Archives For India

Customs_&_Central_Excise_DKBThe Indian Customs department (CBEC) has allowed self-sealing procedure as of 1 October for containers to be exported, as it aims to move towards a ‘trust based compliance environment’ and trade facilitation for exporters.

In a circular to all Principal Chief Commissioners, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) said exporters who were availing facility of sealing at the factory premises under the supervision of customs authorities will be automatically entitled for self-sealing facility.

It said that permission once granted for self-sealing at an approved premise will remain valid unless withdrawn. However, in case of change in the premise, a fresh approval from Customs department will be required.

“The new self-sealing procedure shall come into effect from October 1, 2017. Till then the existing procedure shall continue,” the CBEC said.

It asked field officers to notify a Superintendent-rank officer to act as the nodal officer for the self-sealing procedure.

The officer will be responsible for coordination of the arrangements for installation of reader-scanners.

Earlier in July, the CBEC had said it will introduce the system of self-sealing by 1 September , as against the practise of sealing of containers under the supervision of revenue officials.

However, the CBEC now said that exporters can self-seal containers using the tamper proof electronic seals from 1 October 2017.

Under the new procedure, the exporter will have to declare the physical serial number of the e-seal at the time of filing the online integrated shipping bill or in the case of manual shipping bill before the container is dispatched for the port.

The exporters will directly procure RFID seals from vendors.

“In case, the RFID seals of the containers are found to be tampered with, then mandatory examination would be carried out by the Customs authorities,” the CBEC said.

From October 1, the exporters will need to furnish e-seal number, date of sealing, time of sealing, destination customs station for export, container number and trailer track number to the customs authorities.

In a circular in July, the CBEC had said it endeavours to create a trust based environment where compliance with laws is ensured by strengthening risk management system and Intelligence setup of the department.

Accordingly, CBEC has decided to lay down a simplified procedure for stuffing and sealing of export goods in containers. Source: The India Times > Economic Times, 5 September 2017.

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hoeghKenyan and U.S. authorities found drugs aboard the Höegh Autoliners “Pure Car/Truck Carrier” (PCTC), which was detained at Port Mombasa on September 17. The crew of the ship has been arrested and currently being questioned by authorities.

According to authorities, cocaine was found inside the tires of three military trucks aboard the Hoegh Transporter, a Singapore-flagged car carrier.

Kenyan officials raided the vessel after receiving a tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the vessel had been loaded with the coke at India’s Port of Mumbai.

Kenyan soldiers and security personnel shut down the port for hours before seizing the ship and halting operations. Mombasa, which is Africa’s largest port, serves as the main gateway for imports and exports in the region.

East Africa is a major shipping route for Afghan narcotics bound for Europe. Maritime forces have been unable to curb the flow of drug transport in the region.

The Höegh Transporter was built in 1999 and was transporting nearly 4,000 vehicles, including about 250, which are to be used for peacekeeping missions in South Sudan. Source: Maritime Executive

Customs_&_Central_Excise_logoThe Indian Customs department and international airlines have locked horns over providing confidential data of passengers to the former.

According to a senior Customs official, airlines were not providing information regarding commuters due to which officials were facing problems in curbing smuggling. Due to lack of details, Customs’ anti-smuggling operations were suffering. Another issue was that airlines staff was not present round-the-clock.

“We have asked airlines to provide details over phone as per law. They have to deploy someone in the office all the time as it is in the national interest to curb smuggling. Airlines have been asked to provide details and also depute a staff to answer phone calls and provide relevant details. There is not at all violation of rules in any manner. If airlines refuse to provide details or don’t reply to phone calls, a notice will be issued,” a senior Customs official told media.

Meanwhile, airlines are challenging the authority of the Customs department in this regard. According to sources, Customs department has to provide a written request that was done earlier for getting information regarding travellers. On the other hand, an airline official said, “According to guidelines laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), passenger data should be transmitted electronically. Agencies shall not require a written declaration of baggage from passenger and crew when no dutiable or restricted goods are being carried.”

WCO News - Coordinated Border Management Feb 2015Check out the latest WCO News – per usual a wealth of interesting customs and supply chain information:

  • WCO launches IRIS, an application exploiting open source information
  • Harmonized System amendments effective from 1 January 2017
  • Beginning the CBM process: the Botswana experience
  • Inter-institutionality – a distinctive feature of the Colombian AEO model
  • WCO Data Model: the bridgehead to connectivity in international trade
  • Implementing New Zealand’s Joint Border Management System

and a whole lot more…

Source: WCO

India_USA-3The U.S. and India have reached an agreement that promises to pave the way toward global implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The breakthrough agreement between India and the U.S. should now make it possible for member countries to begin implementing the requirements of the agreement, providing potentially significant financial benefits to businesses trading goods around the world as local customs procedures are streamlined. The target date for ratification of the agreement is 31 July 2015. Upon ratification by two-thirds of the membership, the agreement will enter into force for all WTO states. Member state will then begin the process of adopting conforming legislation.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement

Concluded in December 2013, the TFA is intended to streamline, and to some extent harmonize, customs clearance procedures around the world by imposing new multilateral disciplines on customs procedures in all member countries. The agreement imposes basic globally applicable principles for transparency, due process, and reasonableness in the development and implementation of customs clearance requirements across a broad spectrum of activities related to importing, exporting, and transiting of goods.

