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India’s Growth Story Since the 1990s Remarkably Stable and Resilient

MD Staff

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The Indian economy is set to revert to its trend growth rate of 7.5 percent in the coming years as it bottoms out from the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetization, a new World Bank report says.

The India Development Update, released today, is a biannual flagship publication of the World Bank which takes stock of the Indian economy. The current issue (March 2018), titled “India’s Growth Story” describes the state of the Indian economy, shares India’s growth experience and trajectory over the past several decades and provides a long-term perspective on India’s growth outlook. Over the last 50 years, the Update notes that India’s average growth has accelerated slowly but steadily across sectors – agriculture, industry and services – and become more stable. This is reflected in increasing labor productivity and total factor productivity. After growing far more rapidly before the global financial crisis, the economy has grown at an average rate of about 7 percent since 2008–09.

The Update centers around an assessment of what it will take for India to return to growth rates of 8 percent and higher on a sustained basis. To sustain its growth path, India will need to keep a close eye on several factors to make the country more resilient to shocks: the changing landscape of open trade, reforms in the banking sector, strengthening financial institutions, and regulatory supervision of the financial sector. Deepening its structural reforms in the areas of health, education and service delivery will be critical for development of human capital required to sustain growth.

Outlook

India’s GDP growth saw a temporary dip in the last two quarters of 2016-17 and the first quarter of 2017-18 due to demonetization and disruptions surrounding the initial implementation of GST. Economic activity has begun to stabilize since August 2017. India’s GDP growth is projected to reach 6.7 percent in 2017-18 and accelerate to 7.3 percent and 7.5 percent in 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively. While services will continue to remain the main driver of economic growth; industrial activity is poised to grow, with manufacturing expected to accelerate following the implementation of the GST, and agriculture will likely grow at its long-term average growth rate.

India’s growth in recent years has been supported by prudent macroeconomic policy: a new inflation targeting framework, energy subsidy reforms, fiscal consolidation, higher quality of public expenditure and a stable balance of payment situation. In addition, recent policy reforms have helped India improve the business environment, ease inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and improve credit behavior.

The Update points to the positive impulse expected from India’s novel GST system which, while remaining more complex than comparable systems in other countries, is likely to improve the domestic flow of goods and services, contribute to the formalization of the economy and sustainably enhance growth.

“India’s long-term growth has become more steady, stable, diversified and resilient. In the long-run, for higher growth to be sustainable and inclusive, India needs to use land and water, which are increasingly becoming scarce resources, more productively, make growth more inclusive, and strengthen its public sector to meet the challenges of a fast growing, globalizing and increasingly middle-class economy,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.

Higher growth requires reforms

Despite the recent momentum, attaining a growth rate of 8 percent and higher on a sustained basis will require addressing several structural challenges. India needs to durably recover its two lagging engines of growth – private investments and exports – while maintaining its hard-won macroeconomic stability. Crucial steps in this process include cleaning up banks’ balance sheets, realizing the expected growth and fiscal dividend from the GST, and continuing the integration into the global economy.

“Durable revival in private investments and exports would be crucial for India achieving a sustained high growth of 8 percent and above,” said Poonam Gupta, Lead Economist and the main author of the report. “This will require continued impetus for structural reforms. Resorting to countercyclical policies will not help spur sustained growth and India should not compromise its hard-earned fiscal discipline in order to accelerate growth,” she added.

Priority areas for reform

Investments 

The rate of investment needs to accelerate. Private investment in India is constrained by several factors including issues related to past leverages, credit availability, market demand, and policy uncertainty. Understanding and relieving the generic, spatial, or sector-specific constraints to investment growth is important. Further policy measures should aim at assuring an efficient mix of public and private resources to effectively use scarce public funds and crowd-in private investment. Private sector investment in particular needs to be enhanced, through measures that assure a favorable investment climate while reducing policy uncertainty.

Bank Credit

Reviving bank credit to support growth is important. The banking sector is experiencing high balance sheet stress. The genesis of the problem can be traced to the period of exuberant bank credit growth during 2004–08, and to the response to the global financial crisis, which entailed evergreening of loans. Decisive reforms will be needed to enable the Indian banking sector to help finance India’s growth aspirations. The implementation of the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is an important step towards improving the credit behavior; and the recent efforts towards recapitalization have the potential to ease stress on the banking sector and reinvigorate bank credit. However, they need to be followed by wider reforms. Additional measures could include a consolidation of public-sector banks, revising their incentive structure to align more closely with their commercial performance, ensuring a level playing field for private banks, and opening the space for greater competition.

