This article was written by me for Sify.com on the event of the 60th birth anniversary of our nation. 6 years later we seem to be worse off than ever. Some part of the blame lies on the world financial crisis, but a large portion lies within lack of political will and business apathy.
Here is hoping that the next 6 years will see a robust change
2007 has been a momentous year for India. We have seen the stock markets rising and the dollar falling. Consumer spending and salary levels are never before heights. Today’s young Indian is earning a start salary that his father barely managed to before retiring.
India achieved 8.5% GDP growth in 2006, significantly expanding manufacturing. India is capitalizing on its large numbers of well-educated people skilled in the English language to become a major exporter of software services and software workers. Economic expansion has helped New Delhi continue to make progress in reducing its federal fiscal deficit. However, strong growth – more than 8 percent growth in each of the last three years (and over 9% in parts of the last year) – combined with easy consumer credit and a real estate boom is fuelling inflation concerns. The huge and growing population is the fundamental social, economic, and environmental problem. Here is a comparative picture of the growth of India’s GDP.
The 11th Plan
Sector Growth rate Share of GDP
2002-07 1997-02 2002-07 1997-02
Communications 15.0 17.14 2.3 1.7
Manufacturing 9.82 3.68 16.7 15.3
Agriculture 3.97 2.06 20.5 24.7
India is moving from an agricultural economy to a service economy surely but steadily. In relative terms, the decline of agriculture in the share of GDP from 24.7 to 20.5. That decline implies that services and manufacturing are gaining share and that implies that we are moving away from a subsistence economy to one in which we may have some hope of improving our lot.
Of course, as a developing economy, agriculture is the core of the economy. If India is to ever develop. It is only very severely underdeveloped economies have high agricultural sector share of GDP. For instance Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Nepal, Ghana — economies with agriculture accounting for a large share of the GDP. Australia, France, Germany, US — agriculture accounts for low single-digit shares of the GDP.
The Indian economy on the eve of the 11th Plan is in a much stronger position than it was a few years ago. After slowing down to an average growth rate of about 5.5% in the Ninth Plan period (1997-98 to 2001-02), it has accelerated in recent years and the average growth rate in the Tenth Plan period (2002-03 to 2006-07) is likely to be about 7%. This is below the Tenth Plan target of 8%, but it is the highest growth rate achieved in any plan period. While this performance reflects the strength of the economy in many areas, it is also true that large parts of our population are still living below the poverty line. The percentage of the population below the poverty line is declining, but only at a modest pace. These problems are more severe in some states than in others, and in general they are especially severe in rural areas.
Oil- The master of the future
Petrol has dominated world economics for long and will continue to do so for the years to come. Oil has formed a large part of India forex outflow. It is however earning refining business which has been offsetting its import bills. In fact, during 2006-07, refined petroleum products formed the largest chunk of total exports overtaking the Gems and Jewellery sector.
The cost effectiveness of refining in India is drawing many global players here. This is because India is logistically well placed for refineries. Besides being a major market for crude oil and petroleum products, it adjoins major demand centres such as China. Also, crude oil from West Asia can easily be brought to refineries in India.
Of late, a number of players have evinced a keen interest in laying pipelines in the domestic market to supply gas to the consumers. For example, Gujarat State Petronet Ltd, a group company of the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation, plans to connect all 25 districts of the state with 2,200-kilometre high pressure gas pipeline laid down across the state. Reliance will invest US$4 billion to lay a 1,386-kilometer pipeline from Andhra Pradesh to Gujarat. India is also one among the four countries which have the world’s richest gas hydrate reserves.
India ranks sixth in the world in terms of petroleum demand and by 2010, India is projected to replace South Korea and emerge as the fourth-largest consumer of energy, after the United States, China and Japan. The rising price of crude is of great concern to the growth of the Indian economy. India needs to step up its domestic exploration to produce substance instead of wisps of promise that it has been done till now.
The Forex concerns
In recent days the rupee-dollar exchange rate has been, on average, Rs 39.3 per dollar. A year ago it was 44.7. This means that the rupee has appreciated against the dollar by 13.7% in the last year. Put differently, for an Indian the average price of all American goods has fallen by 13.7% and, for Americans, goods from India have become more expensive.
Over the last year virtually all major currencies have been appreciating vis-à-vis the US dollar. The euro rose by 14.7%, the pound by 10.4%; the Canadian dollar by 23%, Sweden’s kroner by 13.7% – the same as the Indian rupee. Vis-a-vis all major currencies, outside of the US dollar, the rupee has changed very little. It is due to our high dollar exposure of our exports (especially software exports which has been driving the economy to a high) that the fall of the dollar has become a cause of concern.
The 3-D Advanage
As Mr Anand G Mahindra, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra and Mahindra, India said in a seminar, he reposed faith in the 3D advantages of India, Democracy, Demography and Durability. Democracy is a prerequisite to a healthy society, polity and economy. India’s demographic advantage is that it has the highest number of people in the working age group and this is going to continue for some time. Durability stems from the fact that India is a peaceful and stable nation despite many internal disturbances. He said that India has the second largest Muslim population in the world peacefully coexisting with the Hindu majority.
Some facts to chew on
- India is the world’s fourth-largest economy.
- By 2034, India will be the most populous country on Earth, with 1.6 billion people.
- India’s middle class is already larger than the entire population of the United States.
- One out of three of the world’s malnourished children live in India.
- India is home to the biggest youth population on earth: 600 million people are under the age of 25.
- India just edged past the United States to become the second-most-preferred destination for foreign direct investment after China.
- In 1991, Indians purchased 150,000 automobiles; in 2007, they are estimated to purchase 10 million.
- By 2008, India’s total pool of qualified graduates will be more than twice as large as China’s.
- By 2015, an estimated 3.5 million white-collar U.S. jobs will be offshored.
- India is the largest arms importer in the developing world.
- American corporations expect to earn $20 to $40 billion from the civilian nuclear agreement with India.
- In 2007, there are 2.2 million Indian Americans, a number expected to double every decade.
- Twenty-nine percent of India’s population speaks English – that’s 350 million people.