Counting the Cost

Why are emerging economies failing?

Counting the Cost revisits emerging markets and asks who is to blame for falling currencies and rising inflation.

Last Modified: 07 Sep 2013 09:22
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Emerging markets are having a tough time the world over, but who is to blame? Is it the rich world's monetary policies or have more deep-seated problems merely been masked for years by stellar economic growth?

A few months ago, the headline was simple: The blame for slumping currencies from Brazil to Indonesia was to be put firmly at the door of the United States Federal Reserve.

Guido Mantenga, Brazil's finance minister, made it clear when he declared: "We are now facing new turbulence in the financial markets caused by the Fed, which has caused serious problems not only in Brazil but around the world." 

But there are those who say all is not as it seems.

In India, for example, Raghuram Rajan, the new governor of the Central Bank, faces an uphill challenge. That country's appetite for gold and oil means that it is running a current account deficit, while subsidies and welfare programmes have increased its budget deficit. And rampant inflation and corruption are only making the situation worse.  

Then there is another aspect to this problem. According to Bloomberg, emerging markets, with the exception of China, have more than $2.8tn of currency reserves. But it seems that they are saving that money and using interest rates to stop the outflow of money, which is failing to have the desired impact of slowing a rout in currencies.

At the G20 in St Petersburg, BRICS nations pledged to create a $100bn pool of currency reserves to protect themselves from any shocks. Despite that pledge, China and Russia stressed the need for nations to look within to rebalance their economies, thus ruling out bailouts.

Indonesia is a key example of the troubles afflicting emerging markets. Until a year ago, its economy was doing well. But now its currency has plunged, growth is slowing and inflation is increasing rapidly. The government has announced new economic measures, including the easing of regulations and tax deductions, in a bid to restore investor confidence, but will this be enough to fix one of the most important economies in Asia?  

On this edition of Counting the Cost, we revisit the world's falling currencies. But this time we turn the spotlight on emerging economies and ask if they need to share some of the blame for their malaise.

Water wars 

Will the wars of the future be fought over water?

Many of us can simply turn on a tap and have near unlimited access to water. But what happens when this isn't the case? And are many of us oblivious to just what a source of conflict water can be?

Take the River Nile, for example. That flows through 11 African countries and has prompted all sorts of battles for its control. Then there is the River Jordan. Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories depend on it. And the diversion of the river was one of the causes of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Euphrates River has been at the heart of conflict between Turkey and Syria in the past, while India and Pakistan are in disagreement over the water that flows from Indian-administered Kashmir into Pakistan's Indus River basin.

Will these types of conflicts become more widespread and serious? It is World Water Week, so Counting the Cost decided to take a closer look at a potential source of conflict. 

Africa's aviation hub?

If you think of an aviation hub, what comes to mind? London's Heathrow for Europe, Changi Airport in Singapore, or Dubai in the Middle East, perhaps?

But could Nigeria fulfil this role for Africa?

More than 10 million people travel through its 22 airports each year and that number is set to increase to 50 million over the next decade.

China has invested $500m to build more international terminals in the country and to assist with training and investment in virtually every area of the aviation sector.

"Essentially what we want to accomplish, at the end of the day, is to have Nigeria become the natural hub for the region, and then extend it for the continent, because we want to leverage on the population that we have," Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, Nigeria's minister of aviation, declared.

However, some travellers passing through Nigeria's 22 airports say they are yet to feel the changes and improvements being made in the sector.

"Its been chaotic. I think if there had been a little bit more organisation, in terms of where departures are, arrivals, in terms of customs checks and so forth, it would be a better experience," a passenger named Prithvi told Al Jazeera.

Analysts say previous governments have not been committed to improving the aviation sector, but that this administration is investing heavily in infrastructure and training to get its ambitious ideas off the ground.

So, will the Nigerian government achieve its goal? And if it does, how could this impact the Nigerian economy?

Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. Watch more Counting the Cost.

Follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE and business editor Abid Ali@abidoliverali


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