India May Register $30 Billion Current Account Surplus In FY21, Says ICRA
A motorcyclist and passenger travel past branches of ICICI Bank Ltd., HDFC Bank Ltd. and Punjab National Bank (PNB) on a near-empty street in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India May Register $30 Billion Current Account Surplus In FY21, Says ICRA


India's current account will swing to a surplus of $30 billion or 1.2% of GDP in FY21, due to slowdown in imports during the pandemic, ICRA said in a report on Tuesday, making it clear that it will be a "temporary" phenomenon.

The crucial number, which is one of the key aspects gauged while determining a country's macroeconomic position, will swing back to a deficit of $15 billion in the next financial year, it said.

The deficit stood at $24.6 billion or 0.9% of GDP in FY20.

"With the domestic and global lockdowns to fight Covid-19 exuding a differentiated impact on exports, imports and remittances, we expect India to display a sharp current account surplus of $24 billion in H1 FY2021," rating agency ICRA’s principal economist Aditi Nayar said.

A lagged pickup in domestic non-oil imports, as well as the potential fresh restrictions that may be warranted in some major trading partners to ward off rising Covid-19 infections, are likely to restrict India's current account surplus to $6 billion in the second half of the fiscal year, she added.

On a net basis, the current account balance will swing into a sizable, albeit temporary, surplus of $30 billion or around 1.2% of GDP in FY21, the agency said.

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Merchandise exports contracted by 36.7% to $51.3 billion in Q1 FY21 from $81.1 billion in Q1 FY20, but merchandise imports recorded a much sharper 52.4% decline to $60.4 billion in the same period as against $127 billion a year ago on severely constrained demand conditions.

This compressed the merchandise trade deficit to $9.1 billion in the quarter, down from $46 billion in the year-ago period, it said, adding despite a contraction in services exports and imports, the services trade surplus rose to $21 billion in Q1 FY21 from $19.6 billion in Q1 FY20.

"Even as remittances would correct, given the initial shock to global economic activity and the prolonged uncertainty, the shrinking merchandise trade deficit would shift the current account balance to a surplus of around $15.5 billion in Q1FY21 from the deficit of $15 billion in Q1FY20," Nayar noted.

After experiencing a similar shock in April 2020 at the depths of the lockdown, merchandise exports and imports have displayed a varied recovery in the subsequent four months, the agency said.

Also read: Indian Economy Heads for Double-Digit Plunge as Virus Spikes

"ICRA expects merchandise imports to stage a relatively faster recovery in H2FY21, with the economy slowly grinding to a new normal, the stabilisation in commodity prices and relatively sticky demand for gold closer to the festive and marriage season. These are likely to weigh upon the size of the current account surplus in the second half of this fiscal," Nayar said.

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