The U.S.-India agreement

While the specific details of the bilateral agreement are not publicly available at this time, a press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative states that there are two key elements of the deal:

  • the U.S. and India agree that the multilateral TFA should be implemented without conditions, on the basis of a standard legal instrument for implementing new WTO agreements; and
  • the “peace clause” agreed upon by WTO members in December 2013, under which WTO members will refrain from initiating challenges to certain food security programs under the WTO dispute settlement process, will remain in place “until a permanent solution is found.”

Since announcement of the agreement last December, India has raised concerns that developing countries need greater assurances regarding their ability to maintain government agricultural buying programs and other farm subsidies until an agreement could be reached among WTO members on how to bring such programs into conformity with the body’s trade rules. The U.S. and India had previously disagreed on the form such assurances should take.

Under the new bilateral agreement, the U.S. and India will seek a General Council decision on the two key elements outlined above. A General Council decision will require the consensus of all WTO members. Source: Hogan Lovells International Trade Alert

The World Trade Organisation headquarters in Geneva [AFP Photo]

The World Trade Organisation headquarters in Geneva [AFP Photo]

The World Trade Organization got a surprise setback on Thursday when India, pushing for concessions on agricultural stockpiling, vetoed plans for universal customs rules. The deal could have added $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy.

The July 31 deadline on the first proposal for major global economic reform in two decades – a series of customs procedures known as “trade facilitation” – left negotiators empty-handed after India refused to sign up to it.

India, with its large number of poor and new nationalist government, had demanded the exclusive right to subsidize and stockpile grains which is not permitted by WTO rules.

The WTO, experiencing what may be its worst setback in its 19-year history, reluctantly admitted defeat.

We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge that gap,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo told negotiators in Geneva just hours before the deadline was set to lapse.

Some analysts are of the opinion the failure represents the beginning of a new era of trade deals, which will depend more on individual economies forging their own initiatives, as opposed to attempting to force global reform.

Today’s developments suggest that there is little hope for truly global trade talks to take place,” Jake Colvin at the National Foreign Trade Council, a leading US business group, told Reuters.

The vast majority of countries who understand the importance of modernizing trade rules and keeping their promises will have to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward.

Whether or not other countries will pick up the dropped ball and try to move forward despite the loss is not yet clear, but the present mood is noticeably downbeat.

We’re obviously sad and disappointed that a very small handful of countries were unwilling to keep their commitments from the December conference in Bali, and we agree with the Director-General that action has put this institution on very uncertain new ground,” US Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke told reporters.

Meanwhile, there is speculation that some countries may decide to go ahead with the plan without India’s support.

However, Azevedo said that while the world’s largest economies had choices on how to respond to the failed talks, the poorest economies would suffer the brunt of the fallout.

If the system fails to function properly then the smallest nations will be the biggest losers,” he said. “It would be a tragic outcome for those economies – and therefore a tragic outcome for us all.

Source: Russia Today (contributed by V Singh)

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India, China, US [Picture: www.wespeaknews.com]

India, China, US [Picture: http://www.wespeaknews.com]

The World Trade Organization agreed on Monday this week to side with claims against the United States made by both China and India concerning US-imposed tariffs on products exported to America.

In both instances, the WTO ruled against the US and decided in favor of the major BRICs countries, who for two years now have each asked the organization to intervene and weigh in on America’s use of tariffs to tax certain imports dating back to 2007.

With regards to both cases, the WTO’s judges ruled that the US acted “inconsistent with its agreement on subsidies and countervailing duties,” or taxes imposed on goods sold by “public bodies.”

In China, the panel agreed, US officials improperly levied those taxes against state-owned enterprises that the WTO does not consider to be “public bodies.” Instead, the WTO said, those entities were majority-owned by the Chinese government, but did not perform “government function” or exercise “government authority,” according to the Financial Times. With respect to India, the WTO again agreed that the US was wrong to similarly treat state-owned National Mineral Development Corporation as a public body, according to the International Business Times.

At issue were billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese steel products, solar panels, aluminum, paper and other goods shipped to the US after being taxed as originating from public bodies. The panel’s decision, Reuters reported, “reflected a widespread concern in the 160-member WTO over what many see as illegal U.S. protection of its own producers.”

