Every business revolves around some key insights that give a particular company and its products an edge. For the business to remain viable and grow, the core operating functions must also be strong. These functions include the production process, human resources, accounting and information systems which are influenced by available technology to give management the tools necessary to ensure that the best result is achieved. Sales and marketing are key as a business can only survive if it can sell what it produces. This explains why successful salesmen are the best paid in any type of business. Businesses must be versatile and adapt to make a profit.
On February 6 Japan Toyota raised its forecast for its annual operating profit by nine per cent after its third-quarter earnings raced past analysts’ estimates thanks to a weaker yen and strong sales of high-margin cars and hybrid vehicles. The improved outlook from the world’s best-selling automaker contrasts with a downbeat forecast from many industry rivals across the world that have warned of tepid sales growth and announced output cuts amid high interest rates and slowing demand for electric vehicles in OECD countries.
The results suggest that the Japanese automaker is expected to outperform its rivals. Its operating performance was boosted by robust demand for hybrid vehicles, which it pioneered more than a quarter century ago with the Prius model. Company officials have said that the company adjusted its production to better respond to demand for popular models. This helped the automaker sell more of its hybrids (which earn a higher margin) without resorting to the usual discounts and incentives customary in the trade.
Whilst the report focused on Toyota’s financial performance, it also noted that a weaker yen currency bolstered the impact of Toyota’s robust global sales. I used the word depreciated to describe the performance of the Yen/USD exchange rate. The Reuters report used the word “tumbled”. The report did not comment that the yen had been depreciating against the US dollar (USD) for some time. Since 2022 the yen has declined by an average of about 20 per cent against major currencies and about 30 per cent to the USD. It is important to note that the word “devaluation” was not used by Reuters or any agency in describing the performance of the Japanese Yen over the last two years.
A floating exchange means that a currency’s exchange rate can fluctuate up or down. What matters is the rate of change or how fast that change takes place relative to the responsiveness of the economy’s export manufacturing capacity. Delaying any market adjustments increases the impact when it is eventually made. When a currency exchange rate declines sharply it drives up inflation and the cost of living which has negative sociopolitical consequences. If the exchange rate adjustments are delayed, the cumulative impact is also greater. The sharper the change the deeper the impact.
Recently Dr Terrence Farrell said that T&T has no foreign exchange (forex) crisis because forex reserves are currently equal to eight months of import cover. The fact is that the reserves are artificially high because demand has been restricted. As Dr Farrell well knows, any form of rationing by banks or otherwise is dysfunctional and unworkable in the long run, whether practised by the Central Bank in the form of the ECO and EC1 regimes of the 1980s or the commercial banks as currently done.
When official Cambios can legally sell foreign exchange at TT$8 plus to US$1, whilst the commercial bank rate is $6.8, it makes the point abundantly clear that we have a dual exchange rate system of the 1985 vintage.
De facto rationing by commercial banks is unhelpful as it formalises the existing economic order and reinforces prejudices against new businesses. The banking sector may be marginally better than the Central Bank but its influence in resource allocation is disruptive. The current difficulty in obtaining forex from “official sources” like banks simply enfranchised the only sensible response in the face of these “disincentives”; an informal market with the Cambios giving pricing signals.
The existence of the Exim Bank is helpful in that it addresses the forex needs of some local manufacturers who can access its facilities. However, this allows Government to take credit for providing a solution to a problem it has created.
In the T&T context, natural gas and petrochemicals are the successful exporters dominating the generation of foreign exchange. However, experience has taught they produce commodities which are subject to wide fluctuation in prices and gas reserves are declining. More exporters are required in other value-adding areas. To do this requires a change of approach and policy responsiveness, innovative entrepreneurs and a facilitative environment.
Any government must create the best conditions for the growth and development of its citizens and the economy. That requires difficult decisions that cannot be outsourced. Increasing export earnings will have no permanent effect if Government continues to fuel import demand through budget deficits. Addressing economic growth creates a political dilemma. The economic decisions to create sustainable growth will cause short-term disruption by increasing inflation and reducing real incomes. However, governments are elected to work in the best interests of the country. There is no duty to be reelected.
Mariano Browne is the Chief Executive Officer of the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business. ALJGSB is a not-for-profit corporation.