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China has had a stellar growth performance over the past two decades, growing at record rates of around 10 percent. But high growth has come along with a series on imbalances, notably overinvestment in the real estate sector and huge increase in domestic credit, all of which has caused China’s growth projections to moderate.
The agenda for the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Sydney this weekend focuses on two themes: promoting stronger economic growth and employment and making the global economy more resilient. The G-20 leaders have recognized that expanding and strengthening capital markets in developing countries is crucial to both these goals and member countries have identified this as a priority issue for their deliberations.
New uncertainties come to the fore now that the global economy, after six years of turmoil, is showing signs of a return to a more normal situation, where real interest rates in the United States turn positive and commodity prices stabilize at a somewhat lower level, due to a cooling of red-hot demand from China. How will Latin America, which has been buoyed by capital inflows seeking higher returns, respond to the return of normal? Will the economic and social progress observed during the past two decades hold?
It’s been a tough few months for emerging-market currencies. The top slider, India’s rupee, has fallen 20 percent against the US dollar. The Indonesian rupiah and the Brazilian real have fallen about 15 percent; Turkey’s lira is down about 10. As the currencies fall, so do the countries’ international reserves, creating what’s known in non-technical terms as a really bad situation.
Kenya has instituted a new tax that affects users of M-Pesa -- a widely popular phone-based money transfer service used by more than half of Kenya’s adult population. The new 10 percent excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services applies to mobile phone providers, banks, and other money transfer agencies. Operated by Safaricom, the largest mobile network operator in Kenya, M-Pesa accounts for the largest share of users of money transfer services. Users of M-Pesa products will therefore bear most of the impact of the tax.
The spectacle of U.S. politicians pushing the country to the brink of default is likely to have lingering effects on global financial markets and hence on development, the eleventh-hour compromise notwithstanding. In the near-term, however, the main issue is the U.S. economic slump and the increased likelihood that the world’s biggest economy will fall back into recession.