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Indian Economy Overview -
February 24th, 2006
Economics experts and various studies conducted across the globe envisage India and China to rule the world in the 21st century. For over a century the United States has been the largest economy in the world but major developments have taken place in the world economy since then, leading to the shift of focus from the US and the rich countries of Europe to the two Asian giants- India and China.
The rich countries of Europe have seen the greatest decline in global GDP share by 4.9 percentage points, followed by the US and Japan with a decline of about 1 percentage point each. Within Asia, the rising share of China and India has more than made up the declining global share of Japan since 1990. During the seventies and the eighties, ASEAN countries and during the eighties South Korea, along with China and India, contributed to the rising share of Asia in world GDP.
According to some experts, the share of the US in world GDP is expected to fall (from 21 per cent to 18 per cent) and that of India to rise (from 6 per cent to 11 per cent in 2025), and hence the latter will emerge as the third pole in the global economy after the US and China.
By 2025 the Indian economy is projected to be about 60 per cent the size of the US economy. The transformation into a tri-polar economy will be complete by 2035, with the Indian economy only a little smaller than the US economy but larger than that of Western Europe. By 2035, India is likely to be a larger growth driver than the six largest countries in the EU, though its impact will be a little over half that of the US.
India, which is now the fourth largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity, will overtake Japan and become third major economic power within 10 years.
ISSUES AND PRIORTIES FOR INDIA
As India prepares herself for becoming an economic superpower, it must expedite socio-economic reforms and take steps for overcoming institutional and infrastructure bottlenecks inherent in the system. Availability of both physical and social infrastructure is central to sustainable economic growth.
Since independence Indian economy has thrived hard for improving its pace of development. Notably in the past few years the cities in India have undergone tremendous infrastructure up gradation but the situation in not similar in most part of rural India. Similarly in the realm of health and education and other human development indicators India's performance has been far from satisfactory, showing a wide range of regional inequalities with urban areas getting most of the benefits. In order to attain the status that currently only a few countries in the world enjoy and to provide a more egalitarian society to its mounting population, appropriate measures need to be taken. Currently Indian economy is facing these challenges:
* Sustaining the growth momentum and achieving an annual average growth of 7-8 % in the next five years.
* Simplifying procedures and relaxing entry barriers for business activities.
* Checking the growth of population; India is the second highest populated country in the world after China. However in terms of density India exceeds China as India's land area is almost half of China's total land. Due to a high population growth, GNI per capita remains very poor. It was only $ 2880 in 2003 (world bank figures).
* Boosting agricultural growth through diversification and development of agro processing.
* Expanding industry fast, by at least 10% per year to integrate not only the surplus labour in agriculture but also the unprecedented number of women and teenagers joining the labour force every year.
* Developing world-class infrastructure for sustaining growth in all the sectors of the economy.
* Allowing foreign investment in more areas
* Effecting fiscal consolidation and eliminating the revenue deficit through revenue enhancement and expenditure management.
* Empowering the population through universal education and health care. India needs to improve its HDI rank, as at 127 it is way below many other developing countries' performance. The UPA government is committed to furtering economic reforms and developing basic infrastructure to improve lives of the rural poor and boost economic performance. Government had reduced its controls on foreign trade and investment in some areas and has indicated more liberalization in civil aviation, telecom and insurance sector in the future.
India - a growing economy
A growth rate of above 8% was achieved by the Indian economy during the year 2003-04 and in the advanced estimates for 2004-05, Indian economy has been predicted to grow at a level of 6.9 %. Growth in the Indian economy has steadily increased since 1979, averaging 5.7% per year in the 23-year growth record. In fact, the Indian economy has posted an excellent average GDP growth of 6.8% since 1994 ( the period when India's external crisis was brought under control). However, in comparison to many East Asian economies, having growth rates above 7%, the Indian growth experience lags behind. The tenth five year plan aims at achieving a growth rate of 8% for the coming 2-3 years.
