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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » DAILY CHRONICLE™ » Why Sri Lanka is losing sleep over the rupee

Why Sri Lanka is losing sleep over the rupee

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Redbulls

Redbulls
Director - Equity Analytics
Director - Equity Analytics

Economic Times (Kolkata): Sri Lanka’s central bankers are probably more worried about the accelerated fall in the Indian rupee in the past four months than the Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao.

And that’s good news. The worst performance of the Indian rupee in Asia Pacific this year at 16% depreciation to the US dollar is probably doing more good in boosting exports than the numerous policies from the government.

Exports of textiles, auto component and numerous other manufactured products are beginning to look up as for many countries such as Sri Lanka, the US and Germany it is profitable to import from India than China where the yuan has appreciated. The neighbouring island nation is among many countries which are facing pressure forcing its Deputy Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe to say that rising Sri Lankan imports from India could tilt the scales adversely for his country.

“Opportunity is knocking,” says T.C.A. Ranganathanm, CMD at Export Import Bank of India. “You can call it noise and let it go away. Or you can take advantage of it. It depends on individual companies and their perception.” Inflows of billions of dollars in the past few years that kept the Indian rupee elevated and high inflation led to Indian goods becoming expensive globally, benefitting rivals such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China. Now that the US dollars are flowing out and the rupee falling, the natural advantage is beginning to show.

Indian products sold outside have become cheaper with power as well as labour costs along with rupee interest cost in dollar terms falling about 25% since April when China, which thrives on exports, is facing escalating raw material prices and labour costs. Sri Lanka’s import demand is “creeping up” after the Indian rupee’s sharp decline, Sri Lanka’s Central Bank Deputy Governor Weerasinghe was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Lanka wants to limit vehicle imports, and tighten funding of imports. What is more assuring for the textile industry is that apparel exports from India have started looking up after a gloomy 2012-13. According to figures published by Apparel Exports Promotion Council, India’s readymade garment exports have shot up by 14.85% in April-May this year to Rs. 19,918 crore vis-à-vis same period last year.

For the tea industry rupee depreciation can generate a windfall profit in the short term. “Exports are increasing to the US and Europe and a depreciating rupee has brought much cheer to the industry,’’ said DK Nair, secretary general of Confederation of Indian Textiles Industry. “We are hopeful that the industry will be able to achieve the government’s export target of $43 billion in the current fiscal.”

The country produces textile worth $80 billion and exports 35-40% of it. India’s labour cost is one of the cheapest ($1.17 per hour) while labour costs $52/hr in Belgium, $40/hr in France and $36/hr in the US, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. Similarly, the cost of power is also low in India at $0.08/kwh, compared to South Korea’s $0.54/kwh and France’s 0.17/kwh.

The lower cost is especially helping traditional labour-intensive sectors like textile, leather, handicrafts or tea which are riding on the rupee fall and witnessing a sudden rise in order-book size. “Whichever sector you see, people have to strategise properly.

With the rupee fall, everything is 25% cheaper here compared to the global scale,” Ranganathan said, adding that Japan was trying to depreciate their currency yen against the US dollar for the past six months to make themselves more competitive. “That thing has happened to rupee by default. Now, we should take advantage of it.”
http://www.ft.lk/2013/09/03/why-sri-lanka-is-losing-sleep-over-the-rupee/

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