sri Lanka in tea exports.

Source: World Bank

Which other countries could go the Sri Lankan way?

Besides Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Suriname, Ukraine, Tunisia, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Pakistan, Ecuador, Nigeria, Zambia are already running into default while Belarus is on the brink and more countries are in the danger zone of rising borrowing costs, inflation and debt. As per an estimate, the total debt from these countries is pegged at $400 billion. Argentina alone has a debt of more than $150 billion, followed by Ecuador and Egypt at $40 billion and $45 billion respectively. These countries which are home to 900 million people, i.e., 12% of world’s population, are reeling in high inflation, unemployment, deep recession, mounting debt and slow economic growth also sending signs that the developing world is at risk.

Debt in the Developing World
CountryFiscal DeficitDebt-to-GDP Ratio
El Salvador5.5%87%
Zambia10%123%
Lebanon20%210%
Pakistan9%74%
Ghana12%76%

Source: WION

Why is the Developing World in Debt?

The developing world has been pushed into debt majorly because of three reasons:

  • Pandemic Era Deficit
    All governments had to increase spending to meet the requirements of hospitals, vaccines and economic stimulus while the revenue plunged. The countries that are dependent on tourism has taken a bigger hit widening the deficit.
  • Strong Dollar Draining Forex Reserves of Economies
    Increased interest rates of the Fed to tackle inflation is leading to dollar gaining on local currencies. This implies that countries must now pay more to service foreign debt and import goods, draining foreign reserves of economies.
  • Poor Leadership
    Lack of economic diversity, tax cuts, improper policy implementations, ignoring warnings and signs of economic collapse led to crisis in economic world.

For example, banning chemical fertilizers in Sri Lanka impacted agricultural output of Sri Lanka causing food crisis. Betting on Bitcoin as a legal tender in El Salvador plunged the country into crisis since Bitcoin is 48% down in the last six months.

Other factors like Russia’s war on Ukraine, China’s zero COVID lockdowns and Western sanctions on Russia are only making it worse.
While India is doing better in terms of managing the debt of the country, there are a few gaps and looming crisis in State finances. For example, Punjab, West Bengal, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh has identical Debt-to-GDP ratios as that of Sri Lanka which is a consequence of a fall in vertical devolution, effect of GST regime and a slowdown in growth. Measures like special allocations and transfers are needed from government to address the worst effects of these states.

Is there a way out?

The immediate option for these debt-ridden countries for a way out of the crisis is an IMF bailout, they should further focus on diversifying their economy like that of countries like India, China and Mexico that are resilient and not facing a default. Countries should also exercise fiscal prudence in framing and implementing their policies, cut spending, manage borrowing and lending better, creditors should offer contingency plans, introduce better ways to manage shocks and crises, expand eligibility criteria of the common framework which is developed by the G20 to help poor debt-ridden countries to restructure their debt, increase accountability and transparency by reviewing terms of lending by certain creditors and introduce plans to pause repayments during financial difficulties of nations.

Niharika Jayanthi

Editor, TJEF

The Washington Consensus: Steps to build an economy?

Imagine being in charge of a country which has undergone a rapid change for the worse in terms of an economic standpoint. It is definitely difficult to get the country back on track. Because of the help of the IMF and the World Bank you can now start afresh. However, it is still confusing about what has to be done to build your economy from scratch. Thankfully there are a set of rules to help you in this endeavor in setting up a self-sufficient economy known as the Washington Consensus. So let us find out what it is and how it functions.

What is the Washington Consensus?

John Williamson, an economist, first used the term “Washington Consensus” in 1989. He was discussing a set of measures that had gained acceptance among Latin American politicians in reaction to the early to mid-1980s macroeconomic unrest and debt crisis. In order to aid in the recovery from the debt crisis, these measures were also supported by specialists in Washington’s international institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as the US Treasury.

A note of caution, these rules are only meant to be descriptive and not prescriptive, which means that these rules do not guarantee the economy to be a success. Definitely there will have to be some considerations taken in place depending on the scenario of the country and what can actually be done depending on the ability of the government.

Maintaining fiscal restraint, reallocating public spending priorities (from subsidies to health and education spending), reforming tax law, letting the market determine interest rates, upholding a competitive exchange rate, liberalising trade, allowing inward foreign investment, privatising state enterprises, removing barriers to entry and exit, and protecting property rights are among the main Washington Consensus policies. Williamson pointed out that these policies went against what was believed to be true in developing nations, many of which adopted state-dominated systems in the 1950s.

The 10 rules of the Washington Consensus

  • Reduce national budget deficits

Large budget deficits lead to high variable tax rates. To counteract this, it was suggested to observe fiscal discipline either by raising tax revenues or by reducing domestic spending to reduce the amount of spending done by the government.