“China urges the United States to respect the WTO rulings and correct its wrongdoings of abusively using trade remedy measures, and to ensure an environment of fair competition for Chinese enterprises,” China’s commerce ministry said in a statement.

Mike Froman, the US trade representative, responded by saying Washington was “carefully evaluating its options, and will take all appropriate steps to ensure that US remedies against unfair subsidies remain strong and effective”.

Nevertheless, Froman added that the WTO’s ruling in the Indian case constituted at least a partial victory for the US.

“The panel’s findings rejecting most of India’s numerous challenges to our laws and determinations is a significant victory for the United States and for the (US) workers and businesses making these steep products,” he told Reuters. Source: Russia Today.

flags2African countries are coming under strong pressure from the United States and the European Union to reverse the decision adopted by their trade ministers to implement the World Trade Organization’s trade facilitation agreement on a “provisional” basis.

At last week’s summit of African Union leaders in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, “there was unprecedented [U.S. and European Union] pressure and bulldozing to change the decision reached by the African trade ministers on April 27 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to implement the trade facilitation (TF) agreement on a provisional basis under paragraph 47 of the Doha Declaration,” Ambassador Nelson Ndirangu, director for economics and external trade in the Kenyan Foreign Ministry, told IPS.

“This pressure comes only when the issues and interests of rich countries are involved but not when the concerns of the poorest countries are to be addressed,” Ambassador Ndirangu said.

“Clearly, there are double-standards,” the senior Kenyan trade official added, lamenting the pressure and arm-twisting that was applied on African countries for definitive implementation of the agreement.

The TF agreement was concluded at the WTO’s ninth ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia, last year. It was taken out of the Doha Development Agenda as a low-hanging fruit ready for consummation. More importantly, the agreement was a payment to the United States and the European Union to return to the Doha negotiating table.

The ambitious TF agreement is aimed at harmonising customs rules and regulations as followed in the industrialised countries. It ensures unimpeded market access for companies such as Apple, General Electric, Caterpillar, Pfizer, Samsung, Sony, Ericsson, Nokia, Hyundai, Toyota and Lenovo in developing and poor countries.

Former WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has suggested that the TF agreement would reduce tariffs by 10 percent in the poorest countries.

In return for the agreement, developing and least-developed countries were promised several best endeavour outcomes in the Bali package on agriculture and development.

They include general services (such as land rehabilitation, soil conservation and resource management, drought management and flood control), public stockholding for food security, an understanding on tariff rate quota administration, export subsidies, and phasing out of trade-distorting cotton subsidies (provided largely by the United States) in agriculture.

The non-binding developmental outcomes include preferential rules of origin for the export of industrial goods by the poorest countries, a special waiver to help services suppliers in the poorest countries, duty-free and quota-free market access for least developed countries (LDCs), and a monitoring mechanism for special and differential treatment flexibilities.

African countries were unhappy with the Bali package because they said it lacked balance and was tilted heavily in favour of the TF agreement forced by the industrialised countries on the poor nations.

The Bali outcomes, said African Union Trade Commissioner Fatima Acyl, “were not the most optimal decisions in terms of African interests … We have to reflect and learn from the lessons of Bali on how we can ensure that our interests and priorities are adequately addressed in the post-Bali negotiations.”

The African ministers in Malabo directed their negotiators to propose language on the Protocol of Amendment – the legal instrument that will bring the TF agreement into force at the WTO – that the TF agreement will be provisionally implemented and in completion of the entire Doha Round of negotiation.

African countries justify their proposal on the basis of paragraph 47 of the Doha Declaration which enables WTO members to implement agreement either on a provisional or definitive basis.

The African position on the TF agreement was not acceptable to the rich countries. In a furious response, the industrialised countries adopted a belligerent approach involving threats to terminate preferential access.

The United States, for example, threatened African countries that it would terminate the preferential access provided under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) programme if they did not reverse their decision on the TF, said a senior African trade official from Southern Africa.

The WTO has also joined the wave of protests launched by the industrialised countries against the African decision for deciding to implement the TF on a provisional basis. “I am aware that there are concerns about actions on the part of some delegations [African countries] which could compromise what was negotiated in Bali last December,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said, at a meeting of the informal trade negotiations committee on June 25.

The African decision, according to Azevedo, “would not only compromise the Trade Facilitation Agreement – including the technical assistance element. All of the Bali decisions – every single one of them – would be compromised,” he said.

The United States agreed with Azevedo’s assessment of the potential danger of unravelling the TF agreement, and the European Union’s trade envoy to the WTO, Ambassador Angelos Pangratis, said that “the credibility of the negotiating function of this organisation is once again at stake” because of the African decision.

The United States and the European Union stepped up their pressure by sending security officials to Malabo to oversee the debate, said another African official. He called it an “unprecedented power game rarely witnessed at an African heads of nations meeting.”

