IS THE AGEING DRAGON A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR INDIAN ECONOMY?

By Shulin V K Satoskar

Edited by Madhu Veeraraghavan

Introduction

China’s devaluation of Yuan, last week, represented the largest depreciation of the currency for 20 years and sent tremors down the Dalal Street. The “Kiss of the Dragon” was felt across already subdued economic conditions throughout the world. Notably, Nobel Laureate and renowned economist Paul Krugman described the decision as “the first bite of the cherry” envisaging that more could follow. The World’s largest economy could be weaker than the 7% a year growth that official figures suggest.

In my attempt to explain the slowdown in Chinese economy and a great opportunity for India to bank upon, I have used the concept of business cycles and its impact on economies.

Business Cycle

A business cycle is defined by the fluctuations in an economic activity over a period and covers expansion/recession in any economy. An expansion phase is marked by rising indicators like income, employment, industrial output.

Cyclical fluctuations in economic activity are features of most economies. One of the reasons why nations fail to achieve a sustainable economic growth rate is because the policy makers underestimate economic cycles. Hence, an improved understanding of the economic cycles and policies interaction is imperative in formulating forward looking monetary policy.

Economists are often puzzled by the Growth-Inflation paradox. Most agree

that sustained growth rate cannot be achieved above a threshold rate of inflation; there are no models that accurately estimate on what constitutes the “Threshold”. Figure 1 captures an economic cycle in Indian economy from 2005-10. Inflation rate (depicted by the Green line) and Business Cycle (depicted by blue) further help identify the counter-cyclical nature of Growth-Inflation tradeoff with inflation rate almost mirroring the business cycle at identical turning points. Such an economic cycle (typically over a period of 6 years) is known as a Juglar Cycle or J-Cycle. Indian economy currently finds itself at its peak as indicated by the rising trend of the Juglar cycle in 2015, with lower inflation levels, tailor made for a super normal growth stage. However, Juglar peaks are often short lived (1-2 year, see period 2005-07 and 2009-10) and troughs are relatively lengthier (2-3 years, 2010-13).

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There is also a pattern of symmetry around which the cyclical trend oscillates over a period. This is termed as Kondratieff cycle or K-Cycle and usually extends over a period of 42 years. Hence, a K-Cycle typically has 7 J-Cycles. Figure 2 captures a K- cycle in the Indian economy and the breakout started around 1974. A rising trend is indicated by the green trendline below. Such a trend is typical of a robust economy.

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Chinese economy, on the contrary, has experienced a slowdown in consumption in the recent years. The J-cycle from 2010 to 2015 accurately captures this falling trend in Figure 3. Chinese economic cycle has not picked up significantly, in spite of recording a lower inflation rate. Recent RMB devaluation and interest rate cuts further confirm the ineffectiveness of policies introduced during the ‘troughs’. Also, the ‘trough’ looks abnormally extended with little signs of recovery.

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Summary of Findings

From the CRISIL research reports and World Bank data, it can be inferred that:

• Domestic investment in China has shown signs of saturation and there is little room for stimulus (Investment accounted for 47.2% of GDP in 2010 and 46% in 2014). India has huge room for public investment and can absorb trillions of dollars in infrastructure alone.

• A very popular argument among economists is that China has an ageing population which is expected to drive the labor costs up further by 2020.

• Going by IMF figures of 2013, consumption expenditure 70.4% of GDP in India compared to that of 49.6% in China.

• Chinese debts have risen to alarming levels (101% from 2007 to 2014). India on the contrary is relatively safe at 5% increase.

• With a subdued demand across the world, China can rely on export driven growth strategy at its own peril. India’s consumption driven strategy leaves a good headroom from potential upside.

• Pressures of the property bubble are already felt in China as real estate prices are on a decline.

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The Road Ahead

India is now one of the strongest growing economies and remains better positioned compared to its peers. Our country with a stable political environment recorded a sharp decline in inflation and managed to reduce Current Account Deficit (CAD) significantly. prime minister’s foreign visits have managed to win the foreign investor’s confidence yet again indicated by rising FII/FDI inflows. A combination of tactical measures like  the mobilization of NRI deposits, RBI’s success in building forex reserves, restriction on gold imports and slowdown in imports augur well for maintaining sustained growth rate. Currency devaluation war, how- ever, is one major external shock that remains a cause for concern. However, global sentiment still remains bullish on Indian economy on account of the following factors:

• RBI Governor, Mr. Raghuram Rajan has succeeded in building a strong monetary policy discipline that focusses on inflation targeting which in turn strength- ens the rupee.

• With the Land Acquisition Bill, FDIs and GST reforms round the corner, Indian growth story is expected to continue.

• India Inc’s earnings are expected to be 7% this year. Estimated reduction in corporate taxes and GST replacing state taxes will push the earnings upwards.

Major Challenges

• Currency devaluation war is one major external shock that remains a cause for concern

• Subdued global demand can hit India’s exports further impacting the economy

• Impending decision by the US Fed to raise interest rates has the potential to cause volatility in capital and forex markets

          Going by the business cycles and the empirical data on macroeconomic variables, Indian economy certainly is in a good shape compared to its northern neighbour. However, the onus lies on the government to bank on a great opportunity that the ‘peak’ of economic cycle has to offer.

References

  • CRISIL Research Reports on Indian Economy
  • Science of Monetary Policy: Some perspectives on Indian Economy by M J Manohar Rao
  •  www.worldbank.com

IMG_7666About the author:

The author was a Banking and Financial Service student of batch 2014-16. He is currently Management Trainee at CRISIL Research. His area of interest is economic research,  capital market, stock picking, and fund management. You can contact him at shulin.kamat@gmail.com.

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