  • Redirect spending from politically popular areas toward neglected fields with high economic returns

Some aspects of public spending, such as subsidies to state-owned businesses or for the purchase of food or fuel, caused economic distortions and favored wealthier urban people over the impoverished in rural areas. Reducing subsidies for politically connected economic sectors may cost some people money, but it frees up funds for expenditure on infrastructure, education, and fundamental social services.

  • Reform the tax system

Reforms should enlarge the tax base and eliminate the exclusions that exempt some people and organizations with political ties from paying taxes. Taxation that is more inclusive and straightforward can boost productivity, increase tax revenue, and lessen tax evasion.

  • Liberalize the financial sector with the goal of market-determined interest rates

Government interest rate regulations typically penalize savers, deter investment, and stifle financial progress; restricting credit typically encourages corruption and benefits political insiders. Market-based interest rates encourage saving and ensuring that banks or the financial sector, not politicians in the government, decide how much credit is given out.

  • Adopt a competitive single exchange rate

A competitive, market-driven exchange rate can encourage export-led economic growth and alleviate balance of payments issues; avoid inflated exchange rates that deter exports and cause currency rationing.

  • Reduce trade restrictions

Trade barriers that support particular interests should be eased generally. Tariffs are better to quotas and other arbitrary trade restrictions that stifle trade since they allow for progressive reduction, local enterprises to adapt, and produce money for the government as opposed to quota rents for special interests.

  • Abolish barriers to foreign direct investment

Foreign investment that is prohibited or restricted at home gives monopolies to native companies and lessens competition. A country can increase its capital, create jobs, and develop its workforce through foreign investment, but also increasing competition for native businesses. Domestic businesses that attract FDI can encourage intellectual property breakthroughs that advance development.

  • Privatize state-owned enterprises

State-owned businesses frequently operate inefficiently and rely on subsidies from the government, which increase countries’ fiscal deficits. While some unemployment may result from privatization, these changes are more likely to boost firm productivity and profitability.

  • Abolish policies that restrict competition

Removing regulations and obstacles that prevent new firms from entering the marketplace can stimulate competition, efficiency, and economic growth.

  • Provide secure, affordable property rights

Investment and individual liberty are encouraged by a legal system that awards and preserves property rights, including the rights of those who hold land without legal documentation and work undocumented jobs in the informal sector. Owners can obtain financing thanks to private assets, which grows the economy and the revenue base of the government.

Effects of the Washington Consensus

By the middle of the 1990s, the benefits had mainly fallen short of expectations, especially in Latin America, where reforms had been pursued with particular zeal. The Washington Consensus was expanded to prescribe a longer list of adjustments in response, which is evident in the increasing number of terms and conditions associated with IMF and World Bank loans.

However, sluggish development, recurrent fiscal crises, and widening inequality cast doubt on the success of the entire project, severely harming the Washington Consensus’ political reputation. A new wave of leftist governments appeared in Latin America in the 2000s, many of which ran on platforms promising to reverse these regulations.

Major Criticisms

  1. Free trade is not necessarily advantageous for emerging economies, according to some economists. To ensure long-term prosperity, several strategic and young industries must first be preserved. These businesses can also need protection from imports in the form of subsidies or taxes.
  2. Government assistance has allowed Chinese businesses to make significant investments in Asia, Latin America, and Africa’s developing nations. These businesses frequently make infrastructural investments, opening doors for long-term trade and growth.
  3. Privatization can boost output and raise the standard of the good or service. Privatization, however, frequently causes businesses to disregard specific low-income segments or the social demands of a rising economy.

Conclusion

There can never be a fixed set of rules that even by theory can help to build a self-sufficient economy, the short-term impacts of these rules did not help the targeted economies, however it helped them build a strong base on which these economies can stay stable and thus helped the long-term growth of these economies. Any sets of rules can only be descriptive and not prescriptive for an economy, as each economy in itself is unique and all require different solutions for them to get through their problems. Sure, these rules could be taken as an outline, but definitely not the guidebook to build an economy.

Abishek Jeremy Lobo

Editor, TJEF

References

  1. https://www.piie.com/blogs/realtime-economic-issues-watch/what-washington-consensus
  2. https://www.piie.com/commentary/speeches-papers/washington-consensus-policy-prescription-development
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/04/16/people-have-long-predicted-collapse-washington-consensus-it-keeps-reappearing-under-new-guises/
  4. https://www.intelligenteconomist.com/washington-consensus/

BANK SYNERGY AND SCENARIO

History:

The amalgamation of all presidency banks started the emergence of modern banking in India (Bank of Calcutta, Bank of Bombay, and Bank of Madras) in 1921 to form the Imperial Bank of India, which was run by European Shareholders. They set reserve Bank of India up in 1935 to address the irregularities in the Joint Stock Company. Post-independence, they nationalized the RBI in 1949 as per the Transfer to Public Ownership Act. In 1955, State Bank was nationalized under the State Bank of India Act in Parliament. In 1959, seven subsidiaries of State Bank were nationalized.