In the face of the strong-arm tactics, several African countries such as Nigeria and Mauritius refused to join the ministerial consensus to implement the TF agreement on a provisional basis. Several other African countries subsequently retracted their support for the declaration agreed to in April.

In a nutshell, African Union leaders were forced to change their course by adopting a new decision which “reaffirms commitment to the Doha Development Agenda and to its rapid completion in accordance with its development objectives.”

The African Union “also reaffirms its commitment to all the decisions the Ministers took in Bali which are an important stepping stone towards the conclusion of the Doha Round … To this end, leaders acknowledge that the Trade Facilitation Agreement is an integral part of the process.”

Regarding capacity-building assistance to developing countries to help them implement the binding TF commitments, African Union countries still want to see up-front delivery of assistance. The new decision states that African Union leaders “reiterate in this regard that assistance and support for capacity-building should be provided as envisaged in the Trade Facilitation Agreement in a predictable manner so as to enable African economies to acquire the necessary capacity for the implementation of the agreement.”

The decision taken by the African leaders is clearly aimed at implementing the TF decision, but there is no clarity yet on how to implement the decision, said Ndirangu. “We never said we will not implement the TF agreement but we don’t know how to implement this agreement,” he added.

In an attempt to ensure that the rich countries do not walk away with their prized jewel in the Doha crown by not addressing the remaining developmental issues, several countries – South Africa, India, Uganda, Tanzania, Solomon Islands and Zimbabwe – demanded Wednesday that there has to be a clear linkage between the implementation of the TF agreement and the rest of the Doha Development Agenda on the basis of the Single Undertaking, which stipulates that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed!

More than 180 days after the Bali meeting, there is no measurable progress on the issues raised by the poor countries. But the TF agreement is on course for final implementation by the end of 2015. Source: Inter Press Service

TFPrinciples tfig.unece.org

India has proposed changes in the trade facilitation agreement to address the concerns of developing countries in the proposal that tops the agenda of the WTO‘s Bali ministerial scheduled for early December.

The trade facilitation agreement aims to smoothen cross-border trade by removing red tape, improving infrastructure and harmonising Customs procedures. Seen as the developed countries’ agenda, the emerging economies have sought relaxations in the legally binding clauses like clearing shipments within three hours.

“We have informed WTO that there needs to be some restriction on the scope of expediting shipment, and should be only limited to air cargo and that too very urgent ones,” a commerce department official told ET.

The country should also be allowed to restrict it to courier services, as the ones very urgent. WTO has subsequently agreed to relax the clause to make expediting shipments within six hours or as rapidly as possible instead of three hours.

Negotiators from 159 countries have held several rounds of talks since September in Geneva to forge a consensus on the multilateral agreement.

Although talks started in 2001 in Doha, lack of consensus between the developed and developing countries has lead to an impasse.

The ninth ministerial round in Bali is being seen as the last attempt to renew the global trade agreement agenda by focusing on the low hanging fruit such as trade facilitation.

India’s commerce & industry minister Anand Sharma told WTO director-general Roberto Axevedo during his Delhi visit in October that India was in support of the trade facilitation agreement, “but needs a balance in the pact”.

India along with other developing countries had raised objection to the clause, which calls for a sufficient time gap between the announcement of change in tariff to its coming into effect. This would be against India’s constitution, since most of the budget announcements related to tariffs come into effect within 24 hours. “We cannot change our constitution for WTO,” said the official, adding that India has submitted an alternative proposal to this effect, wherein, budget-related announcement should be kept out of this clause since they need to become applicable immediately. “Deliberations are still on, we need to be given flexibility,” he added.

Besides, India has sought a binding agreement on Customs cooperation under trade facilitation, which will ensure mandatory exchange of information between Customs administrations (on request) so as to prevent under-invoicing, overvaluation, tax evasion and illicit capital flows.

However, the developed countries want to agree to it only on ‘best endeavour basis’. “It is important for us, and has been on the table for over 20 year. It is only for cross checking, as information is available at both ends. However, developed countries are putting in so many conditions, confidentiality laws, secrecy. So, we are not sure in what form it will finally look like,” said the official.

India has also been pushing for a binding technical and financial assistance by the developed countries to the developing countries to accept TF agreement. Source: Economic Times (India)

HSBCAccording to the recently released HSBC Trade Forecast Report, by 2020 India is expected to surge past the United States as the world’s biggest importer of infrastructure goods – a position it is expected to hold until at least 2030. This is a result of the country’s increased demand for materials for infrastructure projects (i.e., metals, minerals, buildings and transport equipment) as it invests more in the building of its civil infrastructure.

The report, which focuses primarily on infrastructure, notes that as Asian economies grow they will take an increasing share of infrastructure-related imports over the next two decades. Currently, the U.S. tops the list of countries importing infrastructure goods, followed by India, Hong Kong, China and Germany. By 2030, India will sit up the top of this list, followed by the U.S., China, Hong Kong and Korea.