Exports

Export growth rate remains well below the levels registered during the boom years of 2004-2008. The Update points out that India’s export growth has lagged global growth in recent years. Among the many preconditions for India to reverse this pattern are an infrastructural boost to bring it on par with the world’s current manufacturing hubs. In addition, reforms to land, labor and financial markets would be needed to assure the continued competitive supply and use of key production inputs. Finally, building on recent improvements to its doing business ranking, India can benefit from further strengthening its competitive business environment.

Leverage external conditions

As India has increased the level of integration with the rest of the world in recent years, it could benefit from the revival in the global economy and trade volumes, both of which are poised to grow at healthy rates in the near-term. Leveraging the global recovery will be key for India to elevate its growth rates. While oil prices pose less of a risk for the Indian economy, the expected normalization of monetary policy by the US and other advanced economies are likely to tighten financing conditions.

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Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

MD Staff

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Canada has the largest and most comprehensive and elaborate skilled labour migration system in the OECD, according to a new OECD report.

Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Canada 2019 finds that Canada admits the largest number of skilled labour migrants in the OECD. Additionally, Canada also has the most carefully designed and longest-standing skilled migration system in the OECD. It is widely perceived as a benchmark for other countries, and its success is evidenced by good integration outcomes. Canada also boasts the largest share of highly educated immigrants in the OECD as well as high levels of public acceptance of migration. In addition, it is seen as an appealing country of destination for potential migrants.

According to the OECD, Express Entry – the two-step Expression of Interest system for federal permanent labour migration introduced in 2015 – has greatly improved efficiency and the effectiveness of permanent labour migration management. It allows for ranking migrants for selection from a pool of eligible candidates. A unique feature of the Canadian model, in contrast to other selection procedures, is the degree of refinement in the ranking of candidates eligible for immigration. It considers positive interactions of skills, such as between language proficiency and the ability to transfer prior foreign work experience to the Canadian context.

The OECD report stresses that core to Canada’s success is not only its elaborate selection system, but also the comprehensive infrastructure upon which it is built, which ensures constant testing, monitoring and adaptation of its parameters. This includes a comprehensive data infrastructure, the capacity to analyse such data, and subsequent swift policy reaction to new evidence and emerging challenges. Recent reforms addressed several initial shortcomings in the Express Entry system, such as too many points being attributed for a job offer (which led to a high intake of migrants working in the hospitality sector, for instance), and which were subsequently reduced. The current selection system focuses on human capital factors such as age, language proficiency and education and is largely supply driven – meaning that most labour immigrants are admitted without a job offer – in contrast to the majority of other OECD countries.

To further strengthen the system, Canada should address some remaining inconsistencies. For instance, entry criteria to the pool are not well aligned with final selection criteria and language requirements for several groups of onshore candidates are lower than for those coming from abroad. In addition, a specific programme designed to attract tradespeople allows migration for only a few occupations and not necessarily where there are shortages, which contrasts with its original objectives. Providing for a single entry grid based on the core criteria for ultimate selection would simplify the system and ensure common standards.

The management of permanent labour migration is shared between Canada’s federal and provincial/territorial (PT) governments. The increasingly significant role played by regional governments in selection and integration has resulted in a more balanced geographic distribution of migrants across the country. PT-selected migrants have a lower skills profile than federally selected migrants but boast better initial labour market outcomes and high retention. The OECD also recommends considering a provincial temporary foreign worker pilot programme, to allow PTs to better respond to regional cyclical or seasonal labour needs that are not otherwise met, without the need to resort to permanent migration through provincial nomination.

Most of the provincial nominees – like their federally selected counterparts – settle in metropolitan and agglomeration areas, a development that Canada is currently addressing with an innovative rural community-driven programme. This includes a whole-of-family approach to integration, designed to enhance retention. Indeed, the report notes that Canada has been at the forefront of testing new, holistic approaches to managing labour migration and linking it with settlement services, especially in areas with demographic challenges.

