Is India's Economic Crash Likely in 2011?
To answer these questions, let us examine the following facts:
1. India's current account deficit widened sharply to $13.7 billion in the June-quarter, which was around 3.7 per cent of GDP. The deficit was $4.5 billion in the same period year ago.
2. India's FDI has declined by a third from $34.6 billion in 2009 to $23.7 billion in 2010. Its current account deficit is being increasingly funded by short-term capital inflows (FII up 66% from $17.4 billion in 2009 to $29 billlion in 2010) rather than more durable foreign direct investment (FDI), posing a risk to external balance and funding of gap, according to a recent warning by Goldman Sachs. "Nearly 80 per cent of the capital inflows are non- FDI related. Given the excess spare capacity globally, FDI may remain weak going forward," the Goldman note said.
3. Inflation in India is running at a double digit pace as is credit expansion. India's primary articles price index was up 15.35 percent in the latest week compared with an annual rise of 13.25 percent a week earlier, data on Thursday showed. Year-over-year credit growth was 23 per cent till December 3, while deposit growth was only 15 per cent, as compared to RBI's projection of 20 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, for 2010-11.
4. India's Food and fuel prices are continuing to rise by double digits. The food price index rose more than 12 percent, with the price of onions -- the country's most widely-eaten vegetable -- of especial concern, while the fuel price index climbed 10.74 percent. This compared with 9.46 percent and 10.67 percent respectively in the previous week.
5. The oil prices are likely to spike as the American and European economies recover in 2011, prompting Indian commerce secretary Rahul Kullar to acknowledge that “I am not sanguine. One blip on crude prices and my import bill suddenly zooms. On pro-rata basis we are looking at $ 120 billion with a caveat that if oil prices go up, it could be $ 130-135 billion”. Crude oil prices are currently running at $ 87-88 per barrel.
While China's situation is better because it enjoys significant current account surpluses and has strong capital flow controls, it is also seeing its economy overheat along with India's economy. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate Columbia University economist, has argued that India is more vulnerable to an asset bubble than China, saying that “strong economies that don’t yet have capital control become the focal point” for the liquidity injected by the US Federal Reserve. Stiglitz thinks that India, more than China or Brazil, should watch out for the tidal wave of money made available from the Fed’s quantitative easing. Mike Shedlock, an American investment advisor, believes that "India and China are going to overheat and crash, or their economic growth is going to slow dramatically, quite possibly both".
Indian President Pratibha Patil said last week that she is confident the economy will grow at about 9 percent in the current fiscal year ending March 2011 and would be on a sustained growth path of about 9 to 10 percent in FY12, according to Reuters. It is quite surprising that the Indian government continues to talk about increasing levels of economic growth in 2010-2011 and beyond amidst growing inflation and rising imbalances in the Indian economy. What they should be thinking about now is how to manage a soft landing by reducing liquidity and cutting India's twin deficits, rather than stepping on the accelerator and risk a big economic crash with long term negative consequences.
China's Trade and Investment in South Asia
India's Twin Deficits
Pakistan's Economy 2008-2010
Inflation Hits India
Goldman Sachs India Warning on Twin Deficits
India's Nov 2010 Imports, Exports