Sandeep Uppal, HSBC India Managing Director and Head of Commercial Banking, noted that the “rising middle classes across Asia’s rapidly emerging markets, especially in India and China, will drive significant infrastructure demand in the region.”

“Aspirations of the new middle class and rapid urbanization will force India to upgrade its civil infrastructure, thus pushing up demand for overseas infrastructure related goods,” she added.

To continue with the rising trends, the report further states that Asia as a whole is predicted to see the most rapid growth in merchandise trade between 2020-2030 – led by India, China and Vietnam – at estimated annual export growth rates of more than 10 percent.

For comparison, the export rates of European countries, such as the UK, France and Germany, are forecasted to grow at about 4-5 percent annually on average over this 10-year period. Meanwhile, average export growth in the U.S. is estimated to top off at around 6 percent annually during the same period.

What this means is that by 2030 infrastructure-related goods will be the most commonly traded type of goods, increasing in market share from the current rate of 45 percent of total goods exported to upwards of 54 percent. Source: India Briefing

Another Tralac sponsored publication which should be of great interest to trade practitioners, economists and investors, and agricultural specialists. Herewith the foreword to the ebook which is available for download from Tralac’s website – Click here!

The accession of South Africa into the BRICS formation has attracted a lot of attention internationally. Some welcomed the step while others questioned it. A closer look at BRICS reveals that these countries share some fundamental features while they differ in others. On that note, this book does not attempt to define BRICS.

BRICS-front-cover-webBRIC, the acronym, was coined by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in 2001. The founding members of this political formation are Brazil, Russia, India and China, aligning well with the word formulation. The formation of the BRIC was motivated by global economic developments and change in the geopolitical configurations. South Africa joined the group in 2011, thus opening the possibility of putting Africa on the BRICS’ agenda. South Africa’s admission to the group was motivated by China and supported by Russia. Its accession to the BRICS generated much discussion about the country’s suitability to be part of the formation. One of the real issues raised is that South Africa does not measure up to the other BRIC economies in terms of population, trade levels and performance, and growth rates. A formation such as the BRICS is of value to South Africa only if the country’s strategic development interests (relating, for example, to agriculture) are to be on the agenda. South Africa faces particular challenges related to market access into the BRIC countries.

Agricultural issues are discussed under the Standing Expert Working Group on Agriculture and Agrarian Development. The issues that are prioritised include:

  • The development of a general strategy for access to food (this is where market access needs to be tabled), which is tasked to Brazil
  • Impact of climate change of food security, which is allocated to South Africa
  • The enhancement of agricultural technology, cooperation and innovation that is allocated to India
  • Creation of an information base of BRICS countries that is allocated to China

In 2012, at the annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa, the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) co-hosted a workshop aimed at establishing a dialogue on how agriculture can benefit from South Africa’s membership of the BRICS. It came out clearly from the workshop that agriculture needs to be better positioned to benefit from the BRICS formation. One important issue that was noted was that market access for South African agricultural produce into the BRICS countries could be improved. In this regard, an honest question was raised whether, as the country’s agriculture stakeholders, we fold our arms and do nothing since this this is a political formation (while market access is an economic issue), or whether we use this political formation to address our socioeconomic issues as they relate to these countries. Market access is one of the issues of interest to South Africa’s agriculture industry within the BRICS formation, together with issues such as the diffusion of technologies and collaborations.

The research that is presented in this book addresses a range of important issues related to the trade and investment relations among these countries. The performance of their agricultural sectors as well as trade amongst these countries is also examined. There is also focus on the relationship between BRICS and Africa, and what this means for South Africa’s trade relations with other African countries. Source: Tralac

India’s currency plumbed record lows this week as investors withdrew money from emerging markets (Photo: Financial Times)

India’s currency plumbed record lows this week as investors withdrew money from emerging markets (Photo: Financial Times)

A not-so-sobering look into the immediate future of emerging market darlings who have lost their lustre as investors ponder life without US quantitative easing. Even more worrying considering the possible impact for IBSA countries.

India, 1991. Thailand and east Asia, 1997. Russia, 1998. Lehman Brothers, 2008. The eurozone from 2009. And now, perhaps, India and the emerging markets all over again.

Each financial crisis manifests itself in new places and different forms. Back in 2010, José Sócrates, who was struggling as Portugal’s prime minister to avert a humiliating international bailout, ruefully explained how he had just learned to use his mobile telephone for instant updates on European sovereign bond yields. It did him no good. Six months later he was gone and Portugal was asking for help from the International Monetary Fund.

This year it is the turn of Indian ministers and central bankers to stare glumly at the screens of their BlackBerrys and iPhones, although their preoccupation is the rate of the rupee against the dollar.