Though, the growth rate for 2004-05 is less than that of 2003-04, it is still among the high growth rates seen in India since independence. Many factors are behind this robust performance of the Indian economy in 2004-05. High growth rates in Industry & service sector and a benign world economic environment provided a backdrop conducive to the Indian economy. Another positive feature was that the growth was accompanied by continued maintenance of relative stability of prices. However, agriculture fell sharply from its 2003-04 level of 9 % to 1.1% in the current year primarily because of a bad monsoon. Thus, there is a paramount need to move Indian agriculture beyond its centuries old dependency on monsoon. This can be achieved by bringing more area under irrigation and by better water management.
Because of the weakening of the US dollar for the last two years, (caused mainly by widening US deficits), Indian Rupee has steadily appreciated vis-Ã*-vis US dollar. Though, this trend saw a brief reversal during may-august 2004. The latest Re/$ Exchange rate (March 2005) stood close to 44. Despite strengthening nominally against US $, Rupee depreciated against other major non-dollar currencies. Thus, the Real Effective Exchange rate of the Rupee depreciated and this trend continued until end 2004.
A strong BOP position in recent years has resulted in a steady accumulation of foreign exchange reserves. The level of foreign exchange reserves crossed the US $100 billion mark on Dec 19, 2003 and was $142.13 billion on March 18, 2005. The capital inflows, current account surplus and the valuation gains arising from appreciation of the major non-US dollar global currencies against US dollar contributed to such a rise in Forex reserves.
The current account of BOP having been in surplus since 2001-02, turned into deficit in the first half of the current year( April-September 2004-05). Such a reversal was observed on the back of rise in POL and non POL imports which overwhelmed the growth of exports in US dollar terms at over 23 per cent. Growth momentum in exports was maintained; India's exports during Apr-Nov registered a growth of 24% from the last period but India's position was down from 30th to 31st rank in the top exporting countries of the world.
The main contributors to capital account surplus were the banking capital inflows, foreign institutional investments and other capital inflows. Alike current account, capital account too witnessed decline. The capital account surplus in April-September was also down by around US $ 1.5 million.
Reserve money growth had doubled to 18.3% in 2003-04 from 9.2 in 2002-03, driven entirely by the increase in the net foreign exchange assets of the RBI. However, it declined to 6.4% in the current year to January 28, 2005. During the current financial year 2004-05, broad money stock (M3) (up to December 10, 2004) increased by 7.4 per cent (exclusive of conversion of non-banking entity into banking entity, 7.3 per cent) as compared with the growth rate of 10.3 per cent registered during the corresponding period of the last year.
The downward trend in interest rates continued in 2004-05, with bank rate standing at 6% as on Dec 10, 2004. Banks recovery management improved considerably with gross NPAs declining from Rs 70861 crore in 2001-02 to Rs 68715 in 2002-03. During the current financial year (up to December 10, 2004) incremental gross bank credit increased by 20.5 per cent (exclusive of conversion, 16.6 per cent) as compared with a growth of 5.9 per cent in the same period of the previous year. Non-Food credit during the financial year so far, registered a growth of 20.5 per cent (exclusive of conversion, 16.5 per cent) as compared with an increase of 8.4 per cent during the same period of the last year indicated a positive outlook. Equity market return was 85% in 2003-04, second highest in Asia. With continued higher corporate earnings in 2004-05, the sensex crossed 6800 mark in March 2005 but high stock market volatility remained higher in India compared to other Asian countries. The expectation of sensex crossing 7 K mark is not yet realized. Fiscal deficit of states & center was decreasing in early 90s but due to rise in fiscal deficit in recent years, corrective measures have been adopted. The fiscal deficit decreased to 7.9% in 2004-05 from a 9.4% of GDP in 2003-04. According to recent estimates, fiscal deficit in April-October 2004 is 45.2 per cent of BE compared with 56.0 per cent of BE in the corresponding period last year.
Having given the broad picture of Indian economy, we now turn to the sectoral performance.
The Three Sectors of Indian Economy
More than 58% of country's population depends on agriculture, a sector producing only 22% of GDP. The agriculture and allied sector witnessed a growth of 9.1% in 2003-04, which fell steeply to 1.1% in the current fiscal year. Favourable monsoon facilitated an impressive growth rate of 9.6% in 2003-04 on the back of negative growth in the preceding year. However, deficient rainfall from the southwest monsoon is estimated to have caused a significant decline in kharif crops production in the current year.
