The expansion of the BRIC economies has both advantages and disadvantages for Western countries. Their consistently high growth rates have created a much wider market place for Western firms and a much needed additional source of consumer demand, especially in times of recession. Countries such as China have had double digit growth rates, with others like India experiencing growth rates of just under 10%. But are these impressive growth rates now beginning to fall?
For the last 2 years, the growth rate in the Indian economy has been sub-5%, with growth in the 2013-14 financial year at 4.7%. Though some sectors, including agriculture have experienced buoyant growth, it is other sectors that have been holding this economy back. Manufacturing contracted at an annualised rate of 1.4% over the quarter, while mining contracted by 0.4%. With a growth rate of just under 5%, one might think that this was good – after all many Western economies have only recently entered positive growth. However, the Indian economy has a rapidly growing population and it is estimated that 10 million additional jobs each year must be created. It is this figure that requires such a high growth rate – estimated at around 8%. Thus, the sub-5% growth recorded for 2 years is insufficient to sustain the required job creation.
There are many factors that appear to be holding growth back. High inflation has been a problem for some years and the Indian currency has been relatively weak and volatile. Together, these issues have created an environment of uncertainty and if there’s one thing that investors don’t like, it’s uncertainty. This has therefore led to a lack of investment in the economy, which is a key component of aggregate demand and hence a key source of economic growth. Furthermore, interest rates rose last year, thereby pushing up the cost of borrowing and the rate of credit growth has also slowed. These factors collectively have led to lower foreign investment, domestic investment and spending, which have all contributed towards more subdued growth than in the past. Glenn Levine, a senior economist at Moody’s said:
India’s economy continues to grow well below potential as a combination of supply‐side constraints and the adverse effects of an underperforming government weigh on capital expenditure and hiring … It will be a while before the Indian economy is expanding above 6% again.
However, many economists remain optimistic about the prospects of Asia’s third-largest economy. Inflation appears to be under control and the currency has gained strength. Many believe that more investment supporting government policies will be the kick start the economy needs and this will in turn encourage firms to begin investment. It may be the new leader of this country, Narendra Modo, that will jump start the economy. The Prime Minister is expected to back policies to stimulate growth, who will direct more spending at infrastructure, simplify taxes and introduce policies to attract foreign investment. Adi Godrej, Chairman of the Godrej group said:
As soon as investors see the first signals of growth-supportive policies, you will see a definite turnaround on the ground.
The coming months will be crucial in determining how quickly the Indian economy is likely to see a return to near double digit growth. The new government has indeed promised policies to boost the economy, but the annual budget will confirm whether this promise is likely to be kept. Given the dependence of Indian jobs on a fast growth rate and the dependence of the Western world on the continued growth of the BRICs in creating a wider market for our exports, the fortunes of India are extremely important. The following articles consider this economy.
Indian economy grew at 4.7% in 2013-14 The Times of India (30/5/14)
India’s economic growth disappoints BBC News (30/5/14)
India’s GDP grows 4.7% in fiscal year, missing government forecast Wall Street Journal, Anant Vijay Kala (30/5/14)
India’s economy expands 4.7pct in fiscal year 2013/14 Reuters (30/5/14)
India’s economy still underwhelms CNN Money, Charles Riley, Alanna Petroff (30/5/14)
FY14 GDP growth at 4.7%; India sees worst slowdown in 25 years The Economic Times (30/5/14)
India growth below 5% adds pressure on Modi to spur investment Bloomberg, Unni Krishnan (30/5/14)
Jim Armitage: ‘Modinomics’ in India has helped growth, but not for all Independent, Jim Armitage (17/5/14)
- Using a diagram, explain how economic growth can be created through (a) demand-side measures and (b) supply-side measures.
- Why would higher interest rates reduce growth?
- Why does high inflation create uncertainty and what impact does this have on business investment?
- India has experienced a weak and volatile currency and this has contributed towards a lack of foreign investment and low growth. Using a diagram, explain why this could be the case.
- What sort of government policies would you recommend for the Indian economy if you had become the new Prime Minister and your primary objective was to boost economic growth?
- Why is the expansion of the BRIC economies, of which India is one, so important for Western economies?
