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Indian economy ascend to pre-pandemic growth path in 23

Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, presented the Economic Survey 2022-23 in the Union Parliament. The highlights of the Survey are as follows:

The optimistic growth forecasts stem from a number of positives like the rebound of private consumption given a boost to production activity, higher Capital Expenditure (Capex), near-universal vaccination coverage enabling people to spend on contact-based services, such as restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, and cinemas, as well as the return of migrant workers to cities to work in construction sites leading to a significant decline in housing market inventory, the strengthening of the balance sheets of the Corporates, a well-capitalised public sector banks ready to increase the credit supply and the credit growth to the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector to name the major ones.

The Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman tabled the Economic Survey 2022-23 in Parliament, which projects a baseline GDP growth of 6.5 per cent in real terms in FY24. The projection is broadly comparable to the estimates provided by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the ADB and by RBI, domestically.

It says, growth is expected to be brisk in FY24 as a vigorous credit disbursal, and capital investment cycle is expected to unfold in India with the strengthening of the balance sheets of the corporate and banking sectors. Further support to economic growth will come from the expansion of public digital platforms and path-breaking measures such as PM GatiShakti, the National Logistics Policy, and the Production-Linked Incentive schemes to boost manufacturing output.

The Survey says, in real terms, the economy is expected to grow at 7 per cent for the year ending March 2023. This follows an 8.7 per cent growth in the previous financial year.

Despite the three shocks of COVID-19, Russian-Ukraine conflict and the Central Banks across economies led by Federal Reserve responding with synchronised policy rate hikes to curb inflation, leading to appreciation of US Dollar and the widening of the Current Account Deficits (CAD) in net importing economies, agencies worldwide continue to project India as the fastest-growing major economy at 6.5-7.0 per cent in FY23.

According to Survey, India’s economic growth in FY23 has been principally led by private consumption and capital formation and they have helped generate employment as seen in the declining urban unemployment rate and in the faster net registration in Employee Provident Fund. Moreover, World’s second-largest vaccination drive involving more than 2 billion doses also served to lift consumer sentiments that may prolong the rebound in consumption. Still, private capex soon needs to take up the leadership role to put job creation on a fast track.

The Survey says, the credit growth to the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector has been remarkably high, over 30.6 per cent, on average during Jan-Nov 2022, supported by the extended Emergency Credit Linked Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) of the Union government. It adds that the recovery of MSMEs is proceeding apace, as is evident in the amounts of Goods and Services Tax (GST) they pay, while the Emergency Credit Linked Guarantee Scheme (ECGLS) is easing their debt servicing concerns.

Apart from this, increase in the overall bank credit has also been influenced by the shift in borrower’s funding choices from volatile bond markets, where yields have increased, and external commercial borrowings, where interest and hedging costs have increased, towards banks. If inflation declines in FY24 and if real cost of credit does not rise, then credit growth is likely to be brisk in FY24.

The Capital Expenditure (Capex) of the central government, which increased by 63.4 per cent in the first eight months of FY23, was another growth driver of the Indian economy in the current year, crowding in the private Capex since the January-March quarter of 2022. On current trend, it appears that the full year’s capital expenditure budget will be met. A sustained increase in private Capex is also imminent with the strengthening of the balance sheets of the Corporates and the consequent increase in credit financing it has been able to generate.

Dwelling on halt in construction activities during the Pandemic, the Survey underscores that vaccinations have facilitated the return of migrant workers to cities to work in construction sites as the rebound in consumption spilled over into the housing market. This is evident in the housing market witnessing a significant decline in inventory overhang to 33 months in Q3 of FY23 from 42 months last year.

It also says that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has been directly providing jobs in rural areas and indirectly creating opportunities for rural households to diversify their sources of income generation. Schemes like PM-Kisan and PM Garib Kalyan Yojana have helped in ensuring food security in the country, and their impact was also endorsed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The results of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) also show improvement in rural welfare indicators from FY16 to FY20, covering aspects like gender, fertility rate, household amenities, and women empowerment.

The Survey notes with optimism that Indian economy appears to have moved on after its encounter with the pandemic, staging a full recovery in FY22 ahead of many nations and positioning itself to ascend to the pre-pandemic growth path in FY23. Yet in the current year, India has also faced the challenge of reining in inflation that the European strife accentuated. Measures taken by the government and RBI, along with the easing of global commodity prices, have finally managed to bring retail inflation below the RBI upper tolerance target in November 2022.

