Poorest Countries Being Harmed by Euro Currency Crisis

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

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SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The ongoing economic crisis in Europe is forecast to harm the economies of the world’s poorest countries if it continues, according to a study by the United Kingdom’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) (odi.org.uk).

As an example, Kenya’s shilling currency has weakened and increased the cost of imports, leading to a surge in inflation, while the number of European tourists has declined, according to Business Daily.

Raging since 2009 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13856580), the eurozone crisis has seen several European countries struggling to pay debts built up during the boom years, and this has threatened the currency compact among countries that use the euro single currency (http://www.ecb.europa.eu/euro/html/index.en.html). Several countries have introduced harsh austerity measures to try and rein in the debts and stabilize economies while keeping countries within the eurozone.

This has had the consequence of dramatically raising unemployment levels, reducing consumption of goods and services and increasing poverty rates in many European countries. Some governments have responded by reducing the amount of legal labour migration allowed into their countries.

The study estimates that the euro crisis could amount to a loss of US $238 billion for poorer countries from 2012 to 2013 as aid, trade, investment and remittance payments sent home to relatives and friends are damaged by the crisis.

This would particularly harm export-dependent, emerging-market countries. The study found demand was weakening for products from low and low-to-middle income countries. This would in turn harm growth in these countries. Growth in the past decade has helped many countries lift millions of people out of poverty and enabled the growth of new middle classes, who in turn use their rising incomes to purchase consumer goods and invest.

The crisis will cause developing countries’ currencies to drop in value if they are pegged to the euro, and for countries to be economically harmed because of austerity policies in European countries, said the study’s author, Dr. Isabella Massa.

“The EU remains the largest single export market for poorer countries, although it is the emerging BRIC economies which are their main source of imports.”

The European Union (EU) (http://europa.eu/index_en.htm) is the biggest market in the world and the largest importer of goods from developing countries. The ODI report found a 1 per cent drop in global export demand has the knock-on affect of reducing growth in poor countries by 0.5 per cent. The countries most at risk from the crisis are Mozambique, Kenya, Niger, Cameroon, Cape Verde and Paraguay.

For example, 17 per cent of Ivory Coast’s exports go to the EU. Mozambique sends 14 per cent of its exports to the EU and Nigeria sends 10 per cent.

Tajikistan in Central Asia was the most highly dependent economy on remittance payments from its workers living outside the country to prop up its GDP (gross domestic product). Remittance payments from Tajik citizens outside the country made up 40 per cent of GDP.

Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo were both heavily dependent on foreign direct investment (FDI) from Europe in 2010.

Many countries have also grown used to strong demand for their resources in recent years as China has rapidly developed and urbanized, sucking in more and more resources from around the world, including sub-Saharan Africa.

“Poor countries are vulnerable to the euro crisis not only because of their exposure (due to dependence on trade flows, remittances, private capital flows and aid) but also because of their weaker resilience compared to 2007, before the onset of the global financial crisis,” said Massa.

“The ability of developing countries to respond to the shock waves emanating from the euro area crisis is likely to be constrained if international finance dries up and global conditions deteriorate sharply.

“The escalation of the euro crisis and the fact that growth rates in emerging BRIC economies, which have been the engine of the global recovery after the 2008-9 financial crisis, are now slowing down make the current situation really worrying for developing countries.”

Despite the gloom, there are many positive and powerful antidotes to this economic crisis, including rising South-South trade and innovation, which shows it is possible to reduce dependency on wealthy-developed countries alone for economic prosperity.

Resources

1) UNRISD: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development: The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) is an autonomous research institute within the UN system that undertakes multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues. Website: unrisd.org/

2) The Global Urbanist: News and analysis of cities around the world: planning, governance, economy, communities, environment, international. Website: globalurbanist.com

3) OECD: The global economic crisis is entering a new phase amid signs of a return to positive growth in many countries. But unemployment is likely to remain high and much still needs to be done to underpin a durable recovery. This website will track the recovery. Website: http://www.oecd.org/general/tacklingthecrisisastrategicresponse.htm

4) African Union: This vision of a new,  forward looking, dynamic and integrated Africa will be fully realized through relentless struggle on several fronts and as a long-term endeavor. The African Union has shifted focus from supporting liberation movements in the erstwhile African territories under colonialism and apartheid, as envisaged by the OAU since 1963 and the Constitutive Act, to an organization spear-heading Africa’s development and integration. Website: http://www.au.int/en/

5) Youth-Inclusive Financial Services (YFS-Link) Program website: The first space for financial services providers (FSPs) and youth-service organizations (YSOs) to gather, learn and share about youth-inclusive financial services. Website: http://www.makingcents.com/ourWork/yfsLink.php

6) Triple Crisis Blog: Global Perspectives on Finance, Development and Environment: Website: http://triplecrisis.com/

7) African Economic Outlook: A unique online tool that puts rigorous economic data, information and research on Africa at your fingertips. A few clicks gives access to comprehensive analyses of African economies, placed in their social and political contexts. This is the only place where African countries are examined through a common analytical framework, allowing you to compare economic prospects at the regional, sub-regional and country levels. Website: africaneconomicoutlook.org/en

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