Terms Beginning With 'b'

Balance of Payments

  • January 03, 2020
  • Team Kalkine

What is meant by Balance of Payments or BOP?

Balance of Payments refers to the record of transactions maintained by a country with the rest of the world. It is a detailed list of international transactions that a country has with its trading partners. These transactions can be made by the residents, domestic businesses or by the government.

In an ideal situation, the sum of all the elements of BOP should be zero. However, this is rarely witnessed as most countries do not have the exact same amount of inflow as that of outflow.

The inflow and outflow from the rest of the world, can be with respect to goods, services, assets, investments, etc. Notably, a deflection from the ideal zero BOP state may not always be harmful.

A surplus (positive BOP) might indicate a strong economy as it means exports are greater than imports. While, a deficit (negative BOP) might point to an increased debt on the home country.

The Balance of Payments is highly reflective of the economic strength of a country. Most of the impacts of BOP are indirectly observed on various macroeconomic indicators.

What are the Components of BOP?

BOP comprises of two broad components, namely, Current Account and Capital Account. Sometimes the Capital Account is referred to as the Financial Account, along with a separate capital account. The Financial Account includes transactions in financial instruments and central bank reserves. While the capital account includes transactions in capital assets.

A balance in inflow and outflow of all these accounts makes for a BOP equal to 0.

  • CURRENT ACCOUNT: In technical terms, Current Account is the sum of Balance of Trade, Factor Income (net income from foreign investments) and unilateral transfers (net gifts and grants received). Put simply, current account records the transactions done in goods and services, investments and the net transfer payments or unilateral payments. Exports are maintained as credits, while imports are maintained as debits in the balance of payments.

A positive current account balance means that the domestic country is a net lender, while a negative current account balance indicates that the home country is a net debtor.

According to the double-entry accounting method, any entry on the export side would be adjusted with an appropriate entry on the import side. For example, for a good exported by the home country to a foreign country, the corresponding import transaction would be the inflow of foreign currency received in exchange for the good exported.

  • CAPITAL ACCOUNT: The capital account involves all transactions relating to international asset It involves transactions made in the reserve account as well as loan payments and investment made across nations. These loans, however, do not include the future stream of interest or dividend payments as they are a part of current account. This is so because they form a part of nation’s spending or income, depending on the type of flow.

A capital account is said to be in deficit when a country purchases more assets than the assets it sells to the rest of the world. An increase in assets is followed by a corresponding decrease in cash and vice versa.

In some countries, the capital account is known as the financial account and has separate component called the capital account. This capital account records the transactions that do not affect the income, production or savings like international transfer of trademarks and rights, etc.

What do BOP deficit and surplus mean for the home country?

In layman’s language, BOP tells us whether the country is earning enough to meet its expenditure. If there is a deficit, then it can point towards the country’s growing expenses which are not sufficed by the income generated. Thus, there is a need to generate debt in order to fund the current requirements. Many a times the need to repay current debt gives rise to more debt. Therefore, an endless cycle of financing previous debt with current period loans takes place.

The credit received from the rest of the world is generated either by taking a loan, which adds as a liability in the accounts or by selling off the assets currently possessed by the country. These assets can be natural resources, land, commodities, etc.

A surplus on the other hand means that a country is exporting more than it is importing in all its existing BOP accounts. This can be a positive sign in most instances as it points towards stronger economic movements.

A surplus can encourage the home country to invest in production of goods and services and in turn promote GDP growth. However, an export-driven growth in the long run could point to lack of sufficient demand in the home country. In such a case, the government should boost consumer spending in home country in order to become more self- reliant.  

What are the factors affecting BOP?

BOP depends on various factors. These include:

  • The domestic exchange rate: Exchange rate is a measure of foreign currency with respect to the domestic currency. Governments can revalue or devalue the exchange rate with the help of appropriate policies. This affects the BOP by making exports cheaper as the exchange rate falls and making imports cheaper when the exchange rate rises.
  • The spending capacity of domestic consumers: As businesses and households are left with greater disposable income, they can spend more on imports and this can affect the BOP.
  • Price competitiveness offered by domestic goods: For a country that is going through higher rates of inflation than its trading partner, the goods and services offered by it would be relatively more expensive. Thus, the country becomes less competitive in terms of price competitiveness. The country with lower inflation would thus have cheaper exports. In such a case, domestic consumers would prefer foreign goods and services causing increased imports and eventually a BOP deficit.
  • Domestic policies: Trade based taxes and tariffs are a huge influencer on the BOP. Policies boosting exports are always beneficial to a country. It is important to pay attention to imports by imposing restrictions using tariffs or quotas. Apart from trade centric policies, domestic policies aimed at economic growth may cause changes in BOP. For instance, increased interest rates can promote FDI in the home country, which would affect the Current Account in BOP.

