DAVOS: Officials from top emerging market economies, the star performers of recent years, were at pains to reassure the World Economic Forum of their countries’ stability amid turmoil in the currency markets.
With the Argentinean peso plunging 14 percent in two sessions of panic selling and the Turkish lira hitting all-time lows amid political chaos, the stability of emerging markets sparked concern among the movers of shakers at the Davos ski resort.
But delegates were urged to look beyond the short-term volatility currently roiling the emerging markets and focus on the positive fundamentals. Turkey’s deputy prime minister Ali Babacan told the forum that despite the lira crashing through the key level of 2.3 to the dollar, this was not due to investors taking fright and pulling out of the country.
Dismissing the recent volatility as “temporary” and “repricing”, he told a packed audience at Davos that “people who are actually investing in Turkey are keeping their money in Turkey.”
“People who have long-term confidence in the country are still there and they have a long-term view, which is important for us.”
Nevertheless, he acknowledged that several Turkish companies were buying euros and dollars for fear of a further decline in the lira amid a corruption scandal that has sparked a deep political crisis.
“Especially the local political events, they think it is better to buy dollars or euros now rather than waiting.” Carlos Ghosn, head of Renault-Nissan, said investors like him also had to take the long-term view and ride out short-term volatility. “You have to be ready, when you invest in emerging markets, for ups and downs,” he said.
“What is important is not the next three months or the crisis of yesterday or the volatility of next week. We invest for the next 20 or 30 years.”
Another top banking official, who declined to be named, told AFP that currency markets were “overreacting” and that the volatility would be “ephemeral”.
The emerging markets also shrugged off fears that their economies would suffer from the US Federal Reserve’s decision to “taper” its $85-billion a month stimulus programme.
Last month, the world’s biggest central bank cut this programme by $10 billion, prompting worries that investors who had parked this excess liquidity in emerging markets for higher yields would pull it out.
But the finance minister of India, whose country was hit especially hard in May when the Fed warned it might begin the “taper”, told AFP that his economy was well prepared in the event of further withdrawal of stimulus.
“Now I think we have done a lot of preparatory work. There will be some consequences in developing and emerging economies but I think we are better prepared for the taper than when we were surprised in May.”
He added: “Fiscal consolidation has taken place, there’s more FDI (foreign direct investment) flowing into India. We’ve added to our reserves, the rupee is stable and a number of other measures have been taken to bring stability into the capital market.”
Another hot-button topic at this year’s Davos forum was the slowing growth in China after the world’s second biggest economy registered its weakest rate of expansion in more than a decade.
Li Daokui, a leading Chinese economist and former central bank official, warned: “This year and next year, there will be a struggle, a struggle to maintain a growth rate of 7-7.5 percent, which is the minimum to create the 7.5 million jobs every year China needs.”
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