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Maintaining Economic Stability in Lao PDR

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Economic growth in Lao PDR is projected to rebound to 6.5 percent in 2019, up from 6.3 percent in 2018. Growth is expected to be driven by the construction sector, supported by investments in large infrastructure projects, and a resilient services sector, led by wholesale and retail trade growth. Against the backdrop of challenging domestic and external environments, the Government of Lao PDR has remained committed to fiscal consolidation by tightening public expenditure and improving revenue administration, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Lao Economic Monitor, released today.

Fiscal consolidation is expected to result in a decline in the budget deficit to 4.3 percent of GDP in 2019 down from 4.4 percent in 2018, driven by tighter control of the public wage bill and capital spending. This is expected to keep public expenditure stable at around 20 percent of GDP in 2019. The revenue to GDP ratio is projected to improve slightly in 2019 thanks to efforts to strengthen revenue administration and the legal framework. Looking forward, public debt is expected to decline from 57.2 percent of GDP in 2018 to 55.5 percent of GDP in 2021. The outlook until 2021 is subject to increasing downside risks.

Strengthening revenue collection is important to create fiscal space and reduce the burden of public debt,” said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR. “Looking forward, it will be important to improve the business environment to support private sector development, including the growth of small and medium enterprises. These measures can contribute to maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment, promoting job creation and reducing poverty and inequality.”

The report includes a thematic section that summarizes the perceptions of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the business environment, based on the data of the World Bank Enterprise Survey. The key constraints reported by SMEs include access to finance, competition with informal firms – such as those that are not registered and do not comply with regulations – and electricity outages. The report maintains that strengthening the performance of SMEs can improve the quality of jobs, raise incomes, and contribute to the greater well-being of the Lao people.

The Lao Economic Monitor is published twice yearly by the World Bank Office in Lao PDR.

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Economic woes hold sway over geopolitics

MD Staff

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While geopolitical tensions in the Middle East Gulf remain high, with US sanctions recently extended to more Iranian officials and a Chinese oil importer, as well as another tanker seizure, oil prices (Brent) have eased back from the most recent high of $67/bbl. Shipping operations are at normal levels, albeit with higher insurance costs. The messages from various parties that vessels will be protected to the greatest extent possible, and the IEA’s recent statement that it is closely monitoring the oil security position in the Strait of Hormuz will have provided some reassurance.

There have been concerns about the health of the global economy expressed in recent editions of this Report and shown by reduced expectations for oil demand growth. Now, the situation is becoming even more uncertain: the US-China trade dispute remains unresolved and in September new tariffs are due to be imposed. Tension between the two has increased further this week, reflected in heavy falls for stock and commodity markets. Oil prices have been caught up in the retreat, falling to below $57/bbl earlier this week. In this Report, we took into account the International Monetary Fund’s recent downgrading of the economic outlook: they reduced by 0.1 percentage points for both 2019 and 2020 their forecast for global GDP growth to 3.2% and 3.5%, respectively.

Oil demand growth estimates have already been cut back sharply: in 1H19, we saw an increase of only 0.6 mb/d, with China the sole source of significant growth at 0.5 mb/d. Two other major markets, India and the United States, both saw demand rise by only 0.1 mb/d. For the OECD as a whole, demand has fallen for three successive quarters. In this Report, growth estimates for 2019 and 2020 have been revised down by 0.1 mb/d to 1.1 mb/d and 1.3 mb/d, respectively. There have been minor upward revisions to baseline data for 2018 and 2019 but our total number for 2019 demand is unchanged at 100.4 mb/d, incorporating a modest upgrade to our estimate for 1Q19 offset by a decrease for 3Q19. The outlook is fragile with a greater likelihood of a downward revision than an upward one.

In the meantime, the short term market balance has been tightened slightly by the reduction in supply from OPEC countries. Production fell in July by 0.2 mb/d, and it was backed up by additional cuts of 0.1 mb/d by the ten non-OPEC countries included in the OPEC+ agreement. In a clear sign of its determination to support market re-balancing, Saudi Arabia’s production was 0.7 mb/d lower than the level allowed by the output agreement. If the July level of OPEC crude oil production at 29.7 mb/d is maintained through 2019, the implied stock draw in 2H19 is 0.7 mb/d, helped also by a slower rate of non-OPEC production growth. However, this is a temporary phenomenon because our outlook for very strong non-OPEC production growth next year is unaltered at 2.2 mb/d. Under our current assumptions, in 2020, the oil market will be well supplied.

IEA

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