Counting the Cost

India’s sliding economy

As emerging economies like India experience fall in currency and investors’ confidence, we ask who is to be blamed.

Emerging markets are having a tough time the world over – with falling currencies, falling markets and falling confidence – and a lot of the blame is being placed at the steps of the US Federal Reserve.

This week on Counting the Cost, we look at the fiscal chain of command that is rattling economies across the globe, and its effects.

The Federal Reserve has been trying to stimulate the US economy. Every month, it spends around $85bn buying bonds, that has the effect of keeping interest rates lower, and thus hopefully stimulating business.

But the side effect is that returns on investments are not good so investors rush into so-called emerging markets such as India and Brazil, because they can simply make more money in these riskier markets.

However, the US Federal Reserve has warned that it is about to turn that money tap off, which would mean a reverse of the status quo, and all that investment money heading back towards the US.

When exactly that will happen is still the million dollar question, but things are already affecting the emerging markets.

Asia’s worst performing currency

India is a behemoth in the economic world, but it is struggling to arrest a slide in its currency and in its confidence. The rupee has hit a series of record lows, falling more than 16 percent against the US dollar this year, despite Central Bank attempts to support it.

The weaker currency has meant higher import costs, which has pushed prices up. The government has tried to stop the decline by raising interest rates but India is now Asia’s worst performing currency, and foreign investors have been pulling out as the economy slows.

All of this is quite unbelievable in an economy the size of India’s, as are its issues with food security.

India has a population of more than a billion people, and has major problems trying to feed especially the poorest of them. More than 40 percent of children are estimated to suffer from malnutrition. It all points to mismanagement and poor prioritising.

Now the government is cranking up the subsidies, launching a scheme that aims to draw in two-thirds of the population, in an attempt to better feed them.

Biraj Patnaik, the principal adviser to the Indian Supreme Court and this Right-To-Food programme, joins us from New Delhi to discuss the roots of this problem.

On the flipside of the rupee’s slump are remittances – Indians who live overseas are in fact sending money home because the falling currency is favourable to them.

There are around 25 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) who last year sent back about $70bn to the country. This year it will probably be even more, with some banks already reporting an upto 30 percent increase in the value of remittances in the first half of the year.

But that is a good situation arising from a bad one –  Rajiv Biswas, the Asia Chief Economist at IHS, joins us from Zurich to talk about that.

Recognising Bitcoin

Finally, the virtual currency Bitcoin is gaining real recognition, as Germany says yes to it. The German Central Bank decided to recognise it as a so-called ‘unit of account’.

Bitcoin is a kind of virtual currency, which is used online, with its distinguishing feature being that it has no issuing bank – it is a computer-to-computer transaction service.

But by recognising it, German authorities will now be able to tax business transactions made with Bitcoins.

But Bitcoin has not been legalised as a formal currency, which means it will remain tax-free for personal use, for instance in non-commercial internet auctions.

We are joined by Joerg Platzer from the Crypto Economics Consulting Group, who points out that, despite this sort of decision by the Germans, governments will not be controlling digital currencies any time soon.


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

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