Growth Story: Speed Bumps Ahead

Updated: Feb 29 2008, 05:49am hrs
The Indian economy has witnessed a structural shift in its growth trajectory and has broadly been maintaining a growth rate of 9% in recent years. While this growth has facilitated higher buoyancy in revenue collections and the consequent ability to meet the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility & Budget Management) targets, it poses certain challenges going forward in the shape of higher inflation expectations, continuing constraints in physical and social infrastructure, recent evidence of moderating consumption due to firm interest rate regime and slowing exports in the wake of stronger rupee and lower global growth.

The economic survey tabled today in the parliament shows a cautiously optimistic picture of the Indian economy.

An estimated growth at 8.7% for FY08 and anticipation of it being revised upward starts the Survey on a positive note. However, it has stated that maintaining a 9% growth remains a challenge. Consumption growth has not maintained pace with growth in incomes, indicating a rise in savings rate. Growth would largely be investment led. Implementation of these reforms would be very critical for maintaining growth.

The survey identifies continuing institutional weakness and implementation constraints at different levels of government in meeting the growing infrastructure deficit both, physical and social. Inflation remains a concern globally and it is no different for India. Although FY08 average inflation rate is estimated at 4.4%, forward looking scenario is not very comforting. With global crude oil prices ruling at all time highs and commodity prices being firm, imported inflation is likely to hurt very soon. Prices of primary articles are also weighing on headline inflation. The Survey lays great significance on inflation management.

Supply side pressures are visible on the farm sector and this has been the primary cause of increase in related prices. This necessitates the need for subsidies on farm products to stay at elevated levels. Food and fertilizer subsidies would get more importance in Union Budget FY09. As rightly mentioned higher farm income is needed for equitable growth and improved productivity for price stability.

While the rising rupee has proved to be a boon in disguise and helped in balancing rising global commodity prices, exports of traditional goods from India have faced serious threat. These sectors are export intensive and would continue to attract relief measures as they are employment intensive and have the potential of depressing domestic consumption demand.

Buoyancy in revenues is an imperative in the context of growing need for fiscal interventions. Lower credit off-take points towards a sluggishness in the corporate sector which is likely to be hurt by higher interest rates.

Volatility in the global markets increase the vulnerability of direct tax revenues towards any kind of shocks.

The author is chief economist, Yes Bank