In 1969, Indira Gandhi presented a paper entitled “Stray Thoughts on Bank Nationalization” at the annual conference meeting of the Government of India. The paper emphasized on nationalization of Banks. 

There were factors that led to the nationalization of banks. It was told that banks must play a social role in the economy and maintain social balance. They assumed capitalists to be imperialists. Indian freedom battles were against imperialism. Hence, people and government were conservative and influenced by the alternative to socialism. East India Company was a product of monopoly. There were few business people and rich authorities who used to dominate the banking sector and make a profit. The government of India wanted to stop this practice. Banks were set up in cities and also targeted the urban people who were very few at that time. It did not provide people living in rural areas with banking facilities. The banks before nationalization were focusing to perform transactions in the Corporate and Business sectors. They gave not much emphasis on infrastructure sectors. Despite being a country dependent on agriculture for its income and livelihood, they did not give farmers loans because of their poor economic condition.

In response to these factors, the major nationalization of Indian Banks was implemented within a month of the proposal. After this acquisition, the government-controlled around 91% of banking business in India.  

Post Nationalization Reforms:

Indian Banking System experienced a good turn after nationalization. With nationalization, the government focused on components that led to this event. In 1975, the first regional rural bank was set up. Branches of banks were set up in the rural areas of the country. In 2013, the number of branches reached 109,811. Loans to farmers were granted. People, according to their economic status, were given subsidies. In 1975, the first regional rural bank was set up. 

Nariman Committee:

In 1969, under the chairmanship of Shri F.K.F Nariman, new objectives were put forward to discharge social responsibilities and to implement Lead Bank Scheme (At least one bank should have a lead branch in one district).

Narasimhan Committee:

In 1975 and 1991, the Narshimha Committee (also known as Committee on Financial System) brought reforms in the banking sector by introducing the concept of big banks, three-tier system of banks, mega-banks, and more control.

In 1980, six more banks were nationalized. In 1993, Punjab National Bank was merged with the New Bank of India, which reduced the numbers of nationalized banks from 20 to 19. In 2018, Bank of Baroda was merged with Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank. In 2019, 10 more banks were merged into 4 major banks.

Need and Advantages of Mergers (Implementation of 4Rs: Regulate, Recapitalise, Resolution and Reform)

The number of PSBs is high. 27 Public sector banks in India were targeting the same potential customers. It made little sense for the government to compete to gain the same customers. Recapitalization will reduce if the mergers become successful. The government is facing fiscal constraints. Hence, a reduction in recapitalization is needed. The non-performing assets are very high in some banks. A proper check is required to reduce it. By merging, the regulatory burden on banks will reduce. Except for SBI, there is no big bank in India to compete on International Level. Merging banks will cause the formation of big banks with more total business and deposits.

Issues of Mergers

It is difficult for one bank to sync with a bank with higher NPAs. This might create complexities further and can have side effects. Different banks have their unique mission and visions. Merging the two different banks will need time to settle with the new system. If banks after merging are not assessed and controlled well can result in higher NPAs.

Why back to privatization?

 To solve these issues, a new agenda is required. With Globalization and competencies in the Economy, the Government of India is gradually shifting to the Libertarian side of the economy. The business of government is not to run a business. As per the RBI Financial Stability Report, the Gross NPA ratio is likely to increase. Also, because of financial limits, it is proposing private players come forward and invest in banking. Market capitalization in Public Sector Banks is less than the private sector banks. The money used to recapitalize the banks to recover the stressed assets should be used in development projects and the improvement of infrastructure. The budget presented in 2021 states Rs. 1.75 Lakh Crore worth revenue will be generated by Private Sector. There was much emphasis on disinvestment, too. The budget also says two banks will be privatized in this financial year. The government will have a bare minimum presence in running them. 

Privatisation is expected to decrease the recapitalization burden on government as India is already a capital starved country. Considering the business angle of the banking industry, PSBs are more leveraged than PVBs, making the former one risky. On the business expansion front, they have fallen way behind: their (y-o-y) CASA growth in September 2021 was 11.6 percent compared to 22.8 percent for PVBs and 17.2 percent for FBs.

Conclusion

Although much has been talked about privatization, the proper implementation and regulation is demanded so that banking reforms do not shift back to square one. In a country like where people expect populist reforms, we might not well appreciate this move. Also, bitter memories of private imperialism still haunt people. People can easily lose money in private banks if the employees of banks indulge them in malpractices. There is equal risk in public sector banks and the value of frauds in these banks is much higher than in private banks. The solution to every problem is better asset liability management and efficient use of capital, as well as policies. 

Country post-pandemic is facing issues of rising inequality and inflation. Privatisation at this point in time would be very stricter move as people are unsure about the policy changes. How these banks will try to cater to people from different income group and different sectors, is still a question?

REFERENCES

  1. Banking In India –Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banking_in_India)
  2. Data and image- Bloomberg Quint(https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/the-origins-of-the-great-indian-bank-merger)
  3. Draft Reports- RBI (https://m.rbi.org.in/scripts/PublicationDraftReports.aspx?ID=552)

Should emerging markets worry about the US monetary policy announcements?