While looking at some of the agricultural products, one finds that India is the largest producer of Tea, jute and jute like fibre. India is not only the largest producer but also largest consumer of tea in the world. India accounts for around 14% of the world trade in tea. Indian tea is exported in various forms such as bulk tea, packet tea, tea bags, instant tea etc, to more than 80 countries of the world. Among livestock cattle and buffalo are found maximum in India. Indian total milk production is highest in the world. India has also the privilege of having the 1st rank in total irrigated land in area terms in the world. Among cereals production, India is placed third, having second largest production in wheat and rice and the largest production in pulses. However, the full potential of Indian agriculture as a profitable activity hasn't been realized yet. Agriculture upliftment will not only benefit farmers and a large section of the rural poor, but also will give fillip to overall growth of the economy through the backward and forward linkages of agriculture with the rest of the economy.
Priority must be given to livestock's & fisheries, horticulture, organic farming, commercial crops and agro-processing, as these are the potential areas of high growth. Further, rationalization of minimum support price regime and introduction of other risk- mitigation measures, improvements in rural infrastructure are essential for sustaining high agricultural growth. It is conceived that reforms in legislations, strengthening R&D and improvements in post harvest management technologies will give a further boost to Indian agriculture. While acceleration in agriculture growth to 4 - 4.5% is imperative, even with such growth rate; share of agriculture in total GDP is likely to reduce further. Therefore, there is a need to absorb excess agricultural labour in other sectors, notably industry. Rapid growth of agro - processing industry close to the agricultural production centers can bring about this shift without moving people from rural to urban areas. Also, public investment in agriculture needs to be augmented, especially in rural infrastructure, irrigation, and agricultural research & development. Better access to institutional credit for more farmers, is also high on priority list. The New trade policy gives focus to agriculture and all the hurdles in Indian agriculture will be crossed gradually.
Index of industrial production which measures the overall industrial growth rate was 10.1% in October 2004 as compared to 6.2% in October 2003. The double digit in IIP was aided by a robust growth of 11.3% in the manufacturing sector followed by mining and quarrying and electricity generation. But industrial production saw a decline in Dec 2004 when IIP dipped to 8 %. Thus one of the critical challenges facing Indian economic policy consists in devising strategies for sustained industrial growth. Final phase-out of the MFA and India's conformity with the international intellectual property system from Jan 1st Jan 2005, have been two significant developments in the world of commerce & industry.
Textile industry is the largest industry in terms of employment economy from the current US $37 billion to $ 85 billion by 2010 creation of 12 million new jobs in the textile sector and modernization & consolidation for creating a globally competitive textile industry. With the phasing out of quota regime under MFA, from Jan 1st 2005, developing countries including India with both textile & clothing capacity may be able to prosper.
Automobile sector has demonstrated the inherent strengths of Indian labour and capital. The pharma industry and the IT industry are two sunrise sectors for India. Among the sectors that have experienced the greatest transformation in India, the pharmaceutical is perhaps the most significant.
India's WTO involvement during the last decade has encouraged our pharma companies to adopt a strategy of R & D based innovative growth. Indian pharma exports were 14000 crore Rupees & accounts for more than a third of the industry's turnover. Apart from manufacture of drugs, the pharma industry offers huge for outsourcing of clinical research. A vast pool of scientific and technical personnel & recognized expertise in medical treatment & health care are India's strength, India can take advantages of its strength once patent protection is given to the result of the researches. By participating in the international system of intellectual property protection, India unlocks for herself vast opportunities in both exports as well as her potential to become a global hub in the area of R & D based clinical research outsourcing, particularly in the area of bio-technology.
The three main sub sectors of industry viz Mining & quarrying, manufacturing, and electricity, gas & water supply recorded growths of 5%, 8.8% and 7.1% respectively.