What is an Absolute Advantage? Absolute advantage is one of the key macroeconomic terms, which is based on the principles of Capitalism and is often utilised in international trade-related decisions. Absolute advantage refers to the competence of a company, region or country to produce goods or services in an efficient manner compared to any other economic entity. The efficiency in production can be achieved by: Production of the same quantity of good or services as produced by other entity by utilising fewer amount of resources Production of a higher quantity of good or services as produced by other entity by using the same amount of resources What is the Significance of Absolute Advantage? Different countries or businesses possess a different set of ability owing to their location, soil composition, weather, infrastructure, or human resource skills. When applied in the right direction, various factors may pan out to offer more cost-effectiveness and hence build absolute advantage of the entity in comparison to others.  The absolute advantage remains one of the critical determinants for the choice of the goods or services to be produced. Absolute advantage in a particular area often translates into profitability in the area. The profit margin increases by the achievement of cost efficiency, allowing the entity to ensure higher profitability over the competitors.  For example, let us assume that the US can produce ten high-quality aircrafts utilising a specific amount of resources. China, on the other hand, can build 6 similar quality aircrafts using the same amount of resources. Thus, in the production of an aircraft, the US holds Absolute Advantage Let’s say the US has the ability to manufacture a certain amount of steel using 10 tonnes of iron ore. China, on the other hand, can produce the same quantity of steel using 8 tonnes of iron ore.Here, China here holds Absolute Advantage in the production of steel.  How Countries Build Absolute Advantage? While natural conditions, which include climatic factors, geometry, topography, cannot be altered for achieving absolute advantage, the countries use the underlying factors strategically in their favour. Furthermore, factors of production are focused at by many companies or nations for building absolute advantages.  Some of the strategies for building absolute advantage includes: Development of Technological Competencies- The implementation of innovative or latest technological innovations allows the entities to lower their production cost, facilitating absolute advantage.  Enhancing Skills of Human Resources- The improvement in the cost-efficiency, along with the quality of the products, is targeted through imparting varying skill development programs. Many countries subsidize or aid the apprentice or labour training for enhancing the absolute advantage in trade.  Improving Infrastructure- The infrastructure enhancement in the form of road, telecommunications, ports, etc. can be useful in enhancing the cost-effectiveness across different industries.  What Do We Understand by Comparative Advantage Vs Absolute Advantage? Evaluating the comparative advantage introduces the concept of opportunity cost, which is the deciding factor to determine the production of particular goods or services. Opportunity cost refers to the potential benefits associated with the next best possible alternative which is missed out when one option is chosen over another.  The Absolute advantage simply considers the capability of a business or region to deliver goods or services in the most efficient manner. The Comparative Advantage, however, also takes into account the benefits that are forgone if an entity decides for production of a particular product or services.  Comparative advantage, based on the notion of mutual benefits, is often used in international trade deals. The Comparative advantage has been the major factor driving the outsourcing of services in search of cheap labour.  Understanding through an Example For instance, country A can produce ten televisions with the same amount of resources with which it can make 7 laptops. The opportunity cost per television is 7/10 or 0.7 laptops. Meanwhile, the opportunity cost per laptop is 10/7 or 1.42 television.  It highlights that country A is forsaking the production of 0.7 laptops if it is deciding to manufacture one television. On the other hand, it is missing out the opportunity to manufacture 1.42 televisions for every single laptop manufactured.  Now, say Country B’s opportunity cost for producing a television is 0.5 laptop, and that of producing laptop is 2 televisions. Then, country B will have a comparative advantage in making televisions, and country A will have comparative advantage in producing laptops. It has to be noted that despite country A having absolute advantages in both the products, it would be mutually beneficial for both the countries if country B produces television while country A produces laptops. Do You Know About Absolute Advantage Theory by Adam Smith? The concept of Absolute Advantage was indicated by Adam Smith in his book called ‘Wealth of Nations’ which focusses on International trade theory. Adam Smith, in his book attacked on the previous mercantilism theory, which mainly stressed for economies to maintain trade surplus in order to command power.  The Absolute Advantage theory considered that the countries possess different ability with respect to the production of varying goods or services. It argued that it is not necessary that a state may hold an absolute advantage in the production of all goods, and here the relevance of trade comes into play.  It advocates that countries should produce those goods over which they hold a competitive advantage. It would allow the countries to make the same amount of goods using few resources or in less time. The theory propagates the relevance of trade for economic sustainability.  What Are the Limitations of the Absolute Advantage Theory? The assumptions used in the Absolute Advantage Theory by Adam Smith may limit the application in real bilateral trade. The limitations of the theory by Adam Smith include: Smith assumed that the productive capabilities of a country could not be transferred between the two countries. However, in practical terms, the competitive scenario aids the nations to acquire new capabilities and acquire new resources, especially in the technological and human resource skill aspects.  The two-country trade which was used as a basis for the theory does not consider the trade barriers levied. The present scenario, however, is strikingly dominated by trade wars between economies. Nations impose huge tariffs, import duties and other type of barriers to promote local manufacturers.  Absolute Advantage theory assumes that the trade between the two nations will take place only if each of the two economies holds an absolute advantage in one of the commodities traded. However, in general, countries despite not holding absolute advantage are engrossed in international trade, boosting their economic setup.

Difference between actual and an expected return. For example, if a stock increased by 7% because of some update, but the average market only increased by 3% and the stock has a beta of 1, then the abnormal return was 4% (7% - 3% = 4%)

Gain or loss as a percentage of the initial capital invested. For example – If we gain $10 on investing $100, our Absolute return would be 10% ($10/$100*100)

Calculating the cost of a product or an enterprise based on the direct and the indirect costs (overheads) involved. Multiple methods of absorption costing include Direct labour cost percentage rate, Direct material cost percentage rate, Labour hour rate , Prime cost percentage rate and Machine hour rate.    

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