Economy needs increased private investment and fiscal prudence

The outlook is positive for India, one of the fastest-growing economies. Fostering private investment and careful management of public finances could help the economy go a long way.

THE Indian economy started the fiscal year 2018–19 with a healthy 8.2 percent growth in the first quarter on the back of domestic resilience. Growth eased to 7.3 percent in the subsequent quarter due to rising global volatility, largely from financial volatility, normalized monetary policy in advanced economies, externalities from trade disputes, and investment rerouting. Further, the Indian rupee suffered because of the crude price shock, and conditions exacerbated as recovery in some advanced economies caused faster investment outflows.

Despite softer growth, the Indian economy remains one of the fastest growing and possibly the least affected by global turmoil. In fact, the effects of the aforementioned external shocks were contained in part by India’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals and policy changes (including amendments to the policy/code related to insolvency and bankruptcy, bank recapitalization, and foreign direct investment).

The Indian economy is likely to sustain the rebound in FY2018–19—growth is projected to be in the 7.2 percent to 7.5 percent range and is estimated to remain upward of 7 percent for the year ahead (figure 1). These projections could be attributed to the sustained rise in consumption and a gradual revival in investments, especially with a greater focus on infrastructure development. The improving macroeconomic fundamentals have further been supported by the implementation of reform measures, which has helped foster an environment to boost investments and ease banking sector concerns. Together, these augur well for a healthy growth path for the economy. India has already surpassed France to become the sixth-largest economy. By 2019, it may become the fifth-largest economy, and possibly the third-largest in 25 years.

Despite the positive outlook, the economy remains vulnerable to domestic and geopolitical risks, especially economic and political changes that can affect relative prices and hurt current and fiscal account deficit. While expectations of inflationary pressures remain benign, concerns have risen on the twin deficit problem—current account deficit and fiscal deficit—especially as portfolio investments remain subdued while trade deficit stays high. While fiscal expansion remains key to accelerating growth, it may weigh on government coffers if private investment loses steam.

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