It, however, cautions that the challenge of the depreciating rupee, although better performing than most other currencies, persists with the likelihood of further increases in policy rates by the US Fed. The widening of the CAD may also continue as global commodity prices remain elevated and the growth momentum of the Indian economy remains strong. The loss of export stimulus is further possible as the slowing world growth and trade shrinks the global market size in the second half of the current year.

Therefore, the Global growth has been projected to decline in 2023 and is expected to remain generally subdued in the following years as well. The slowing demand will likely push down global commodity prices and improve India’s CAD in FY24.

It all started with the pandemic-induced contraction of the global output, followed by the Russian-Ukraine conflict leading to a worldwide surge in inflation. Then, the central banks across economies led by the Federal Reserve responded with synchronised policy rate hikes to curb inflation. The rate hike by the US Fed drove capital into the US markets causing the US Dollar to appreciate against most currencies. This led to the widening of the Current Account Deficits (CAD) and increased inflationary pressures in net importing economies.

Manufacturing and investment activities consequently gained attraction. By the time the growth of exports moderated, the rebound in domestic consumption had sufficiently matured to take forward the growth of India’s economy. Private Consumption as a percentage of GDP stood at 58.4 per cent in Q2 of FY23, the highest among the second quarters of all the years since 2013-14, supported by a rebound in contact-intensive services such as trade, hotel and transport, which registered sequential growth of 16 per cent in real terms in Q2 of FY23 compared to the previous quarter.

Although domestic consumption rebounded in many economies, the rebound in India was impressive for its scale. It contributed to a rise in domestic capacity utilisation. Domestic private consumption remains buoyant in November 2022. Moreover, RBI’s most recent survey of consumer confidence released in December 2022 pointed to improving sentiment with respect to current and prospective employment and income conditions.

The Survey also points to another recovery and adds that the “release of pent-up demand” was reflected in the housing market too as demand for housing loans picked up. Consequently, housing inventories have declined, prices are firming up, and construction of new dwellings is picking up pace and this has stimulated innumerable backward and forward linkages that the construction sector is known to carry. The universalisation of vaccination coverage also has a significant role in lifting the housing market as, in its absence, the migrant workforce could not have returned to construct new dwellings.

Apart from housing, construction activity, in general, has significantly risen in FY23 as the much-enlarged capital budget (Capex) of the central government and its public sector enterprises is rapidly being deployed.

?Going by the Capex multiplier estimated for the country, the economic output of the country is set to increase by at least four times the amount of Capex. States, in aggregate, are also performing well with their Capex plans. Like the central government, states also have a larger capital budget supported by the centre’s grant-in-aid for capital works and an interest-free loan repayable over 50 years.

Also, a capex thrust in the last two budgets of the Government of India was not an isolated initiative meant only to address the infrastructure gaps in the country. It was part of a strategic package aimed at crowding-in private investment into an economic landscape broadened by the vacation of non-strategic PSEs (disinvestment) and idling public sector assets.

Here, three developments support this firstly the significant increase in the Capex budget in FY23, as well as its high rate of spending, secondly direct tax revenue collections have been highly buoyant, and so have GST collections, which should ensure the full expending of the Capex budget within the budgeted fiscal deficit. The growth in revenue expenditure has also been limited to pave the way for higher growth in Capex and thirdly the pick-up in private sector investment since the January-March quarter of 2022. Evidence shows an increasing trend in announced projects and capex spending by the private players.

The finances of the public sector banks have seen a significant turnaround, with profits being booked at regular intervals and their Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) being fast-tracked for quicker resolution/liquidation by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI). At the same time, the government has been providing adequate budgetary support for keeping the PSBs well-capitalized, ensuring that their Capital Risk-Weighted Adjusted Ratio (CRAR) remains comfortably above the threshold levels of adequacy. Nonetheless, financial strength has helped banks make up for lower debt financing provided by corporate bonds and External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) so far in FY23. Rising yields on corporate bonds and higher interest/hedging costs on ECBs have made these instruments less attractive than the previous year.

RBI has projected headline inflation at 6.8 per cent in FY23, which is outside its target range. At the same time, it is not high enough to deter private consumption and also not so low as to weaken the inducement to invest.

