Entire town in south India praying for Obama win

November 4th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaTirupur (Tamil Nadu), Nov 4 (IANS) If politics makes strange bedfellows, economics can make even stranger. Even as Barack Obama and John McCain slug it out in the US presidential election, the people of an entire town in southern India are desperately praying for an Obama win.The economy of the knitwear garment exporting town of Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, almost 400 km from state capital Chennai, is driven almost entirely by exports to more than 35 countries around the world. But, as is to be expected, the exporters’ biggest market is the US.

The slowdown in the US and European markets since the early part of this year, a fluctuating rupee vis-a-vis the dollar and several local problems saw the town’s exports in fiscal 2007-08 dip for the first time since the early 1980s.

Export revenues of the town came down to Rs.99.5 billion ($2 billion) in 2007-08 from Rs.110 billion in the previous year. Now with the global financial meltdown drying up US and European orders further, the chances of growth this year too have disappeared, exporters say.

“We expected growth this year but going by current trends that will not happen as new orders are not coming in,” A. Sakthivel, president of the Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA), told IANS, adding: “We will probably close this year with 10 percent negative growth over last year.”

“If the present trend continues then Tirupur knitwear units may have to lay off some 10,000 workers,” he warned.

But Tirupur’s exporters, ancillaries and workers believe an Obama win will change all that.

“There is a general perception here that a Democrat-led US government is better for Indian business,” Azhill M.S. Mani, president of the Tirupur Industrial Federation, told IANS.

“Obama is certainly a better bet if we go by his pre-election speeches and announcements,” echoed S.K. Vivekananda, managing director of knitwear exporter Shakthi Knitting Ltd.

Thus, the 7,000-odd knitwear and ancillary units of the town employing some 600,000 people are chanting Om Obama after Om Labhum, said a local wag. As Labhum is the local word for profit and Om is a Hindu word for veneration, most units in Tirupur have Om Labhum written on their sign boards.

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