Apart from infrastructure, particularly adequate and reliable power supply at reasonable cost and transportation facilities, there is need for stepped up investment in manufacturing. Industry needs to grow rapidly not only to boost the overall growth rate in the economy but also to generate gainful employment for the existing unemployed, as well as the new entrants. In a diverse range of industrial activities, several Indian firms have succeeded in getting integrated into global production chains and realized rapid growth of exports. This experience suggests that with appropriate scale, investment and technology, rapid industrial growth is indeed possible.
Service sector has maintained a steady growth pattern since 96-97, except into a fall in 2000-01. Trade hotels, transport & communications have witnessed the highest growth of level 10.9% in 2004, followed by financial services (With a overall growth rate of (6.4) % and community, social & personal services (5.9)% of all the three sectors, services have been the highest contributor to total GDP growth rate.
While in most parts of the developed world, the services sector's share of employment rose faster than its share of output in India there has been a relatively slow growth of jobs in the service sector. This is primarily because of the rise in labour productivity in services in sectors such as information technology that is dependent on skilled labour. Growth in tourism and tourism - related services such as hotels, holds a large potential for employment generation.
IT enabled services, such as Business Process Outsourcing have been growing rapidly in the recent past and will continue to rise. India's large number of English speaking skilled manpower has made India a major exporter of software services and software workers. However, the emergence of somewhat inexplicable protectionist tendencies in some developed countries is a disturbing trend. At the same time it is important that India sees BPO in a larger perspective, than the Internet, as India's share is just $ 3.5 billion in December 2004 compared to the global market of US $ 178 billion. Also India outsourcing companies need to work more closely with their customers. In the complex BPOs, customers would like to have hybrid processes to control value. Indian companies need the right mix of domain expertise and process expertise, further, mere knowledge of English is not sufficient; management skills are also needed. Education for the offshoring industry needs to be given impetus too.
The beginning of New Year saw Tsunami, a worst ever disaster, which killed thousands of people in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia & Thailand. Many of them were international tourists. The disaster was expected to have a negative impact on India's tourism in terms of large-scale cancellations of tourists to India but nothing of that sort was seen. In fact, tourist arrivals in India rose 23.5 percent in Dec 2004 and tourist arrivals crossed 3 million mark for the first time in 2004.
Value-Added Tax, one of the most radical reforms to be proposed for the Indian economy, could finally become a reality after four years of political and economic debate. So far 21 States have given their nod for the April 1 2005 deadline for switching over to VAT. The decision to introduce VAT was publicly discussed first at a conference of state chief ministers and finance ministers in November 1999. At that time, the deadline of April 2002 was agreed upon to bring in VAT but it couldn't be implemented due to political instability and a lack of initiatives. Now, despite a backlash from the trading community and some political circles, there appears to be a realistic scope for VAT to be introduced. VAT is a sales tax collected by the government (of the state in which the final consumer is located) - which is the government of destination state on consumer expenditure.
Over 120 countries worldwide have introduced VAT over the past three decades and India is amongst the last few to introduce it. India already has a system of sales tax collection wherein the tax is collected at one point (first/last) from the transactions involving the sale of goods. VAT would, however, be collected in stages (instalments) from one stage to another. The mechanism of VAT is such that, for goods that are imported and consumed in a particular state, the first seller pays the first point tax, and the next seller pays tax only on the value-addition done - leading to a total tax burden exactly equal to the last point tax.
VAT is necessary, as it will close avenues for traders and businessmen to evade paying taxes. They will also be compelled to keep proper records of their sales and purchases. Many sections hold the view that the trading community has been amongst the biggest offenders when it comes to evading taxes. Under the VAT system, no exemptions will be given and a tax will be levied at each stage of manufacture of a product. At each stage of value-addition, the tax levied on the inputs can be claimed back from the tax authorities. At a macro level, there are two issues, which make the introduction of VAT critical for India. First, Industry watchers say that the VAT system, if enforced properly, forms part of the fiscal consolidation strategy for the country. It could, in fact, help address the fiscal deficit problem and the revenues estimated to be collected could actually mean lowering of the fiscal deficit burden for the government. Second, any globally accepted tax administrative system, will only help India integrate better in the World Trade Organisation regime.
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