India’s currency plumbed successive record lows this week as investors decided en masse to withdraw money from emerging markets, especially those such as India with high current account deficits that are dependent on those same investors for funds. Black humour pervaded Twitter in India as the rupee passed the milestone of Rs65 to the dollar: “The rupee at 65 – time to retire”.

The trigger for market mayhem in Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta was the realisation that the Federal Reserve might – really, truly – soon begin to “taper” its generous, post-Lehman quantitative easing programme of bond-buying. That implies a stronger US economy, rising US interest rates and a preference among investors for US assets over high-risk emerging markets in Asia or Latin America.

The fuse igniting each financial explosion is inevitably different from the one before. Yet the underlying problems over the years are strikingly similar.

So are the three principal phases – including the hubris and the nemesis – of the economic tragedies they endure. No one who has examined the history of the nations that fell victim to previous financial crises should be shocked by the way the markets are treating India or Brazil today.

First comes complacency, usually generated by years of high economic growth and the feeling that the country’s success must be the result of the values, foresight and deft policy making of those in power and the increasing sophistication of those they govern. Sceptics who warn of impending doom are dismissed as “Cassandras” by those who forget not only their own fragilities but also the whole point about the Trojan prophetess: it was not that she was wrong about the future, it was that she was fated never to be believed.

So high was confidence only a few months ago in India – as in Thailand in the early 1990s – that economists predicted that the local currency would rise, not fall, against the dollar.

Indian gross domestic product growth had topped 10 per cent a year in 2010, and the overcrowded nation of 1.3bn was deemed to be profiting from a “demographic dividend” of tens of millions of young men and women entering the workforce. The Indian elephant was destined to overtake the Chinese dragon in terms of GDP growth as well as population size.

Deeply ingrained in the Indian system, says Pratap Bhanu Mehta, head of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, was an “intellectual belief that there was some kind of force of nature propelling us to 9 per cent growth … almost of a sense of entitlement that led us to misread history”.

In the same way, the heady success of the southeast Asian tigers in the early 1990s had been attributed to “Asian values”, a delusional and now discredited school of thought that exempted its believers from the normal rules of economics and history because of their superior work ethic and collective spirit of endeavour.

The truth is more banal: the real cause of the expansion that precedes the typical financial crisis is usually a flood of cheap (or relatively cheap) credit, often from abroad.

Thai companies in the 1990s borrowed dollars short-term at low rates of interest and made long-term investments in property, industry and infrastructure at home, where they expected high returns in Thai baht, a currency that had long been held steady against the dollar.

The same happened in Spain and Portugal in the 2000s, although the low-interest loans that fuelled the unsustainable property boom were mostly north-to-south transfers within the eurozone and therefore in the same currency as the expected returns. Indeed, the euro was labelled “a deadly painkiller” because the use of a common currency hid the dangerous financial imbalances emerging in southern Europe and Ireland.

Phase Two of a financial crisis is the downfall itself. It is the moment when everyone realises the emperor is naked; to put it another way, the tide of easy money recedes for some reason, and suddenly the current account deficits, the poverty of investment returns and the fragility of indebted corporations and the banks that lent to them are exposed to view.

That is what has started happening over the past two weeks as investors take stock of the Fed’s likely “tapering”. And the fate of India – the rupee is one of the “Fragile Five”, according to Morgan Stanley, with the others being the currencies of Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey – is particularly instructive. (Emphasis mine).

It is not that all of India’s economic fundamentals are bad. As Palaniappan Chidambaram, finance minister, said on Thursday, the public debt burden has actually fallen in the past six years to less than 70 per cent of GDP – but then the same was true of Spain as it entered its own grave economic crisis in 2009.

Like Spain, India has tolerated slack lending practices by quasi-official banks to finance the huge property and infrastructure projects of tycoons who may struggle to repay their loans.

Ominously, bad and restructured loans have more than doubled at Indian state banks in the past four years, reaching an alarming 11.7 per cent of total assets. According to Credit Suisse, combined gross debts at 10 of India’s biggest industrial conglomerates have risen 15 per cent in the past year to reach $102bn.

For those who take the long view, a more serious failing is that India has manifestly missed the kind of economic opportunity that comes along only once in an age.

Instead of welcoming investment with open arms and replacing China as the principal source of the world’s manufactured goods, India under Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party, long suspicious of business, has opted to enlarge the world’s biggest welfare state, subsidising everything from rice, fertiliser and cooking gas to housing and rural employment.

Former fans of her prime minister, Manmohan Singh – who as finance minister liberalised the economy, ended the corrupt “licence Raj” and extracted India from a severe balance of payments crisis with the help of an IMF loan – could only shake their heads when he boasted last week that no fewer than 810m Indians would be entitled to subsidised food under a new Food Security Bill.

