Economy in current fiscal expected to contract by 7.7%
Srinagar, Jan 29: India’s real GDP to record a growth of 11% in 2021-22 and nominal GDP by 15.4% -the highest since independence, according to Economic Survey 2020-21 tabled by the Union Finance Minister Sitharaman in the Parliament on the first day of the budget session.
The V-shaped economic recovery is supported by the initiation of a mega vaccination drive with hopes of a robust recovery in the services sector and prospects for robust growth in consumption and investment, it said.
The Economic Survey 2020-21 states that the rebound will be led by the low base and continued normalization in economic activities as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines gathers traction.
The fundamentals of the economy remain strong as gradual scaling back of lockdowns along with the astute support of Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission have placed the economy firmly on the path of revival.
This path would entail a growth in real GDP by 2.4% over the absolute level of 2019-20-implying that the economy would take two years to reach and go past the pre-pandemic level. These projections are in line with IMF estimate of real GDP growth of 11.5% in 2021-22 for India and 6.8% in 2022-23. India is expected to emerge as the fastest growing economy in the next two years as per IMF.
The Survey says, India’s mature policy response to this “once-in-a-century” crisis provides important lessons for democracies to avoid myopic policymaking and demonstrates the significant benefits of focusing on long-term gains.
India adopted a unique four-pillar strategy of containment, fiscal, financial, and long-term structural reforms. Calibrated fiscal and monetary support was provided given the evolving economic situation, cushioning the vulnerable in the lockdown and boosting consumption and investment while unlocking, mindful of fiscal repercussions and entailing debt sustainability. A favourable monetary policy ensured abundant liquidity and immediate relief to debtors via temporary moratoria, while unclogging monetary policy transmission.
The Survey says, India’s GDP is estimated to contract by 7.7% in FY2020-21, composed of a sharp 15.7% decline in the first half and a modest 0.1% fall in the second half. Sector-wise, agriculture has remained the silver lining while contact-based services, manufacturing, construction were hit hardest, and have been recovering steadily. Government consumption and net exports have cushioned the growth from diving further down.
As anticipated, while the lockdown resulted in a 23.9% contraction in GDP in Q1, the recovery has been a V-shaped one as seen in the 7.5% decline in Q2 and the recovery across all key economic indicators. Starting July, a resilient V-shaped recovery is underway, as demonstrated by the recovery in GDP growth in Q2 after the sharp decline in Q1.
As India’s mobility and pandemic trends aligned and improved concomitantly, indicators like E-way bills, rail freight, GST collections and power consumption not only reached pre-pandemic levels but also surpassed previous year levels, it said.
The reignited inter and intrastate movement and record-high monthly GST collections have marked the unlocking of industrial and commercial activity. A sharp rise in commercial paper issuances, easing yields, and sturdy credit growth to MSMEs portend revamped credit flows for enterprises to survive and grow.
Agriculture Green Shoots
Dwelling on the sectoral trends, the Survey says that the year also saw the manufacturing sector’s resilience, rural demand cushioning overall economic activity and structural consumption shifts in booming digital transactions.
It adds that Agriculture is set to cushion the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indian economy in 2020-21 with a growth of 3.4% in both Q1 and Q2.
A series of progressive reforms undertaken by the government have contributed to nourishing a vibrant agricultural sector, which remains a silver lining to India’s growth story of FY 2020-21.
A palpable V-shaped recovery in industrial production was observed over the year. Manufacturing rebounded and industrial value started to normalize. Indian services sector sustained its recovery from the pandemic driven declines with PMI Services output and new business rising for the third straight month in December.
Bank credit remained subdued in FY 2020-21 amid risk aversion and muted credit appetite. However, credit growth to agriculture and allied activities accelerated to 7.4% in October 2020 from 7.1% in October 2019.
October 2020 saw resilient credit flows to sectors such as construction, trade and hospitality, while bank credit remained muted to the manufacturing sector. Credit growth to the services sector accelerated to 9.5% in October 2020 from 6.5% in October 2019.
High food prices remained a major driver of inflation in 2020. However, inflation in December 2020 fell back into the RBI’s target range of 4+/-2% to reach 4.6% to reach 4.6% year-on-year as compared to 6.9% in November. This was driven by a step fall in food prices, particularly of vegetables, cereals, and protein products and favourable base effects.
The external sector provided an effective cushion to growth with India recording a current account surplus of 3.1% of GDP in the first half of the year, largely supported by strong services exports, and weak demand leading to a sharper contraction in imports (with merchandise imports contracting by 39.7%) than exports (with merchandise exports contracting by 21.2%). Consequently, the Foreign exchange reserves rose to cover 18 months of imports in December 2020.
External debt as a ratio to GDP rose marginally to 21.6% at end-September 2020 from 20.6% at end-March 2020. However, the ratio of foreign exchange reserves to total and short-term debt (original and residual) improved because of the sizable accretion in reserves.
India remained a preferred investment destination in FY 2020-21 with FDI pouring in amidst global asset shifts towards equities and prospects of quicker recovery in emerging economies. Net FPI inflows recorded an all-time monthly high of US$ 9.8 billion in November 2020, as investors’ risk appetite returned, with a renewed search for yield, and US dollar weakened amid global monetary easing and fiscal stimulus packages. India was the only country among emerging markets to receive equity FII inflows in 2020.
Buoyant Sensex and NIFTY resulted in India’s market-capitalisation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio crossing 100% for the first time since October 2010. This, however, raises concerns on the disconnect between the financial markets and real sector.