INTRODUCTION

Financial markets of both developed, as well as emerging countries, usually have some kind of impact due to the United States Monetary Policy. Any changes made by the United States or even ramblings about potential changes can have both positive as well as negative impacts on the Exchange rates as well as Bond rates of Emerging Market Economies (EMEs). When Foreign Banks lend to firms in EMEs they essentially do them in terms of dollars. This creates a direct relation between the United States Monetary Policy and the credit cycles of the EMEs. The impact of the United States Monetary Policy is varied depending on the nation as well as the industries that are directly affected by them. The local lenders of EMEs do not have an offsetting impact on the foreign bank capital inflows, while the United States Monetary Policy affects the credit conditions both extensively as well as intensively. It has been found by many researchers that the spillover effect of the United States Monetary Policy is stronger for EMEs which have a higher risk.

FEDERAL OPEN MARKET COMMITTEE (FOMC) AND ITS ANNOUNCEMENTS

Monetary policy decisions in the United States have a significant impact on financial markets in both developed and developing countries. This was clear in the summer of 2013 when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first mentioned the prospect of decreasing the Federal Reserve Board’s security purchases on May 22. In the months that followed, this “tapering talk” had a significant negative influence on financial conditions in developing countries, with currency rates depreciating, bond spreads widening, and equities prices falling. A full-fledged balance of payments crisis appeared to be looming for several of the countries.

The US Federal Reserve chose to utilize the Federal Open Market Committee to undertake monetary policy changes in response to the Global Financial Crisis caused by the Sub-Prime Crisis in 2008. (FOMC). The FOMC chose to employ an unconventional monetary policy starting in 2008, as illustrated in the chart below.

Fig: Period of Unconventional Monetary Policy

The next era was highlighted by the Large-Scale Asset Purchase Program (LSAP), a programme of direct asset purchases, as well as prior indications on monetary policy direction. The research relied on high frequency variations in longer-term Treasury rates to detect monetary policy shocks because the federal funds futures rate no longer provided a suitable basis for doing so during the unconventional monetary policy phase. The identifying assumption is the same as for the traditional monetary policy period: Treasury rate fluctuations in a brief window around policy announcements are attributable to unanticipated changes in the US monetary policy stance.

Fig: Treasury Yields on FOMC days

Two-year Treasury rates are seen in the first panel of Chart 2. The period is characterised by medium-term patterns, in which yields declined between 2008 and 2011, stayed low from 2012 to 2013, and then rebounded, as well as shorter-term variations with more regularity. The vertical lines represent FOMC days where the percentage change in yields was 2 standard deviations below or above the period average.

The second panel shows the percentage change in yields on each of the FOMC days. Day-to-day changes in response to FOMC announcements that exceeded the two-standard deviation band around the average changes are indicated in red. The third panel compares the daily percentage change in rates on FOMC days to the daily percentage change in yields on all other days in the sample period. It shows that Treasury yields declined on FOMC days on average compared to non-FOMC days, and that the former had more tail events, such as sudden rises or drops in yields.

Finally, on the days of the FOMC announcements, we compare changes in 2-year Treasury yields to changes in 10-year Treasury yields in the last panel. On FOMC days, the fluctuations in 2-year and 10-year rates were significantly connected, as shown in the graph. There were only a few times when the yields’ near synchronisation was broken.

IMPACT OF US MONETARY POLICY ON INDIAN ECONOMY

There was a lot of research done to identify the effects of the US Monetary Policy on the Emerging Market Economies, various statistical as well as regression models were run to come to various conclusions. The most significant of which were the following.

Bhattarai et al (2018) estimated the spill-over effects of US QE on EMEs and assessed the differences in the responses in the policy of those economies, in which they found that the US quantitative easing (QE) resulted in currency appreciation for EMEs, as well as higher long-term bond rates, stock prices, and capital inflows.

Dahlhaus and Vasishtha (2014) studied the possible impact of the withdrawal of stimulus due to QE on EMEs which resulted them in finding for EMEs, the impact of QE tapering was predicted to be minor as a percentage of GDP. However, they warn that this might still create severe market volatility.

Gupta et al (2017) looked at the effects of QE and EMEs, in which they found In EMEs, QE had a considerable impact on exchange rates, stock prices, and bond yields.

Impact on India

Fig: INDM1 (Indian Money Supply), USMBASE (United States Monetary Base), EFFR (Effective Federal Funds Rate), INDBNCRE (Indian Bank Credit Rate), USD INR (Exchange Rate), and Indian Interest Rate changes

QE increased the money supply in the United States, which in turn increased capital inflows into emerging economies like India, increasing the economy’s money supply. At the same time, as the money supply shifted to growing economies such as India, the money supply in the United States shrank. As a result, there is a bi-directional causality between the money supply in India and the money supply in the United States. Indian Money Supply and Indian Bank credit rate also show a bi-directional causality due to the fact that the increase in bank credit will lead to increase in money supply.