The bill is a transparent attempt by Congress to improve its popularity ahead of the next general election, but the government’s critics are horrified at the idea of offering Indians more handouts rather than creating the conditions that would give them jobs and allow them to buy their own. The resulting strain on the budget may also worsen the risk of “stagflation”, a toxic mixture of economic stagnation and high inflation.

India’s annual growth rate has already halved in three years to about 5 per cent and could fall further towards the 3 per cent “Hindu rate of growth” for which the country was mocked in the 1980s.

If currency declines and balance-of-payments difficulties develop into a full-blown financial crisis in the coming months, India will be propelled unwillingly into the third and final phase of the trauma.

Phase Three is when ministers and central bank governors survey the wreckage of a once-vibrant economy and try to work out how to rebuild it.

It is traditional for those governments that survive, and for the ones replacing those that do not, to announce several false dawns and to see “green shoots” that turn out to be illusory.

It is hard when times are bad to impose financial discipline that would have been easier to apply before. Indian policy makers are already torn between the need to lower interest rates to boost growth and the necessity of raising them to protect the rupee and tackle inflation – the same kind of tension between austerity and easy money that has afflicted developed economies since 2008.

India’s underlying economy is nevertheless sound and its banks are safe, say Mr Chidambaram and other senior officials. There is therefore no need to contemplate asking for help from the IMF or anyone else.

Mr Sócrates said much the same in Lisbon three years ago. “Portugal doesn’t need any help,” he said, almost leaping from his chair. “We only need the understanding of the markets.” The markets did not understand, and Portugal did need the help.

Source – Victor Mallet of the Financial Times August 23, 2013

Yes, this post seems quite off the usual topic, however, I was deeply moved by an article titled “Free school under a Bridge in India” posted by fellow blogger Joe Seeber. It’s not so much a written article as Joe’s pictures express the necessary – “dedication”, “innocence” and “sincerity” – all of which tell a compelling story which requires few words. In a country like South Africa which shares a similar plight facing our youth, it’s the dedication of these two teachers which strikes a chord! The attentiveness of the youngsters in their studies and no less their pride in keeping their ‘school’ clean are clear – evidently attributes of their teachers.

One visitor to Joe’s blog observed –

I always wonder who these people are; all of a sudden someone comes, changes a little scene, and it becomes a little world with hope inside of it. Sometimes I think they may be Angels in disguise, sent by the almighty to show an example of what can be done. Look at the cost of Input; a temporary shelter, two dedicated men, thirty willing children: The value of output, immeasurable, one of the children may be a Prime Minister, one a well renowned Physician, one a Scientific genius, who is to say? All the children work harder, learn more, because they have a gift of hope and a promise of to-morrow.

And Joe preface’s his picture story as follows – “This is heart breaking, God bless these 2 guys, Rajesh Kumar Sharma and Laxmi Chandra.  They’ve been running a free school under a metro bridge in New Delhi, India for the last 3 years.  There are at least 30 children living in the nearby slums that have been  receiving free education from these 2 guys.”

Image credit: Nakilat

Image credit: Nakilat

With soaring energy costs, Japan appears to have a pretty uniform goal, to invest as much as possible in other sources of energy and energy supply chains around the world. Many others like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are following suit and hedging themselves for what is turning out to be a reversal of their business model. Even the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which connects the world’s largest oil tankers with over half of the United States’ refining capacity is readjusting its business model for the changing flow of energy. With the eventual opening of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) flood gates from the US however, coupled with Free Trade Agreements to places such as Japan, American energy firms and tax payers stand to cash in on the huge price gap that exists between the price of gas in the U.S. versus that which exists overseas.

At the moment, there’s a fairly good balance between supply and demand when it comes to the supply of ships and the demand for LNG product to be carried. Qatar, for example, uses 54 LNG carriers to transport their 77 million metric tons per year of LNG. Qatar also has a 70% stake in the Golden Pass LNG terminal in Texas. Additional exports from the US Gulf Coast will directly equal increased demand for more LNG carriers.

While regulators in the US trudge through the LNG export approval process, energy firms like Anadarko charge ahead with an ambitious LNG agenda offshore Mozambique in a field which was recently found to have at least 65 trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves. Places like Mozambique, and offshore Israel, have the potential to really change the LNG marketplace given the sheer size of their fields and their proximity to the Asian and European markets respectively.

In Mozambique, two 5 million metric tons per annum (mtpa) LNG trains are currently under construction to support the huge conventional gas finds located 25 miles offshore. Their partners on the project include Mozambiquan state oil company, Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, E.P., India’s state-owned Bharat PetroResources Ltd, Indian private equity firm Videocon Hydrocarbon Holdings, Ltd, Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production, and Mitsui & Co. Considering the partners involved, their target market will predominantly be India and Japan. First LNG production is planned for 2018 and their plans are to eventually ramp up production to 50 million mtpa, or 2/3rds of the current production of Qatar.

