GDP To Grow 5.5% In FY21, But Downside Risks Persists: India Ratings
Signs reading “Debit Cards, Credit Cards Accepted” are displayed outside a clothing accessory stall at a street market in Bengaluru, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

GDP To Grow 5.5% In FY21, But Downside Risks Persists: India Ratings

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India's growth rate is expected to be marginally higher at 5.5 percent in 2020-21 against the estimated 5 percent for the current fiscal on the back of strong policy push coupled with revival in demand, a report said.

Citing an NSO report, India Ratings and Research said the slowdown is a combination of several factors including an abrupt and significant fall in lending by non-banking financial companies close on the heels of a slowdown in bank lending and reduced income growth of households coupled with a fall in savings and higher leverage.

Although some improvement in financial year 2020-21 is expected, these risks are going to persist, India Ratings and Research principal economist Sunil Sinha said.

As a result, the Indian economy is stuck in a phase of low consumption as well as low investment demand, it said.

"A strong policy push coupled with some heavy lifting (even if this requires using the escape clause as suggested by the FRBM Review Committee headed by NK Singh) by the government is required to revive the domestic demand cycle and catapult the economy back into a high growth phase," it said.

The government has announced a slew of measures recently to prop-up the economy, but Ind-Ra believes they will come to aid only in the medium term.

Also read: Davos 2020: IMF Lowers India Growth Estimate To 4.8% For 2019

The shortfall in the tax plus non-tax revenue to result in the fiscal deficit slipping to 3.6 percent of GDP (budgeted 3.3 percent) in FY20, even after accounting for the surplus transferred by the Reserve Bank of India, it said.

"A continuance of low GDP growth even in FY'21 means subdued tax revenue and limited room for stepping-up expenditure. Ind-Ra believes the government will have to construct the FY21 budget in a way that expenditure is rationalised and prioritised and all avenues of revenue generation are tapped," it said.

While rationalising, the focus of expenditure has to be on creating direct employment and putting more money in the pockets of the people at the bottom of the pyramid, it said, adding since their marginal propensity to consume is close to one, they are likely to spend what they receive.

"This will support the consumption demand. Therefore, budgetary allocation to heads such as rural infrastructure, road construction, affordable housing and MNREGA must be prioritised and allocation for non-merit subsidy/expenditure less critical for growth be rationalised," it said.

Also, gross fixed capital formation has become government-dependent, as incremental private capex has been down and out, it said, adding, despite the fiscal constraints, the government has not shied away from infrastructure spending in the past and even resorted to fund them through extra budgetary resources.

Ind-Ra, therefore, believes the government will continue to focus on infrastructure spending and leverage all possible options - budget, off budget including National Infrastructure Investment Fund, it said.

Also, since a larger part of the government capex now takes place at the state government level, it will be important to keep a tab on the state government capex as well, it added.

Also read: Modi Government’s $5-Trillion GDP Target Looks ‘Unimaginably Ambitious’: Economist R Nagaraj

With regard to inflation, it said, retail and wholesale inflation expected to be 3.9 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively as compared to 4.4 percent and 1.4 percent in the current fiscal.

Though oil prices are stable, retail food inflation after remaining subdued and in single digit for 70 months since January 2014, entered into double digits in November 2019 and accelerated to 14.12 percent in December 2019, it said.

This means, in the near term, further monetary easing is ruled out and we may have to brace for an extended pause on the policy rate, it added.

While observing that external environment continues to be challenging for exports due to the trade friction and protectionist policy pursued by many developed economies, it said, as a result, exports of goods and services are likely to witness negative growth of 2 percent the current fiscal.

In view of these developments, Indian rupee is expected to average 73 against the dollar in financial year ending 2021, it said.

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