domingo, abril 20, 2008

La inflación desestabiliza Asia

A partir de dos notas, una en The New York Times, y otra en Business Week, se puede seguir la aparición de un nuevo componente en el escenario global: la inflación asiática. En parte, y de manera más especializada, ya algo se ha hablado de este tema en mi otro blog, a propósito del nuevo escenario que se presenta para el outsourcing de software para la India.
Parece estar sucediendo algo que es natural: los alrededor de veinte años de crecimiento económico de Asia están produciendo un cambio social en el área, con múltiples consecuencias, algunas no deseables para Asia, pero que provocarán probablemente un mayor equilibrio global. La inflación es una de estas consecuencias, con el rápido crecimiento de costos en China, India, Vietnam, y otros países. En realidad, sólo el impacto de la subida de costos en China e India es sufiente para que todo el mecanismo se desestructure.
En el caso de Business Week, se destaca claramente el resultado de este cambio de escenario: las empresas indias comienzan a buscar alternativas de localización, ante la reducción del diferencial de costos indú:
Companies that traditionally rely on India for offshore IT services have been looking for that something beyond India for years, citing such reasons as high employee turnover and unreliable communications. But the search has taken on added urgency recently, especially for U.S. companies, as a weakening dollar has boosted the cost of IT services priced in India's rupee. Over the past five years the dollar has declined about 16% against the rupee. High real estate costs and expectations for tax increases also have diminished India's allure.
(...) Contracts are written in dollars, and as much as 60% to 80% of Indian service providers' revenue is in U.S. dollars, but more than half of their costs are incurred in rupees, according to an October report from Forrester. Indian outsourcing powerhouses like Wipro are feeling the squeeze. They've strived to cut costs, and now they're raising prices to keep margins from narrowing further. "We are relentlessly driving for higher pricing for our services and have seen price increases from our customers in the range of 3% to 6%, and our new customers are coming in at around 5% higher than our average," Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said on a conference call with investors on Jan. 18.
(...) Indian providers, including Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro, and Infosys Technologies are trying to build similar global [similares a las que multinacionales occidentales comienzan a construír] networks as well. TCS made the decision to move into Latin America about six years ago and now has 5,571 workers in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay. TCS serves customers such as General Motors (GM), Goodyear (GT), and Motorola (MOT) from the region.

NY Times por su parte destaca el impacto que la inflación produce en Estados Unidos, tanto en su mercado interno, como en el futuro de sus compras:
The free ride for American consumers is ending. For two generations, Americans have imported goods produced ever more cheaply from a succession of low-wage countries — first Japan and Korea, then China, and now increasingly places like Vietnam and India.
(...) But mounting inflation in the developing world, especially Asia, is threatening that arrangement, and not just in China, where rising energy and labor costs have already made exports to the United States more expensive, but in the lower-cost alternatives to China, too.
“Inflation is the major threat to Asian countries,” said Jong-Wha Lee, the head of the Asian Development Bank’s office of regional economic integration.
It is also a threat to Western consumers because Asian exporters, even in very poor countries, are passing their rising costs on to customers.
Developing countries have had bouts of inflation before. Indeed, some are famous for them, like Brazil, which experienced triple-digit inflation in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But two things make this time different, and together promise to send prices higher at Wal-Mart and supermarkets alike in the United States, just as the possibility of recession looms.
First, developing countries now produce nearly half of all American imports. Second, inflation in these countries is coming at the same time that many of their currencies are rising against the dollar.
That puts American consumers in a double bind, paying at least some of producers’ higher costs for making their goods, and higher prices on top of that because the dollar buys less in those countries.
(...) The cost of American imports from less industrialized countries as a group is rising. A Bureau of Labor Statistics index of average prices for imports of manufactured goods from such countries fell gradually through early 2004, but is now rising briskly and was up 5.6 percent in February from the same month last year.
That contributes to rising inflation in the United States; in the 12 months through February 2008, the prices of goods for sale in the United States increased by 4 percent, according to the government’s Consumer Price Index.
(... ) Additionally, the dollar’s weakness is itself a cause of inflation in developing countries, particularly those that have barely let their currencies rise against the dollar in an effort to hold on to export markets.
Menores márgenes, cambio de las condiciones de equilibrio: menor presión quizá sobre América Latina, quizá mayores oportunidades, y probables dificultades en la venta de commodities...

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