Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Indian economic recession

In the budget, the FM Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that India’s economy would hit $5 trillion by 2025. In the weeks that followed, GDP growth rater fell to a six-year low of 5%; the RBI made a surplus transfer of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the union government; and the government announced the merger of ten public-sector banks into four combinations. These announcements came against the backdrop of the precarious state of the Indian economy. The country is witnessing an economic slowdown that has spread from the auto sector to all other segments, the unemployment rate is at a 45-year high and the tax collections from the previous fiscal year presented an estimated shortfall of Rs 1.67 lakh crore from the revenue expected by the BJP government. The going seems difficult for both Sitharaman and the Indian economy.
  • The RBI has lowered India's growth forecast for FY20 to 6.1% from 6.9% it projected earlier. The World Bank has cut India's GDP growth forecast from 7.5% to 6% this year.
  • India is a consumption-driven economy. When consumers buy goods and services, the wheels of the economy turn. That has not been happening for several quarters and for various reasons.
  • Fewer jobs (at 6.1% in 2017-18, unemployment was the highest in 45 years), a freeze in salary hikes and bonuses, layoffs and uncertainty in businesses are making people cut down on spending.
  • Incomes and wages in rural India, where 67% of India's population lives, have been hit because of low food prices. Agriculture GDP grew just 2% in the first quarter of the current fiscal, compared to 5.1% in the same quarter of the previous fiscal.
  • Consequently growth in private consumption expenditure is down to an 18-quarter low of 3.1% in June 2019. Savings declined to an all-time low because of static or falling incomes.
  • Construction, which is a big employment generator, is decelerating because of the slump in real estate. Exports fell 6.57% in Sept 2019 compared to a year ago. Discoms are groaning under a combined debt of over Rs 2.4 lakh crore. Corporate sector revenue growth fell to an 11-quarter low and investments plunged to a 15-year low.
  • The banking and financial services sector is in a mess. There is liquidity, but no loans are being given. Banks are tottering under a mountain of NPA's of close to 10% of their total assets. They are fearful of giving fresh loans in case they add to their woes. Non-banking financial companies, which are a major source of consumer loans, are in a mess of their own and unable to extend credit. And the string of collapsing financial institutions has further sapped consumer confidence in the system.
  • The government's rescue acts like slashing corporate tax rates and unprecedented interest rate cuts by the RBI seem to be yielding no results in the short term.
  • These are exceptional times and they call for exceptional measures. Indian government could take cue from the US Federal Reserve spent nearly 800 billion dollars to pre-empt an imminent economic meltdown in 2008.
The Indian economy is in a vicious downward spiral and the Modi government needs to stop worrying about the fiscal deficit & inflation etc and start pouring money into the economy to stimulate growth. They need to put money in people's pockets in every way they can. This appears to be the only way to get the jammed wheels of the economy moving again.

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