Abenomics: Has it really worked for Japan?

By Keerthana Raghavan

Abenomics refers to a set of policies adopted by the Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he was selected as Prime Minister for the second time in 2012. The policies were implemented in the background of near zero growth rate for past 20 years and huge government debt. The policies were aimed to fight deflation by encouraging private investments and consumer spending.

The Three “Arrows” of Abenomics:

  1. Monetary Stimulus: Monetary stimulus like quantitative easing (when the Central Bank buys bonds from people to lower rates and increase money supply in the economy which would trigger spending) was undertaken. In 2013, the Bank of Japan purchased bonds to reach its inflation target of 2%. The rates are currently negative (-0.1%) in Japan which means the banks need to pay interest to the Central Bank for keeping excess reserves. The whole point is to increase lending and prevent people from saving and also to break the chain of deflation and low spending.
  1. Fiscal Stimulus: Relates to government spending in three main areas ranging from welfare of the people to the infrastructure. The government is trying to create a good environment for business with big building projects. The focus on infrastructure relates to building schools, roads etc. and buildings for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Other measures include fulfilling of its debt obligation which is very high.
  1. Structural Reforms- Policies targeted towards long-term growth focusing on the productivity of its labour force, improving the ease of doing business, deregulation of various industries, increasing inbound tourism etc. productivity of labour force is vital since the demographics of Japan are skewed more towards the older population.

In spite of all these reforms in 4 years nothing much has changed. The GDP growth is still flat this quarter and capex has declined 0.4%. The prime minister has also delayed the hike in consumption tax to 10% to 2019 for the worry of consumer spending taking a hit.

 Why has Abenomics failed?

The major problem in Japan has been a chronic lack of demand for goods. The problem is rooted in the demography. The growth is possible only if there is a major technological growth driver that can revive the economy or if there is huge immigration to balance out the ageing population and shrinking workforce. The fiscal stimulus cannot keep continuing since the budget of Japan is already constrained. The need of the hour is to accept the fact that Abenomics has failed and look for reforms that may boost the economy.

Rockstar Rajan – The Last Monetary Policy Review

By Sachit Modi

On August 9, 2016, Dr. Raghuram “Rockstar” Rajan, who is set to end his 3-year term on September 4, released his last monetary policy review. The RBI Governor, who has reduced the benchmark policy rate by 1.5% since January last year, decided to keep it static in his final review, owing to the inflationary trends. He also stated that, in order to achieve the Liquidity Neutrality goal, RBI will continue to pump funds into the market, as and when the need arises. This article gives few of the major highlights from the review.

The Bi-monthly Rates:

Repo Rate Reverse Repo Rate Cash Reserve Ratio Marginal Standing Facility Bank Rate Inflation Target Growth Forecast
6.5 % 6.0 % 4.0 % 7.0 % 7.0 % 5.0 % 7.6%

Inflation and Inflation Target

In June, the CPI-based retail inflation, driven by sharper-than-expected rise in the food prices (particularly vegetables and sugar), rose to 5.77 %, a 22-month high figure. Even though the market is expecting the food prices to increase further, the inflation target has been set by RBI at an optimist 5.0 % with an upside risk for Jan-2017. This has been kept in line with the RBI’s fixed target of bringing it down to 4.0 % in the next 5 years. The upper tolerance target of 5.0 % has been set by keeping in mind a strong expectation for a progressive monsoon and softening positions of oil and other commodities in the market. One thing to note here is that the inflationary trend is expected to be boosted by the contributions from the GST Bill and the 7th Pay Commission’s Housing Allowance. However, the governor is expecting the influence to be very minimal in the long-term.

Rate-cut Transmissions

The governor took a strong stance against the banks for passing on the rate cuts only modestly. Recently, the banks have been citing the upcoming $20 billion worth of Foreign Currency Non-Residents (FCNR) redemptions as the reason for the same. However, Dr. Rajan stated that RBI, with an efficient management plan and Open Market Operations (OMOs) to the tune of INR 80,500 crore, is well balanced to carry on the redemptions smoothly. This leaves the banks with no further reasons, ‘as of now’, to hold the cuts to themselves.

Conclusion

Overall, the RBI Governor’s valedictory policy was a hallmark of his term. This policy stands out as a unique document in terms of liquidity management, macroeconomic developments and pass-through of previous policy rate cuts to the lending rates.

