The growing financial crisis in the US could have major negative ramifications for El Salvador. "We are in the presence of a big hurricane and we don't know whether it will grow to a Category 5 or whether it will end as just a tropical storm" said economic analyst Carlos Acevedo in La Prensa Grafica. As the banking and finance centers throughout the world are in turmoil, it is worth remembering that all the major banks in El Salvador are foreign-owned.
A direct effect of the economic slowdown in the US may be a decline in remittances from Salvadorans in the US back to their families. Statistics from the Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador are beginning to show remittances dropping off. Remittances have fallen for three straight months from the previous month, and remittances in August 2008 were lower ($305.7M versus $312.2M) then in August 2007. Since remittances make up more than a sixth of El Salvador's economy, any slowdown of remittances could be a problem for the country.
Meanwhile, foreign trade and markets have a a definit impact as well. In one negative sign, Hanesbrands, Inc., maker of Hanes, Champion and Playtex brands of clothing, announced the closing of an El Salvador sewing factory which will mean the loss of 2600 jobs. Hanesbrands is closing facilities in Central America in favor of factories in southeast Asia where labor costs are lower. I've also been told by a reader of the blog that Dell may be closing its call center in El Salvador.
The US agriculture department released figures on the impact in the agricultural sector of DR-CAFTA, the free trade agreement between Central American nations and the US. For El Salvador, there was an increase in both imports and exports:
Trade with El Salvador: Total two-way trade of agricultural products in 2007 was $524 million, up 25 percent from 2006. U.S. exports to El Salvador reached more than $343 million, with record sales in tree nuts, corn, rice, snack foods, and feed and fodder. U.S. imports from El Salvador were more than $180 million, of which snack foods, fresh vegetables, and sugars, sweeteners, and beverage bases hit some of their highest levels.