QE increased the money supply in the United States. As a result, inflows into emerging economies like as India increased dramatically. This should have caused the Indian rupee to appreciate against the US dollar during QE and depreciate during tapering. In contrast, the rupee has been progressively losing strength versus the US dollar. This is because the Reserve Bank of India intervenes in the foreign exchange market to prevent the Indian currency from gaining too much, lowering volatility. The influence of QE on the currency rate has been negligible as a consequence of the RBI’s involvement.

CONCLUSION

According to our research, surprise US policy pronouncements have a big and significant influence on asset values in developing countries. Our estimates demonstrate that in developing nations, a surprise monetary easing, as assessed by a decline in the 2-year Treasury yield on the day of the FOMC announcement, leads to exchange rate appreciation, equities price gains, and bond yield reductions. A surprise tightening, as measured by an increase in the 2-year Treasury rate, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.

Evidence suggests that monetary policy shocks have a lesser spill-over in other advanced economies, such as the euro-zone, Japan, and the United Kingdom, owing to their weaker financial connectivity with emerging economies.

The signaling effect or portfolio rebalance effect, of US policy statements may have an impact on emerging economies. The findings highlight the impact of unexpected US monetary policy pronouncements for emerging economies and add credence to emerging market policymakers’ concerns in recent years. They emphasize the necessity for emerging economies to remain cautious in the face of US policy changes.

The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, and to a lesser extent other advanced countries’ central banks, prepare the markets well in advance by providing unambiguous guidance, particularly when policy tightening is expected. The influence would then dissipate over a longer period until the day of the announcement, and emerging economies would be unlikely to see significant short-term financial upheaval.

REFERENCES:

  1. Jaswal, A., & Ahuja, B. R. (2021). Unconventional US Monetary Policy: Impact on the Indian Economy. The Indian Economic Journal, 0019466221998627.
  2. Bräuning, F., & Ivashina, V. (2020). US monetary policy and emerging market credit cycles. Journal of Monetary Economics, 112, 57-76.
  3. Gupta, P., Masetti, O., & Rosenblatt, D. (2017). Should emerging markets worry about US monetary policy announcements?. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, (8100).
  4. Arora, V. B., & Cerisola, M. D. (2000). How does US monetary policy influence economic conditions in emerging markets?

Impact of US-China trade war on across the globe

Abstract:

The US-China trade war started in 2018 and it hasn’t ended even though there has been a change in the US administration. These two countries have great importance in the world trade and any changes in policies with respect to it affect the whole world. This report studies the impact US-China trade war on the stock market of various countries during the period 2018-19.

Overview:

The two giant economies of world USA and China have been in constant growth trade relations since 1970s. These trades accelerated after China entered World Trade Organization in 2001. The US has consistently imported from China their onwards and the bilateral trade deficit in of US rose to $375.6 billion in 2017. During Donald Trump administration, US started imposing tariffs and trade barriers on China in hope to reduce the trade deficit and provide market for home grown industries. The imposition of tariffs escalated quickly resulting countries taking some drastic measures which in-turn converted into a trade war.

This imposition of tariffs had ripple effects around the world. Some countries benefitted to some extent from it and some countries paid the similar price via tariff hikes. By 2019, the US had placed tariffs on about $350 billion in Chinese imports, while China had countered with duties on US exports worth more than $100 billion. The tariffs were imposed to reduce the trade deficit, but in 2020, the US-China trade deficit hit a new high of $915.8 billion and the goods and services deficit hit a new high, the most since 2008. The decision to impose tariffs affected consumers, the importing firm also absorbed some cost The US consumers paid the price in the end of all the tariffs imposed onto China. The impact on US producers with significant exposure to Chinese markets was also captured in stock market valuations. The equity price performance of US companies with high sales to China underperformed relative to US businesses exposed to other international markets, after tariffs linked to the $34 billion retaliation list by China were implemented.

                     Impact of US Tariffs on Sales                  

   Tariffs affecting top 10 importing sectors

The above charts show impact of tariffs onto top 10 imports of US from China. The sectors which import the maximum in terms of $ are telecom and electrical industry, computer industry and households’ items.

First, Trade Policy uncertainty about trade policy affects investment decisions of companies. If it were 100% certain that the tariffs stay in place, the producer in the import competing sector could raise investments and if it were sure there would be an agreement about the reduction of tariffs to pre-trade conflict levels, the producer in the exporting sector could raise investments. If it is uncertain what will happen, companies in both sectors will wait with investing. This slows down the whole manufacturing cycle ultimately hurting parties on both sides.