The growth of emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil brings with it both good and bad news for the once dominant countries of the West. With growth rates in China reaching double digits and a much greater resilience to the credit crunch and its aftermath in these emerging nations, they became the hope of the recovery for the West. But, is it only benefits that emerge from the growth in countries like China?
Chinese business has grown and expanded into all areas, especially technology, but countries such as the USA have been reluctant to allow mergers and takeovers of some of their businesses. Notably, the takeovers that have been resisted have been in key sectors, particularly oil, energy and technology. However, it seems as though pork is an industry that is less important or, at least, a lower risk to national security.
Smithfield Foods is a US giant, specialising in the production and selling of pork. A takeover by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings has been approved (albeit reluctantly) by the US Committee on Foreign Investment. While the takeover could still run into obstacles, this Committee’s approval is crucial, as it alleviates concerns over the impact on national security. The value of the deal is some $7.1bn, including the debt that Shuangui will have to take on. While some see this takeover as good news, others are more concerned, identifying the potential negative impact it may have on prices and standards in the USA. Zhijun Yang, Shuanghui’s Chief Executive said:
This transaction will create a leading global animal protein enterprise. Shuanghui International and Smithfield have a long and consistent track record of providing customers around the world with high-quality food, and we look forward to moving ahead together as one company.
The date of September 24th looks to be the decider, when a shareholder meeting is scheduled to take place. There is still resistance to the deal, but if it goes ahead it will certainly help other Chinese companies looking for the ‘OK’ from US regulators for their own business deals. The following articles consider the controversy and impact of this takeover.
US clears Smithfield’s acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Penn Energy, Reuters, Lisa Baertlein and Aditi Shrivastava (10/9/13)
Chinese takeover of US Smithfield Foods gets US security approval Telegraph (7/9/13)
US clears Smithfield acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Reuters (7/9/13)
Go-ahead for Shuanghui’s $4.7bn Smithfield deal Financial Times, Gina Chon (6/9/13)
US security panel approves Smithfield takeover Wall Street Journal, William Mauldin (6/9/13)
- What type of takeover would you classify this as? Explain your answer.
- Why have other takeovers in oil, energy and technology not met with approval?
- Some people have raised concerns about the impact of the takeover on US pork prices. Using a demand and supply diagram, illustrate the possible effects of this takeover.
- What do you think will happen to the price of pork in the US based on you answer to question 3?
- Why do Smithfield’s shareholders have to meet before the deal can go ahead?
- Is there likely to be an impact on share prices if the deal does go ahead?
Russia is now ranked alongside Zimbabwe on the worldwide corruption index, despite the fact that the Russian authorities have been doing their best to tackle it. The Russian bribery ‘industry’ is worth some $300 billion per year and those who can be bought include several government officials.
The Russian economy is in much need of foreign investment, but the growing world of bribery is deterring international businesses from investing in Russia. Not only will they face the costs of building and running the business, but they are also likely to face substantial costs in trying to get the paperwork through, as IKEA found. Having said that they would never resort to bribery, IKEA had to pay $4 million for investment in local infrastructure and donate a further $1 million for local government projects just to get the 300+ permits they needed to begin construction. This then led to further bribes and a number of lawsuits. For some companies, the delays caused by not paying a bribe may actually cost more than the bribe itself.
The following webcast and articles look at the case of IKEA and the push by foreign businesses to avoid the clutches of Russian bribery.
Russian bribes culture hits international business BBC News (14/5/10)
Foreign firms pledge not to give bribes in Russia BBC News (21/4/10)
IKEA masters rules of Russian business The Moscow Times (14/5/10)
Russians are spending twice as much on bribes Prime Time Russia (13/5/10)
Corruption Perceptions Index 2009 Transparency International 2009
- Why is Russia in need of significant foreign investment? How would it help the economy?
- Can we classify IKEA (or any other company that uses bribery) as a risk-lover? Explain your answer.
- If a foreign firm wants to invest in Russia, which type of expansion do you think would be the easiest and the least open to bribery?
- IKEA began building without the necessary permits, but then ‘the bureaucrats took advantage of the situation’. Was IKEA operating under conditions of risk or uncertainty?
- In the article ‘IKEA masters rules of business’, Lennart Dahlgren said: “If we had waited to receive them all, we would have lost years”. What economic concept is being referred to?
- To what extent is government intervention and international co-operation needed to tackle corruption in Russia?