Around The World With Sudhir Roc-Sennett

passport stampDuring an interactive Q&A session, Sudhir Roc-Sennett, director and senior portfolio advisor, Vontobel Asset Management, Inc., fielded delegates’ top emerging markets questions, covering everything from growth prospects for Mexico to the role of women in India. Here are the highlights.

How is India working to integrate women into the workforce?

India is a country that is developing extremely quickly in terms of socialization, and women in the workforce is a very important element of that. High-quality companies are taking a very progressive approach, and women can be found at high levels in finance: for example, the CEO of State Bank of India and ICICI, India’s second largest bank. A well-run business tends to demonstrate a Western approach to management.

What role must social cohesion play in China’s future growth?

The challenge in China is the rate of growth: 7 per cent, which is overly capital intensive.  Social cohesion is a matter of expectation management. What the Chinese government has always managed to do well is set expectations. The caveat is that unmet expectations typically cause distress in the workforce.

How has the government deterred growth in Brazil?

The government has been very heavy-handed on regulation. Regulation is probably the biggest macro risk. Electricity generators, for example, came under pressure, and became very nervous, after President Dilma Vana Rousseff announced cutting electricity costs at the expense of the electric utilities. Other infrastructure companies, including construction companies, were equally unnerved. Rousseff has to get their confidence back.

What are the prospects for Mexico’s economy?

Mexico has a lot of very good aspects. It has a young, growing and educated population and a decent infrastructure. But GDP in the country has been only about 3 per cent, whereas elsewhere it has been flying. Rebuilding after the 1995 peso crisis has been slow and the country hasn’t boomed since. The banks are doing a very good job continuing lending growth, but at a sensible rate. Credit card growth continues. The PRI returned to power and has demonstrated commitment to substantially transforming the country. There are good fundamentals in Mexico that support a quality platform for Mexican companies to grow.

What is the potential for consumer growth in South Africa?

South Africa is a big country with 20 per cent unemployment and 50 per cent youth unemployment.  The core problem is its capital. South Africa runs a very tight budget and relies on foreign funds to sustain a deficit to pay the benefits. Companies are starting to expand rapidly both within and outside the region, in places like Nigeria. Export and income will help. Also, the labor laws need restructuring. They are chronically tight and don’t encourage hiring. It’s very difficult to grow small businesses when your operating costs are high and revenue is low.