IMPACT OF BREXIT ON EU

Author: TANUJ GUPTA

Love gone bad! No I am not referring to any Bollywood couple’s breakup but Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU). On 23rd June 2016, the people of Britain voted for the most important decision of their life which will impact not only them but also the future generations of Great Britain and EU. BREXIT will surely transform the economic, political and social landscape of EU.

ECONOMIC – Official trade statistics show that EU is the destination for half of British exports. But Britain’s share of intra-EU exports and imports is only 10.1% and 6.0% respectively. This number is also inflated because goods exported by Britain out of Europe are transited through Rotterdam port in The Netherlands. This phenomenon is termed as ROTTERDAM EFFECT.

Britain’s Total Export to EU 402.3 Billion Euro Britain’s share in total intra – EU exports Britain’s share in total intra – EU imports
Britain’s Total Import to EU 344.2 Billion Euro 10.1% 6.0%

Foreign investments in EU might dry up as companies use Britain as gateway to Europe because of Zero–tariff environment and free movement of labour and capital. Britain with 28% has the highest foreign investment in EU.

EU will have to find a replacement for London which has long served as the financial nerve centre of EU. Many investment banks having headquarters in London will have to move out of London so as to serve the European market. Germany which imports 14% of financial services will be the biggest loser in EU because of increase in cost of financial services.

POLITICAL – For starters, EU would lose an influential member which would have helped them to crack trade deals and have a say in World politics and economics. There will certainly be a shift in the power of decision-making in EU. Germany and France will want the decision-making power to shift towards them which might create further political frictions.

SOCIAL – Another pressing issue is immigration. The free movement of labour might be restricted in Britain due to BREXIT. This will result in the surge of low-wage migrant labourers from Africa and Middle East to EU. This might add fuel to the existing anti-immigration movements in EU and may lead to further political differences amongst EU members.

SECURITY – With the growing threat of ISIS, security is a key issue for EU. Britain is home to world-class intelligence agencies like MI5 and MI6. BREXIT will put EU at the back foot in counter terrorism and intelligence operations. The plans for building a unified European army will also be hit.

The EU after BREXIT will be an impaired regional and a geopolitical union as compared to the current EU, which already punches far below its economic weight in regards with  the global and regional diplomatic and strategic matters.

A Myth: Devaluation helps exports

Author: Nayan Saraf

The conventional wisdom says, “If you devalue your currency, then it will give a boost to your export as it would look cheaper in the global market.” This wisdom has been running through the veins of economists and governments from many decades and played a vital role in determining the government’s economic policies. But over the years, with the increase in globalization and development of the financial market, this wisdom appears to be a myth now.

The first reason is the availability of derivative instruments such as Currency Swaps, Futures and Forwards, which helped importers as well as exporters in hedging the currency risk. This reduces the immediate impact of devaluation.

Second reason is that many exporters import their raw materials from across the world. For example, a car manufacturer imports different parts such as engine from one country, steel from another country and so on. In one way, he might think that his cars would be cheaper in the global market due to devaluation; on the other hand, his input costs have gone up since the cost of imported raw materials would be higher. Hence, he wouldn’t be benefited much from this currency devaluation, as he needs to maintain his profit margins.

Third reason is the increase in the labor cost, due to prevailing inflation in the economy. Currency devaluation leads to higher import costs that will eventually cause inflation. Hence, the work-force have to pay more for the same goods which will reduce their real wages, and soon they will demand for higher nominal wages which will eventually increase the labor costs for a firm.

Devaluation also leads to law of unintended consequences. Suppose China devalues Yuan to make its exports attractive abroad, it might get competitive advantages by doing so, and will help its economy and exporters to grow. But over the time, the manufacturers in other country will largely suffer due to the loss of market share. It will cause closure of plants, layoff, bankruptcy, and eventually, recession in those countries. And due to the spillover effect, a wider recession may result which might cause in declines in the sales of Chinese goods itself because of lack of demand abroad.

At last, other countries might use “Beggar thy neighbor Policy” of competitive devaluation or can put capital controls and other currency restrictions or can provide subsidies to protect their exporters.

All these practical implications don’t allow a country to boost its exports when it devalues its currency. Though there would always be short-term benefits, but in the long term, the country with low labor cost and efficient manufacturing would boost exports.