Second, the trade policy uncertainty had a much larger impact on the stock market than on investment itself, the S&P 500 fell by 2.5% on March 22, 2018, the day the US announced higher tariffs on 50 billion dollars of Chinese imports. Many companies listed on the stock market have substantial commercial business outside of the US which were also heavily affected by the new tariffs. This uncertainty has weighed on investor confidence around the world and has contributed to losses. In 2018, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell more than 13% and the Shanghai Composite slumped nearly 25%. Both indices have recovered some ground and were up 12% and 16% respectively 2019 (Fig-1: Shows the performance of US and China stock index)

                                    Impact of Trade war on Stock Market of US & China

 Impact of US-China trade war on other countries:


The trade war between the United States and China had a significant worldwide impact, with some countries benefiting while others suffered the brunt of the consequences, and some economies remaining unchanged.

While trade flows between the US and China dropped, trading prospects for other countries increased. Here, we have picked a few countries to analyze the impact of the trade wars:

Vietnam:

During the US-China trade war, Vietnam was one of the countries that benefitted as US, over the years, has been the biggest market for Vietnam’s exports, and China was the 2nd largest source for Vietnam’s imports.

Vietnam’s exports rose to around $290.4 billion, and the country saw a trade surplus of $34.78 billion with the US. Meanwhile, Vietnam faced a trade deficit of $24.17 billion with China in 2018. However, Vietnam spent US$57.98 billion on imports during the first quarter of 2019. Additionally, there a GDP growth of 7% majorly due to manufacturing, consumption, and tourism. The expansion of manufacturing helped in gaining more investors and thus aided in increased exports including apparels, furniture, shoes, seafood to the US.

While there is an increase of exports to US to a large extent (by 27.3% in 1st half of 2019), the increase to exports to China was only 0.3%. Vietnam’s exports to China mainly consisted of electronics, semiconductors, apparels, furniture.

There is a benefit as the effect of tariffs on the Chinese goods consumed are also produced and consumed in Vietnam. Therefore, such products were exported to the US, and gain market share from Chinese goods subjected to tariffs, while exporting to US. This led to increase in FDIs, expanding the job market.

Another benefit was that the companies based in China shifted production operations to Vietnam. However, investors are finding it strenuous as the quality of manufacturing and sourcing materials are not at par with China.

Despite the jump in exports and investments, Vietnam also saw a negative impact as it faced similar tariffs as China due to the increasing trade surplus with the US. Vietnam is also not immune to US taxes.

China’s rampant exports to the country would lead to an increase of Vietnam’s trade deficit with China, and Vietnam’s domestic firms will face difficulty from rising competition from Chinese goods. Due to the trade wars, if China decides to consume the exports instead of exporting to other countries, Vietnam will find it challenging to export to China.

                                                        Vietnam-US Trade (2017-2019)                               

                                     
                                                        Vietnam-China Trade (2017-2019)                                       

Taiwan:

Taiwan was also one of the countries that benefitted from the US-China trade wars due to the effect of trade diversion, gaining unexpected earnings of $4.2 billion in 2018-2019. The country earned the most out of office machinery equipment by gaining around $2.8 billion dollars.

Due to increasing labor charges, productivity challenges, IP rights violations, Taiwan had already begun shifting its operations from China back to Taiwan. Therefore, now those goods turned from made-in-China to made-in-Taiwan. Additionally, Taiwanese investors invested back NT$610 billion from China back to Taiwan.

Taiwan had initially faced a loss due to steel and aluminum tariffs, but as it is a rich ICT hub, it gained the most in precision engineering products and electronics ($2,941.6 million, and $310.7 million) the effects of trade diversion was made up for. However, Taiwan also faced negative effects in services like Business, transportation, trade, finance ($58.323 million, $36.6 million, $25.3 million, $24.5 million).

In 2018, Mainland China was Vietnam’s largest trading partner (with 23.9% total trade, 18.6% Taiwan imports).

US was Taiwan’s 2nd largest trading partner (with 11.8 % of total trade and 12% of Taiwan imports), the countries had a total transaction in goods and services of $94.5 billion – with $40.3 billion in exports, $54.2 billion imports, where Taiwan faced a trade deficit of $13.9 billion. Taiwan’s GDP grew to 2.96% in 2019 from 2.79% in 2018.

                          

                   
                              Goods exported from Taiwan – overall (Source: Statista.com)

Mexico:

As Mexico is a country of low tariffs, it was viable for companies to move their production from China to Mexico during the trade wars between US and China.

The global economy was facing a slowdown as there was a decrease in investment in manufacturing, but due to the shift of operations to Mexico, the country had opportunity to grow through employment, investment, and market.

Due to the effects of increased tariffs imposed by US on China, Mexico replaced China as a major trade partner in 2019 as the value of Mexico exports to US increased as compared to China

Mexico exported a total goods and services of US$ 361 billion to the US (majorly automobiles with reciprocating piston engine – where Mexico’s US market share rose 15%, and China’s dropped 9%; raw materials), and imported a total goods and services of US$ 235 billion (majorly petroleum) million in 2019.

