Book Reviews

“The Almighty Dollar” by Dharshini David

“The Almighty Dollar” is the BBC’s senior Economics correspondent Dharshini David’s first book. Published in 2018, the book focuses on following a single dollar from a transaction involving a radio in Walmart around the world and ends up visiting over 8 different countries. David uses a unique method to introduce common topics such as globalisation and trade. David’s book does lean towards the descriptive side, yet she challenges some government policies and offers suggestions for improvement, making it an interesting read.

According to David, the aim of the book is to provide a “clearer view of how economic forces shape the world we live in.” The recurring theme is that the dollar is the world’s most dominant currency and has been so since the end of World War 2. In her opening chapter she lays out the statistics to back this claim, such as the fact that 87% of all foreign transactions involve the dollar. But it is when she examines each country individually that we see how important the dollar is. For example, in China, she explains how a dollar entering into the country will most likely end up in the People’s Bank of China’s foreign reserves. By doing so China can keep a much tighter control on its currency by giving out much more yuan for a dollar than it is actually worth, thus allowing them to control their exchange rate.

The book succeeds in educating the reader on how vastly different countries’ economies are structured, but also how interconnected global markets are currently. When ‘travelling’ to each country we get an insightful view of the importance of the dollar there, the current economic climate, and any major FDI or government policies. By combining this with trade routes, it becomes clear how seemingly unrelated goods such as rice and oil can have direct effects on global prices.

Throughout the book, David highlights how vastly different the routes of developing countries to relative economic prosperity have been. While China’s has mainly been one of manufacturing, India has taken on a different route in the software and computer services sector. However, David does note that India is in need of financial reforms – allowing businesses to set up more easily, as well as permitting TNCs to operate more freely – in order to support future economic growth. Following on from this, David elaborates on developing countries, especially those of China and India. We often group the “BRICS” countries together in terms of their economic status, but David reminds us that these economies are completely different and even their stages of development are starting to change. She also discusses how increasing labour reforms in China could carve the path for countries like Vietnam or the Philippines to make its way into the developing countries club, taking on the role China once had.

On the whole, it is difficult to truly capture eight different economies (USA, China, Nigeria, India, Iraq, Russia, Germany, UK) in thirty-page chapters yet, despite this, the book manages to effectively provide a snapshot of each country’s current situation and major trade routes. David certainly succeeds in her main focus: showing just how connected the world is today.

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