Letters to the editor: China and the dollars might

Updated: Jul 3 2014, 07:24am hrs
A World Bank report says that the Chinese economy, at $16.72 trillion, is set to overtake the US, in PPP terms, by end-2014. Sounds impressive, but it is dry statistics. Certainly, the dollar has been declining for three decades now, losing almost half its value against other major currencies since 1985 and down 33% in the past 11 years alone. Yet it is the tallest world currency. Also,even as the US economy remains sluggish, their Fed presses on with massive Quantitative Easing, an euphemism for printing of notes, for upwards of three years now. Such monetary recklessness ought to have pulled down the dollar value and yet as other economic blocs are doing worse, investors continue to shift cash to the US, boosting the dollar with increased inflows. Doubling up as the world currency, the dollar acts as an incentive for safe parking and hence has it going both ways, in domestic and the global economy. With similar factors but on contrary reasoning, the status of the Chinese currency and its apparent economic might is a far cry. Its profligate subterranean shadow banking system fuels liquidity enormously but not being subject to regulatory/market scrutiny as the dollar, a deep monetary malaise festers beneath. Coupled to this, its overt financial system burdened with huge non-performing loans, bad banks, inefficient state-owned enterprises and real estate bubbles, makes for a shallow and unreliable lead economy. Its yuan is not a trading currency and stays non-convertible. Chinas fiscal and monetary burden imposed by unhealthy levels of money circulation remains caged within and thus cannot be passed to other economies. In contrast, the dollar has long had the the exorbitant privilege of every other world economy underwriting its continued global pre-eminence.

R Narayanan