Six months ago, India was looking at 9 per cent growth rates. Corporate profits were booming at 20 per cent. Consumer demand was huge, inflation was a low 3 per cent, the stock markets were up 50 per cent, the rupee was rising, Indian business houses were buying companies across the world. The world was looking at India, foreign direct investments of $19 billion were pouring in.
Today, inflation based on whole sale prices is hovering around 11.5 per cent; actually inflation sustained by consumers is even higher. The rupee is falling, the oil bill is bloating, the Sensex is down 40 per cent from its 2007 highs, foreign investors have taken out $ 6 billion or more, corporate profits is expected to halve to 10 per cent, the GDP growth could slow down to 7 per cent.
“India has gone from hero to zero in six months,” says Andrew Holland of Merrill Lynch in the latest issue of Businessweek.
Experts say instead of “reining in profligate expenditures, liberalising its financial markets, increasing agricultural productivity, and improving infrastructure, the environment, and energy use”, the Manmohan Singh government has been caught in its own vortex, waving off farmers’ loans, hiking bureaucrats’ salaries, handing out fertiliser subsidies.
Questions: Is the ‘India Story’ over? Or are the “fundamentals” of the Indian economy still very strong? Is the UPA government singularly responsible or has it been the victim of a global meltdown? How long will it take for the good times to roll again? Or, are the reports of the death of the “India Story” exaggerated?