What does that mean for LNG shipping? A lot more ships. To handle 50 million mtpa, upwards of 35 LNG carriers may be needed for transportation if you compare the ratio between Qatar’s fleet size and their total LNG exports. Source: gcaptain.com

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates' Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates‘ Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, reports Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates’ Geo Partner in South Africa. Unlike many other countries, South Africa was cushioned from the full impact of the world financial crisis thanks to the strict pre-existing credit controls it had in place. There were some knock on affects from close trading economies but over the last 15 months South Africa has enjoyed a growth economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) say this group will account for 61 per cent of global growth in three years time.

While South Africa’s economy (£506.91bn GDP) is dwarfed by those of the original BRIC constituents, the country is seen as the gateway to the continent of Africa, which as a whole has an equivalent sized economy ($2,763bn GDP), a population of one billion and rich resources. This has all made it a valued investment region for China in particular.

However, there are many cultural, logistical and geographical challenges the further one travels North from South Africa towards the Sahara. As an example, while there is 24,487 km of rail track in South Africa, there is just 259 km in Uganda; there are 92 mobile phones per 100 people in South Africa but just two per 100 in Eritrea. However, there is a great deal of raw potential, especially in countries such as Angola and Nigeria.

Participation in BRICS will drive a new competitiveness for South Africa and a key factor will be developing world-class supply chain management. Unlike in Europe, the US and Australia, few supply chain directors in South Africa sit on the board, which makes it harder for them to demonstrate how effective management of the supply chain can deliver competitive advantage. But this is likely to change as companies realise that they must align their supply chain and business strategies. If the recession failed to drive home the need for this, then the presence of Chinese companies in Africa will create significant pressure to do so.

This was an observation of the 2011 Supply Chain Foresight survey, conducted by Frost & Sullivan, which annually samples the opinions of South African supply chain executives. It found that while over three quarters of the respondents feel that the supply chain and business strategies of their companies are aligned, less than a third felt that the supply chain and logistics operations are fully optimised. Businesses are looking at how to optimise their distribution networks through building new facilities, streamlining existing processes or collaboration between trading partners. This has seen a lot of current activity surrounding warehouse management systems, forecasting, planning, replenishment and collaboration technologies, in particular.

Two thirds of respondents are considering investment in technology to enable collaboration with service providers. With the recession claiming many key suppliers the environment is changing from one where major companies squeeze suppliers on cost to one where they adopt a more collaborative approach. Cost reduction was the focus of the past recession, but now the objective is to satisfy customer expectations and to deliver value. Just over half of respondents to the Supply Chain Foresight survey cited customer service as the top supply chain objective. Reducing waste and improving efficiency in the supply chain are the perennial shorter term challenges with companies looking for better forecasting and planning tools to bring down inventory and shorten lean times. One interesting aspect of South African supply chain technology is the large number of in-house designed legacy systems, which is a consequence of the country’s isolation during the times of Apartheid. A propensity towards in-house designed systems remains today.

In terms of industry sectors, retail dominates but it remains firmly entrenched in the traditional channels. While some retailers have online retail websites, online and multi-channel is by no means a significant part of the current retail picture. Internet use is still quite low compared to other countries there are 4.42 million internet users in a population of 49 million and this figure is expected to remain low for some time yet. A further obstacle to the expansion of online sales is a high crime rate which leads to security issues in delivering goods to customers.

Wholesale distribution is quite small in size and complexity so the supply chain challenges tend not to be too complicated. There remain companies that feel they have been reasonably successful – being self-sufficient – and want to maintain that approach, along with a general tendency to look within, when it comes to benchmarking supply chains. However, a growing number of companies in South Africa recognise that there are other organizations across the globe doing similar things, but perhaps, a lot more efficiently.

Supply chain managers within these businesses are evolving a mindset focused on global best practice and the means of achieving it. These South African companies want to be best in their class. By building knowledge, benchmarking and improving against those benchmarks the win for this retailer is a supply chain that gives competitive advantage. As in other countries, companies looking to benefit from external expertise and a reduction in their capital costs will often outsource their logistics to third party logistics (3PL) operators. South Africa has numerous small local players and a handful of large lead logistics providers who tend to drive innovation. It is a small but highly competitive market. Logistics infrastructure and skills shortage in the supply chain continue to be huge issues in South Africa. The Supply Chain Foresight survey found that to deal with the skills shortage, in almost all areas companies either expose employees to new jobs through rotation, or development programs, or mentoring. These are generally in-house driven schemes. South Africa is an emerging market that is growing fast and offers a tremendous wealth of opportunities. In fact, the country has a great many successful businesses, and while many talk about becoming world class, many have already achieved it. Source: Supply Chain Junction