When it comes to China though, the scale tips considerably to China as Mexico exports to China was only US$ 7.1 billion, whereas China’s exports to Mexico was around US$ 93 billion. However, there is a steady increase from US$ 6.7 billion in 2017

Mexico did benefit from the trade war, as the resulting exports of China to US reduced, opportunities grew for Mexico. Additionally, China started using Mexico as an export platform to reach US as the tariff for exporting from Mexico was lesser than the 25% tariff of exporting directly from China

However, Mexico’s GDP declined by -0.177% and entered recession in early 2019 as the country couldn’t handle the slow industrial output, and decreased business investments

                                       
     
Conclusion:

Bottom line for the US-China trade war is that both the countries being economic superpower share huge stake in fostering open trade and investment. Any geopolitical disputes among these countries will have and had serious repercussions on countries all over the globe. Some countries may have benefited from this, but majority of the countries had to face some difficult time. Both the countries risk losing billions of dollars’ worth of money which could have contributed to their GDP due to this trade war. US’s changes in trade policy could have been based purely on politics and to reduce the China’s economic growth and its growing importance in the world economy. Since it has not benefited any of the two countries. The China’s government in its turn has a goal to achieve leadership in robotics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. It will provide financial support to high-tech industries and will do everything possible not to let the US stop or slow down the modernization and digitalization of the China’s economy.                 

References:
https://www.vietnam-briefing.com/news/us-china-trade-war-inspires-vietnam-growth.html/
https://ajot.com/news/why-vietnam-could-be-asias-biggest-trade-war-winner
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-02/vietnam-s-economy-is-being-squeezed-in-the-u-s-china-trade-war
https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/S2514-465020200000008011/full/html
https://direct.mit.edu/asep/article-abstract/19/1/61/93319/Implications-of-the-U-S-China-Trade-War-for-Taiwan?redirectedFrom=fulltext#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20positive%20impacts,domestic%20value%2Dadded%20and%20employment.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2019/11/29/why-taiwan-is-benefiting-the-most-from-the-us-china-trade-war/
https://direct.mit.edu/asep/article-abstract/19/1/61/93319/Implications-of-the-U-S-China-Trade-War-for-Taiwan?redirectedFrom=fulltext
https://www.stimson.org/2018/us-china-trade-war-impact-taiwan/
https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/the-us-china-trade-war-and-options-for-taiwan
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340955319_Implications_of_the_US-China_Trade_War_for_Taiwan
https://www.export.gov/article?series=a0pt0000000PAyNAAW&type=Country_Commercial__kav
https://tradingeconomics.com/taiwan/exports
https://research.hktdc.com/en/article/MzU3OTI2Nzg1
https://dialogochino.net/en/trade-investment/32441-is-mexico-really-winning-the-us-china-trade-war/
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/12/mexico-may-be-an-unexpected-winner-of-the-us-china-trade-war.html
https://www.tecma.com/mexico-is-a-beneficiary-of-the-us-china-trade-war/
https://www.ft.com/content/e291718a-7c6e-11e9-81d2-f785092ab560
https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/Country/MEX/Year/LTST/Summarytext
https://gbsrc.dpu.edu.in/blogs/impact-of-us-china-trade-war-on-indian-economy
https://home.kpmg/in/en/blogs/home/posts/2020/01/impact-of-us-china-trade-war-on-india-asean-countries.html
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/26316846211038223
https://www.livemint.com/news/india/us-china-trade-war-impact-india-gained-755-million-additional-exports-to-us-11573047787150.html
https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/why-the-us-china-trade-war-has-not-helped-india-analysis/story-bQ74UotjHLBpHmRsoZc2xJ.html
Trade war: US-China trade battle in charts – BBC News
US-China trade war: ‘We’re all paying for this’ – BBC News
The U.S.-China Trade War The Global Economic Fallout | S&P Global
The global macroeconomics of a trade war | VOX, CEPR Policy Portal
USCBC Reports | Page 2 | US-China Business Council
The Economic Impacts of the US-China Trade War
U.S. trade deficit hits record high in 2020: The Biden administration must prioritize rebuilding domestic manufacturing | Economic Policy Institute
The Impact of US-China Trade Tensions – IMF Blog
The US-China Trade War and Brazil as Proof of Trade Redirection – Harris Bricken
US-China trade war to cost $455bn in lost output, says IMF | International trade | The Guardian
Trade Balances Mostly Driven by Economic Forces, Not Tariffs – IMF Blog
Full article: US-China trade war and China’s stock market: an event-driven analysis
The failure of Trump’s trade and manufacturing policy | Economic Policy Institute

Coal Crisis in India

India has been battling a severe coal supply shortage for the past few months. The situation was critical when India saw a massive power supply shortage in October’21. It was due to a scarcity of coal, which had reached the point where 135 thermal plants in the country didn’t even have a four-day supply.

So what is fuelling this coal shortage?

