Problems Facing Indian Economy

China_india_gdpGDP per capita (in 1990 Geary-Khamis dollars) (data range 1950-2003)

Since 1991, the Indian economy has pursued free market liberalisation, greater openness in trade and increase investment in infrastructure. This helped the Indian economy to achieve a rapid rate of economic growth and economic development. However, the economy still faces various problems and challenges.

1. Inflation

Fuelled by rising wages, property prices and food prices inflation in India is an increasing problem. Inflation is currently between 8-10%. This inflation has been a problem despite periods of economic slowdown. For example in late 2013, Indian inflation reached 11%, despite growth falling to 4.8%. This suggests that inflation is not just due to excess demand, but is also related to cost push inflationary factors. For example, supply constraints in agriculture have caused rising food prices. This causes inflation and is also a major factor reducing living standards of the poor who are sensitive to food prices. The Central Bank of India have made reducing inflation a top priority and have been willing to raise interest rates, but cost push inflation is more difficult to solve and it may cause a fall in growth as they try to reduce inflation.

2. Poor educational standards

Although India has benefited from a high % of English speakers. (important for call centre industry) there is still high levels of illiteracy amongst the population. It is worse in rural areas and amongst women. Over 50% of Indian women are illiterate. This limits economic development and a more skilled workforce.

3. Poor Infrastructure

Many Indians lack basic amenities lack access to running water. Indian public services are creaking under the strain of bureaucracy and inefficiency. Over 40% of Indian fruit rots before it reaches the market; this is one example of the supply constraints and inefficiency’s facing the Indian economy.

4. Balance of Payments deterioration.

Although India has built up large amounts of foreign currency reserves the high rates of economic growth have been at the cost of a persistent current account deficit. In late 2012, the current account reached a peak of 6% of GDP. Since then there has been an improvement in the current account. But, the Indian economy has seen imports growth faster than exports. This means India needs to attract capital flows to finance the deficit. Also, the large deficit caused the depreciation in the Rupee between 2012 and 2014. Whilst the deficit remains, there is always the fear of a further devaluation in the Rupee. There is a need to rebalance the economy and improve competitiveness of exports.

5. High levels of private debt

Buoyed by a property boom the amount of lending in India has grown by 30% in the past year. However there are concerns about the risk of such loans. If they are dependent on rising property prices it could be problematic. Furthermore if inflation increases further it may force the RBI to increase interest rates. If interest rates rise substantially it will leave those indebted facing rising interest payments and potentially reducing consumer spending in the future

6. Inequality has risen rather than decreased.

It is hoped that economic growth would help drag the Indian poor above the poverty line. However so far economic growth has been highly uneven benefiting the skilled and wealthy disproportionately. Many of India’s rural poor are yet to receive any tangible benefit from the India’s economic growth. More than 78 million homes do not have electricity. 33% (268million) of the population live on less than $1 per day. Furthermore with the spread of television in Indian villages the poor are increasingly aware of the disparity between rich and poor. (3)

7. Large Budget Deficit

India has one of the largest budget deficits in the developing world. Excluding subsidies it amounts to nearly 8% of GDP. Although it is fallen a little in the past year. It still allows little scope for increasing investment in public services like health and education.

8. Rigid labour Laws

As an example Firms employing more than 100 people cannot fire workers without government permission. The effect of this is to discourage firms from expanding to over 100 people. It also discourages foreign investment. Trades Unions have an important political power base and governments often shy away from tackling potentially politically sensitive labour laws.

9. Inefficient agriculture

Agriculture produces 17.4% of economic output but, over 51% of the work force are employed in agriculture. This is the most inefficient sector of the economy and reform has proved slow.

10. Slowdown in growth

2013/14 has seen a slowdown in the rate of economic growth to 4-5%. Real GDP per capita growth is even lower. This is a cause for concern as India needs a high growth rate to see rising living standards, lower unemployment and encouraging investment. India has fallen behind China, which is a comparable developing economy

See also:

References

(1) Inflation in India at Economist
(2) Indian Overheats
(3) Inequality in Indian Economy
(4) India and its segregated growth by Alex M Thomas

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