The first chapter of the Economic Survey 2017-18 is titled, “State of the Economy: An Analytical Overview and Outlook for Policy”. The chapter covers the following areas:
- Short term overview of the Economy
- Medium-term overview of the Economy
- Recent developments
- Outlook for 2017-18
- Outlook for 2018-19
Short term overview of the Economy
Various reforms were undertaken over the past year.
- The Goods and Services Tax was launched in July 2017. Unsurprisingly, there were challenges in the transition. But, the Government was responsive and took steps to rationalise GST rates and simplify compliance burden.
- The Government took decisive steps to tackle the twin balance sheet challenge as well. In the last year’s survey, Arvind Subramanian had outlined four major areas (known as 4 R’s) in which action had to be taken. The 4R’s are Recognition, Resolution, Recapitalisation and Reforms. Recognition of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) was advanced further. The insolvency and bankruptcy code was passed for effective resolution framework. The Government also announced a recapitalisation package to strengthen the balance sheets of the Public Sector banks,
- In the first half of the year, the economic growth slowed down. The reasons for the slowdown were Demonetisation, GST, Twin-balance sheet problem, high real interest rates, fall in food prices that affected the farmers.
- In the second half, the growth recovered. Also, India jumped 30 places in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings. Moody’s upgraded India’s sovereign rating for the first time in 14 years.
- But, in the second half, macroeconomic fundamentals were not that strong. Fiscal deficit, the current account deficit, and inflation were all higher than expected, mostly because of higher international oil prices.
- Over the coming years, the Government has to focus on reforms (the last R) of public sector banks to ensure greater participation of the private sector.
- The government will have to stabilise GST, privatise Air India and take proactive actions to ensure macroeconomic stability in the wake of rising oil prices.
Medium-term overview of the Economy
- First, India has created one of the most effective institutional mechanisms for cooperative federalism, the GST Council. The GST council has the Finance Minister of India as well as the FMs of all states as members.
- Co-operative federalism is important to undertake important structural reforms that involve the participation of states. Some of the examples mentioned are the creation of a national agricultural market, solving inter-state water disputes etc.
- Second. the passage of Insolvency and Bankruptcy resolution code enables the corporate sector to ‘exit’ with ease. The recently proposed Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill (FRDI) would do the same for financial firms.
- Third, progress has been made in providing bank accounts, cooking gas, housing, power, and toilets (amongst others) to the poor. The government policy has been focussed towards providing essential goods and services at low prices, especially to the poor, rather than doling out subsidies.
- Fourth, India can never take strong macroeconomic fundamentals for granted. We will always have to be vigilant on that front. India’s fiscal deficit and current account deficit, both are dependent on international oil prices.
- Fifth, there are challenges on the way to reduce corruption. There should be greater reliance on using incentives and carrots than on sticks; greater focus on addressing the flow problem (the policy environment that incentivizes rent-seeking or corruption) than the stock problem.
- India is still uncertain about the role of states and markets. Limitations on state affect the delivery of essential services such as health and education. At the same time, the introduction of technology and the JAM (Jan Dhan—Aadhaar— Mobile) architecture holds the potential for significant improvements in such capacity.
- Over the medium term, three areas of policy focus stand out: Employment: finding good jobs for the young and burgeoning workforce, especially for women. Education: creating an educated and healthy labour force. Agriculture: raising farm productivity while strengthening agricultural resilience.
- Until early 2016, India’s growth had been accelerating when growth in other countries was decelerating.
- But then the opposite happened.
- The world economy embarked on a recovery path, but India’s GDP growth—and other indicators such as industrial production (IIP), credit, and investment—decelerated.
(Read: Why India’s GDP slowed down?)
Outlook for 2017-18 & 2018-19
- High-frequency indicators suggest recovery is taking underway and the growth rate should be around 6.5 % in 2017-18
- The Economic Survey has forecasted that India’s growth will pick up between 7 – 7.5 % in 2018-19, reinstating India India as the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
- India’s exports will have to improve. Exports growth will accelerate if the world economy remains buoyant as it is today.
- Insolvency & Bankruptcy code will have to be implemented properly for private investment to improve.