Macroeconomic and Growth Challenges in the Indian Economy

After the impact of the two waves of the pandemic seen in a significant GDP contraction in FY21, the quick recovery from the virus in third wave of Omicron contributed to minimising the loss of economic output in the January-March quarter of 2022. Consequently, output in FY22 went past its pre-pandemic level in FY20, with the Indian economy staging a full recovery ahead of many nations. However, the conflict in Europe necessitated a revision in expectations for economic growth and inflation in FY23. The country’s retail inflation had crept above the RBI’s tolerance range in January 2022 and it remained above the target range for ten months before returning to below the upper end of the target range of 6 per cent in November 2022.

It says that the Global commodity prices may have eased but are still higher compared to pre-conflict levels and they have further widened the CAD, already enlarged by India’s growth momentum. For FY23, India has sufficient forex reserves to finance the CAD and intervene in the forex market to manage volatility in the Indian rupee.

Fiscal Developments: Revenue Relish

-The Gross Tax Revenue registered a YoY growth of 15.5 per cent from April to November 2022, driven by robust growth in the direct taxes and Goods and Services Tax (GST).

-Growth in direct taxes during the first eight months of the year was much higher than their corresponding longer-term averages.

-GST has stabilised as a vital revenue source for central and state governments, with the gross GST collections increasing at 24.8 per cent on YoY basis from April to December 2022.

-Union Government’s emphasis on capital expenditure (Capex) has continued despite higher revenue expenditure requirements during the year. The Centre’s Capex has steadily increased from a long-term average of 1.7 per cent of GDP (FY09 to FY20) to 2.5 per cent of GDP in FY22 PA.

-The Centre has also incentivised the State Governments through interest-free loans and enhanced borrowing ceilings to prioritise their spending on Capex.

-With an emphasis on infrastructure-intensive sectors like roads and highways, railways, and housing and urban affairs, the increase in Capex has large-scale positive implications for medium-term growth.

-The Government’s Capex-led growth strategy will enable India to keep the growth-interest rate differential positive, leading to a sustainable debt to GDP in the medium run.

Social Infrastructure and Employment: Big Tent

-Social Sector witnessed significant increase in government spending.

-Central and State Government’s budgeted expenditure on health sector touched 2.1% of GDP in FY23 (BE) and 2.2% in FY22 (RE) against 1.6% in FY21.

-Social sector expenditure increases to Rs. 21.3 lakh crore in FY23 (BE) from Rs. 9.1 lakh crore in FY16.

-Survey highlights the findings of the 2022 report of the UNDP on Multidimensional Poverty Index which says that 41.5 crore people exit poverty in India between 2005-06 and 2019-20.

u The Aspirational Districts Programme has emerged as a template for good governance, especially in remote and difficult areas.

-eShram portal developed for creating a National database of unorganised workers, which is verified with Aadhaar. As on 31 December 2022, a total of over 28.5 crore unorganised workers have been registered on eShram portal.

-JAM (Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar, and Mobile) trinity, combined with the power of DBT, has brought the marginalised sections of society into the formal financial system, revolutionising the path of transparent and accountable governance by empowering the people.

-Aadhaar played a vital role in developing the Co-WIN platform and in the transparent administration of over 2 billion vaccine doses.

-Labour markets have recovered beyond pre-Covid levels, in both urban and rural areas, with unemployment rates falling from 5.8 per cent in 2018-19 to 4.2 per cent in 2020-21.

-The year FY22 saw improvement in Gross Enrolment Ratios (GER) in schools and improvement in gender parity. GER in the primary-enrolment in class I to V as a percentage of the population in age 6 to 10 years – for girls as well as boys have improved in FY22.

-Due to several steps taken by the government on health, out-of-pocket expenditure as a percentage of total health expenditure declined from 64.2% in FY14 to 48.2% in FY19.

-Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Under Five mortality rate (U5MR) and neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR) have shown a steady decline.

-Nearly 22 crore beneficiaries have been verified under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme as on 04 January, 2023. Over 1.54 lakh Health and Wellness Centres have been operationalized across the country under Ayushman

Climate Change and Environment: Preparing to Face the Future

-India declared the Net Zero Pledge to achieve net zero emissions goal by 2070.

-India achieved its target of 40 per cent installed electric capacity from non-fossil fuels ahead of 2030.

-The likely installed capacity from non-fossil fuels to be more than 500 GW by 2030 resulting in decline of average emission rate by around 29% by 2029-30, compared to 2014-15.

