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The Yuan effect: Pursuing economic reform or global leadership ambition?

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By Gaurav Sharma

On Wednesday, Yuan–the Chinese currency fell to a four year low, sparking global panic in the financial markets. World currencies including the Indonesian rupiah, Singapore dollar, Taiwan dollar, Philippine peso and the Indian rupee declined under the cascading effect of the fall in Yuan.

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The devaluation of the Yuan was part of China’s response to its tepid growth rate and slowing exports and was favored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a “welcome move”. Meanwhile, the Indian markets, like its international counterparts tumbled down sharply in the aftermath. The BSE Sensex, the Indian benchmark index plunged 354 points to close at 27,512, its lowest point in two weeks. The rupee shed 59 points to nearly touch its two-year low of 64.78.

In contrast to IMF’s findings, the devaluation has raised concerns over a brewing global currency war, with accusations being hurled at China for “unfairly” supporting its exporters.

The valuation of currency is determined vis-a-vis the US dollar and all emerging market currencies have nosedived against the global currency standard.

“The rupee is facing competitive devaluation pressure due to devaluation of Chinese Yuan. At a time when the Asian and other global majors are depreciating their currencies to safeguard the export market and the economy, India, with a strong currency is at an economic disadvantage”, says Anindya Banerjee, Vice-President at Kotak Securities.

China is India’s largest trading partner and accounts for a huge chunk of its trade deficit ($48.5 billion). As such price fluctuations in currency rates do not have a direct bearing on the exports, but the loss in competitiveness along with the surge in hedging costs definitely dents overall export scenario.

China contends that the devaluation is only a one-time affair intended to make yuan more responsive to market forces. However, most market players are apprehensive as to the Chinese claims. Exporters fear more measures might be under the works.

According to Ajay Sahai, director general of Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO) estimates that each percentage fall in the rupee negatively impacts exports by 0.3 per cent.

However, economists believe that there has been little or no co-relation between export growth and rupee depreciation. Global demand is thought to be a more credible factor in driving export growth while currency movement plays only a small part.

“The exports have lost competitive edge due to non-price factors such as competitiveness, logistics and infrastructure”, says DK Joshi, chief economist at Crisil.

Still other feels that the decision has more to do with the recent crash in Chinese stock markets, which had sparked suspicions on its fundamental resilience. Some believe that the liberalization of the Chinese currency is in line with its long-term plan to cement its place as the global reserve currency, either with the US dollar or as its replacement.

However, as per official data from the Bank for International Settlements suggest that the Yuan was indeed overvalued. Last year in June, it was up 14 per cent. A year earlier, the figure was up by 20 per cent.

In light of the weakness witnessed by China in the past few weeks, it is but natural for China to take corrective measures. The long-term implications of the steps are also clear, to give Yuan a global face-lift. A bold move indeed by Beijing.

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At 7.4%, India Will be the Fastest Growing Major Economy in 2018

"The current account deficit in fiscal year 2017-18 is expected to widen somewhat but should remain modest, financed by robust foreign direct investment inflows," the report said.

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However, it added a note of caution:
Indian Economy is growing at the rate of 7.4%, Pixabay

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reaffirmed on Wednesday that India will be the fastest growing major economy in 2018, with a growth rate of 7.4 per cent that rises to 7.8 per cent in 2019 with medium-term prospects remaining positive.

The IMF’s Asia and Pacific Regional Economic Outlook report said that India was recovering from the effects of demonetisation and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax and “the recovery is expected to be underpinned by a rebound from transitory shocks as well as robust private consumption.”

Medium-term consumer price index inflation “is forecast to remain within but closer to the upper bound of the Reserve Bank of India’s inflation-targeting banda of four per cent with a plus or minus two per cent change, the report said.

However, it added a note of caution: “In India, given increased inflation pressure, monetary policy should maintain a tightening bias.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reaffirmed on Wednesday that India will be the fastest growing major economy in 2018, with a growth rate of 7.4 per cent that rises to 7.8 per cent in 2019 with medium-term prospects remaining positive.
IMF declares Indian economy growth fastest among all, IANS

It said the consumer price increase in 2017 was 3.6 per cent and projected it to be five per cent in 2018 and 2019.

“The current account deficit in fiscal year 2017-18 is expected to widen somewhat but should remain modest, financed by robust foreign direct investment inflows,” the report said.

After India, Bangladesh is projected to be the fastest-growing economy in South Asia with growth rates of seven per cent for 2018 and 2019; Sri Lanka is projected to grow at four per cent in 2018 and 4.5 in 2019, and Nepal five per cent in 2018 and four per cent in next. (Pakistan, which is grouped with the Middle East, is not covered in the Asia report.)

Overall, the report said that Asia continues to be both the fastest-growing region in the world and the main engine of the world’s economy.

The region contributes more than 60 per cent of global growth and three-quarters of this comes from India and China, which is expected to grow 6.6 per cent in 2018 and 6.4 per cent in 2019, it said.

The report said that US President Donald Trump’s fiscal stimulus is expected to support Asia’s exports and investment.

The Asian region’s growth rate was expected to be 5.6 per cent for 2018 and 2019.

However, in the medium term the report said that “downside risks dominate” for the region and these include a tightening of global financial conditions, a shift toward protectionist policies, and an increase in geopolitical tensions.

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Because of these uncertainties the IMF urged the countries in the region to follow conservative policies “aimed at building buffers and increasing resilience” and push ahead with structural reforms.

“While mobile payments are expanding sharply in such economies as Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines, on average Asia is lagging sub-Saharan Africa,” the IMF said, adding that the region should take steps to ensure it is able to reap the full benefits of increasing digitalisation in the global economy. (IANS)