Let us first understand the source of India’s coal supply. India is the second-largest consumer of coal after China. Coal accounts for 70% of India’s electricity generation. Though India is the fifth-largest holder of coal reserves which is close to 10% of the world’s share, it still imports 25% of its coal consumption. India imports 80% of its import coal requirement from Indonesia, Australia, and South-Africa. Coal India Ltd. (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Ltd. (SCCL), both being government-owned corporations are the major contributors to the production and dispatch of coal in India.

Causes of the Coal crisis

Global factors

Prices of coal are rising globally, seeing a gain of 160% in the last few months. This could be attributed to the reviving economy and increasing demand for electricity. The year 2020 experienced a sharp decline in demand for coal as production was halted in various industries because of the pandemic. But the reviving economy is demanding both, an increase in production as well as consumption of coal. Therefore, the imports had to be substantially curbed due to the rise in global rates building a gap between the demand and supply and leading to the supply crunch. High imports of coal by China is one of the reasons inflating the coal prices.

Source-RBI portal

High imports of coal by China is one of the reasons inflating the coal prices. Along with India, China has also been facing a energy crisis due to flooding in one of its key sources of coal. Also, it has been taking steps to reduce coal consumption to reach its carbon neutrality goals, which is not practical currently as its economy is reviving and the industries are heavily reliant on coal-sourced power.

Indonesia, being one of biggest exporters of coal has currently announced a ban on coal exports for a month due to not meeting domestic production targets. This has led to a disruption in market causing rise in price.

Rising demand for electricity

As the economy revived in 2021, India saw a 13.2% increase in demand for power and reached its all-time peak in the month of July.  As the electricity generation increased rapidly, energy crisis was unfolding as most of the thermal plants were running out of coal stock reaching critical and semi-critical inventory levels. According to Central Electricity authority, power demand in April-August 2021 was 203014 MW which was significantly higher compared to 171510 MW in the same period last year. The mismatch of demand and supply has created a disequilibrium in the market leading to increase in price of coal.

Domestic Coal production

Domestic coal production has been stagnated since 2018. Due to water logging in coal-bearing areas caused by severe rains in September and early October’21, dispatches from coal mines were hampered, resulting in lower-than-normal stock accumulation by thermal power plants in October.

Coal India Ltd. has monopoly over the coal supply as it supplies over 80% of the total supply. As per the data below, CIL has been failing to expand and instead the production is seeing a decline since 2018. Though India has the fifth-largest share of coal reserves, it is yet to ramp up its coal production.

Following data shows the production of coal during the last 10 years. The data points out the decline in production in 2020-21 which is also the first ever decline in production in the span of last 10 years.

Source -Ministry of Coal

Let us now examine the causes for India’s failure to increase coal production.

Delayed payments to coal miners and distributors

One of the major reasons for the slowing down production and supply of coal, is the high amount of dues which are yet to received by the coal mining and producing companies like CIL and SCCL

Source -Praapti portal

De-allocation decision in 2014

In 2014, government after being blamed for illegal allocation of mines, had to re-allocate as per the decision of Supreme court.  The government took this opportunity to bring in new players and actively promoted by introducing stimulus packages to attract new players in this market. It failed to work as it is a tough industry and it is very difficult to compete against an established corporation like CIL. Also CIL’s prices have always been significantly lower than the global prices and majority of thermal plants rely on CIL. Not only competing with prices would be an entry barrier, but the bureaucratic and political hurdles to pass through would be very difficult compared to CIL. Therefore, CIL continued to have the monopoly but has been the backbone of the entire coal industry.

I would like to talk about the criticality of this crisis on our economic recovery. If we think about it, Indian sources 70% of its electricity through coal, therefore it is an extremely critical issue to look into as it hampers the recovery as well as the future growth of the economy.

As we saw, there are multiple reasons why this industry has stagnated in the last few years. But one of the reasons which surprised me the most is the fact that though CIL has been always given the complete monopoly over mining and distribution, it has not improved its production. Majority of its shares is owned by the government, and it also receives tariff support from the government which allows them to keep the prices low. It was predictable that the power demand and consumption is going to rise as government designed many booster packages for the economy for its post-covid revival but government owned CIL did not prepare well for the upcoming demand. Government had also decided to curb imports, but it was practically not possible when the domestic production could not keep up with the rising demand.

The issue of delayed payments by DISCOMS might not be highlighted as much as the other causes, but it is one of the major reasons behind delayed production of coal. Operating inefficiency on part of DISCOMS leading to higher costs have delayed payments, especially state-owned DISCOMs.

As many other government-owned and controlled industries are now permitting private entrants, could coal industry too benefit from this trend? But this could only be possible if government gives them a fair chance by supporting these companies. It needs to provide support if they have to compete against prices of CIL. These new enterprises would also require significant capital, and if they are unable to attract coal consumers owing to price disparities, they will be unable to survive.

Therefore, the coal crisis being a substantial obstacle to our economic prosperity, it must be addressed at all levels.

Author

Shilpa Jain

Editor, TJEF