-India to reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

-About 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity to come from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.

-A mass movement LIFE- Life style for Environment launched.

-Sovereign Green Bond Framework (SGrBs) issued in November 2022.

-RBI auctions two tranches of ?4,000 crore Sovereign Green Bonds (SGrB).

-National Green Hydrogen Mission to enable India to be energy independent by 2047.

-Green hydrogen production capacity of at least 5 MMT (Million Metric Tonne) per annum to be developed by 2030. Cumulative reduction in fossil fuel imports over 1 lakh crore and creation of over 6 lakh jobs by 2030 under the National green Hydrogen Mission. Renewable energy capacity addition of about 125 GW and abatement of nearly 50 MMT of annual GHG emissions by 2030.

-Solar power capacity installed, a key metric under the National Solar Mission stood at 61.6 GW as on October 2022.

-62.8 lakh individual household toilets and 6.2 lakh community and public toilets constructed (August 2022) under the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat.

Agriculture and Food Management

-Private investment in agriculture increases to 9.3% in 2020-21.

-MSP for all mandated crops fixed at 1.5 times of all India weighted average cost of production since 2018.

-Institutional Credit to the Agricultural Sector continued to grow to 18.6 lakh crore in 2021-22

-Foodgrains production in India saw sustained increase and stood at 315.7 million tonnes in 2021-22.

-Free foodgrains to about 81.4 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act for one year from January 1, 2023.

-About 11.3 crore farmers were covered under the Scheme in its April-July 2022-23 payment cycle.

-Online, Competitive, Transparent Bidding System with 1.74 crore farmers and 2.39 lakh traders put in place under the National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) Scheme.

-Organic Farming being promoted through Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) under the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).

-India stands at the forefront to promote millets through the International Year of Millets initiative.

Industry: Steady Recovery

-Overall Gross Value Added (GVA) by the Industrial Sector (for the first half of FY 22-23) rose 3.7 per cent, which is higher than the average growth of 2.8 per cent achieved in the first half of the last decade.

-Electronics exports rise nearly threefold, from US $4.4 billion in FY19 to US $11.6 Billion in FY22.

-India has become the second-largest mobile phone manufacturer globally, with the production of handsets going up from 6 crore units in FY15 to 29 crore units in FY21.

-Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows into the Pharma Industry has risen four times, from US $180 million in FY19 to US $699 million in FY22.

-The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes introduced across 14 categories, with an estimated capex of 4 lakh crore over the next five years, to plug India into global supply chains. Investment of 47,500 crores has been seen under the PLI schemes in the FY22, which is 106% of the designated target for the year. Production/sales worth 3.85 lakh crore and employment generation of 3.0 lakh have been recorded due to PLI schemes.

-Over 39,000 compliances have been reduced and more than 3500 provisions decriminalized as of January 2023.

Services: Source of Strength

-The services sector is expected to grow at 9.1% in FY23, as against 8.4% (YoY) in FY22.

-Credit to services sector has grown by over 16% since July 2022.

-Hotel occupancy rate has improved from 30-32% in April 2021 to 68-70% in November 2022.

-Tourism sector is showing signs of revival, with foreign tourist arrivals in India in FY23 growing month-on-month with resumption of scheduled international flights and easing of Covid-19 regulations.

-India’s e-commerce market is projected to grow at 18 per cent annually through 2025.

Infrastructure

-PM GatiShakti National Master Plan creates comprehensive database for integrated planning and synchronised implementation across Ministries/ Departments.

-Aims to improve multimodal connectivity and logistics efficiency while addressing the critical gaps for the seamless movement of people and goods.

-As on 30 September 2022, the government has sanctioned the entire target capacity of 40 GW for the development of 59 Solar Parks in 16 states.

-17.2 lakh GWh electricity generated during the year FY22 compared to 15.9 lakh GWh during FY21.

-Rapid increase in National Highways (NHs) /Roads Construction with 10457 km NHs/roads constructed in FY22 compared to 6061 km in FY16.

-Budget expenditure increased from 1.4 lakh crore in FY20 to ?2.4 lakh crore in FY23 giving renewed push to Capital expenditure.

-2359 Kisan rails transported approximately 7.91 lakh tonnes of perishables, as of October 2022.

-More than one crore air passengers availed the benefit of the UDAN scheme since its inception in 2016.

-Near doubling of capacity of major ports in 8 years.

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