Saturday, July 13, 2024

Ethiopian economy grapples with parallel market rates: The Blue Book report reveals

By our staff reporter, Photo by Anteneh Aklilu


Car prices be 54% cheaper if dealers acquired 100% of the forex

Ethiopia’s economic landscape has been facing a multitude of challenges in recent years, and one of the key issues highlighted in the latest edition of The Blue Book, an annual economic publication by First Consult, is the prevalence and impact of parallel market rates. The report sheds light on how these rates have affected businesses and consumers, further complicating an already uncertain economic environment.

The Ethiopian economy, in its quest for transformation and growth, has experienced various macroeconomic trends and shocks. However, the report emphasizes the importance of understanding how these developments are perceived and experienced by economic agents on the ground, such as businesses and consumers. This year’s edition of The Blue Book focuses on the microeconomy, specifically exploring the challenges faced by 312 micro and small businesses in Addis Ababa, Adama, Hawassa, and Dire Dawa.

One of the significant findings of the report is the impact of parallel market rates on businesses operating in Ethiopia. Parallel market rates refer to the exchange rates for foreign currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, that are determined outside of the official banking system. These rates often deviate significantly from the official exchange rate set by the government, creating a complex economic environment.

The report reveals that businesses heavily reliant on imported inputs have been particularly affected by the scarcity and volatility of foreign currencies in the parallel market. The unavailability and supply challenges for key imported inputs have hindered their operations and performance, leading to cost increases and disruptions in production. The magnitude of these cost increases has been a significant concern for many businesses, forcing them to adopt coping strategies to navigate through these challenges.

Furthermore, the report highlights the impact of parallel market rates on inflationary pressures. The rising costs of inputs due to inflation have compelled businesses to make pricing adjustments, which, in turn, have affected consumer demand. This vicious cycle of inflation and pricing adjustments has had implications for the quality and quantity of products and services offered by businesses.

One of the key findings of the report is the adverse effect of parallel market rates on the automotive industry. Car dealers heavily rely on imported vehicles and parts, which require foreign currencies for procurement. However, due to the scarcity and volatility of foreign exchange in the parallel market, car dealers have been forced to acquire the necessary foreign currencies at exorbitant rates.

The report reveals that if car dealers had obtained 100% of the required foreign exchange through official channels, the domestic prices of cars could have been significantly lower. In fact, the prices could have been 54% cheaper, offering a much-needed relief to consumers who aspire to own a vehicle.

The impact of parallel market rates on the automotive industry extends beyond inflated prices. The scarcity of foreign exchange has resulted in delays in the importation of vehicles and parts, leading to supply chain disruptions and a limited selection of vehicles available in the market. This has further fueled the price surge, as the demand outweighs the supply.

Car dealers and importers have been grappling with the challenges posed by parallel market rates, hindering their ability to offer affordable options to consumers. The report underscores the urgent need for policymakers and stakeholders to address the issue of foreign exchange availability and stability. Measures should be taken to enhance foreign exchange reserves and ensure a more efficient and accessible system for acquiring foreign currencies through official channels.

The Blue Book also explores into the issue of access to finance and liquidity in the context of parallel market rates. Businesses, especially micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), have faced challenges in securing financing from banks and microfinance institutions. The scarcity of foreign currencies in the parallel market has created difficulties in accessing loans and credit, hindering business growth and expansion.

The findings of The Blue Book’s report on parallel market rates underscore the need for policymakers and stakeholders to address the underlying causes and consequences of these rates. It calls for measures to enhance foreign exchange reserves, improve access to finance for businesses, and develop strategies to mitigate inflationary pressures.

The Ethiopian government, in collaboration with development partners, businesses, and individuals, should work towards stabilizing the exchange rate and ensuring a conducive business environment. Efforts to promote financial inclusion, enhance liquidity, and support the growth of MSMEs will be crucial in navigating the challenges posed by parallel market rates.

As Ethiopia continues its economic journey, the insights provided in The Blue Book serve as a valuable resource for understanding the complexities of the microeconomy and devising effective strategies to cope with change and uncertainty.

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