Exports are expected to decline by 5.8% and imports by 11.3% in the second half of the year. India is expected to have a Current Account Surplus of 2% of GDP in FY21, a historic high after 17 years.
Gross Value Added growth
On the supply side, Gross Value Added (GVA) growth is pegged at -7.2% in 2020-21 as against 3.9% in FY:2019-20. Agriculture is set to cushion the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Indian economy in 2020-21 with a growth of 3.4%, while industry and services are estimated to contract by 9.6% and 8.8% during the year.
The Survey underlines that the year 2020 was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing global economic downturn, the most severe one since the Global Financial Crisis. The lockdowns and social distancing norms brought the already slowing global economy to a standstill. Global economic output is estimated to fall by 3.5% in 2020 (IMF January 2021 estimates). In view of this, Governments and central banks across the world deployed a range of policy tools to support their economies such as lowering key policy rates, quantitative easing measures, loan guarantees, cash transfers and fiscal stimulus measures.
India recognized the disruptive impact of the pandemic and charted its own unique path amidst dismal projections by several international institutions of the spread in the country given its huge population, high population density and overburdened health infrastructure.
The Survey observes that the intense lockdown implemented at the start of the pandemic – when India had only a 100 confirmed cases – characterized India’s unique response in several ways. First, the policy response was driven by the findings from both epidemiological and economic research.
Specifically, faced with enormous uncertainty about the potential spread of the pandemic, the policy implemented the Nobel-prize winning research in Hansen and Sargent (2001) that recommends a policy focussed on minimising losses in a worst-case scenario. Faced with an unprecedented pandemic, loss of scores of human lives captured this worst-case scenario.
Moreover, epidemiological research highlighted the importance of an initial, stringent lockdown especially in a country where high population density posed difficulties with respect to social distancing. Therefore, India’s policy humane response that focused on saving human lives, recognised that the short-term pain of an initial, stringent lockdown would lead to long-term gains both in the lives saved and in the pace of the economic recovery. The scores of lives that have been saved and the V-shaped economic recovery that is being witnessed bear testimony to India’s boldness in taking short-term pain for long-term gain.
Second, India recognised that the pandemic impacts both supply and demand in the economy. The slew of reforms – again unique amidst all major economies – were implemented to ensure that the supply-side disruptions, which were inevitable during the lockdown, are minimized in the medium to long-run.
The demand side policy reflected the understanding that aggregate demand, especially that for non-essential items, reflects precautionary motives to save, which inevitably remains high when overall uncertainty is high. Therefore, during the initial months of the pandemic when uncertainty was high and lockdowns imposed economic restrictions, India did not waste precious fiscal resources in trying to pump up discretionary consumption.
Women shaping informal sector in Kashmir
The informal sector is defined as the unregistered part of an economy. In a traditional economy, it is assumed that every business entity is formally registered with the government. A proper registration of a business unit is associated with a number of economic, political and social factors. All the registered units to begin with are enumerated in the industrial census. It keeps the government and policy makers informed about the number and nature of the units. The economic and industrial policies are made and shaped in light of these numbers. Social welfare is decided based on the outcomes coming from these registered units. And the long run industrial and economic planning is carried systematically based on information and evidence from the ground.
Quite contrary to this established smooth channel of economic growth and transition, the developing and under-developed parts of the world have been reflecting self-curated unique trends. First of all, the formal sector has not been able to expand as expected. This has led to limited employment opportunities coming from this sector to the ever-increasing populations and youth bulges. As an instinct to survive, people are forced to find some or other kind of employment. This has led to the creation of and the growth of the informal sector across these pockets of the world. The case of India is one of the fundamental ones. The Indian economy is characterized as having one of the most unique and large informal sectors across the world. 80% to 85% Indian population is estimated to be employed directly and indirectly in the informal sector.
Empirics show that Jammu and Kashmir has reflected growth in the informal sector over time. On the eve of the creation of the welfare state in the region headed by Sheikh M Abdullah, a socialistic model of development was brought into practice. It was called, ‘The Naya Kashmir Manifesto’. Among other things, one of the main agendas of the manifesto was to set in place a public sector-led industrialization process in J&K. As such, all the industries established under the Naya Kashmir Manifesto are a-priori classified as the formal sector firms. The political instability and fragility in the region kept on increasing and the focus of the government as predicted by theory and validated by practice shifted to peace restoration activities. This gave a back-lash to the public sector lead industrialization process in the region.
Steadily people began to look for alternative means of livelihood and subsistence. This set in place the informal sector across all the pockets of the region. The instability during the decades of 1990s, followed by various political and natural shocks during the 2000s made people realize that each person must be skilful and must practice the same in order to keep on bringing in sustenance money. The Kashmir division is particularly known to be diversified in various types of craft. From Ari work, through Tilla designing, people have bene utilising their skills to cash in some money. The wood-carving, Pashmina making and many distinct skills indigenous to Kashmir have been practiced in the informal sector by both men and women over time.
Of late there has been an Information Technology boom. The 2000 AD has seen a drastic revolutionising of the world through the spread of the World Wide Web. Mobile phone penetration has made the world an accessible global village. The social media applications of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have empowered people in a number of ways. People started off with sharing their pictures and highlighting their skills online on social media platforms. On receiving appreciation their confidence rose and soon people started to ask if some of their skills could be shared or used.
These platforms have greatly affected the economic well-being of the women located across various regions of Kashmir. Initially, women from different ages and social backgrounds strolled these platforms. Some of them enhanced their existing skills or learnt new ones online. This was followed by trying a hand at the commercialisation of the same, which in many cases has yielded a positive response. There are a number of examples that can be quoted as brief case studies in the present article.
The Instagram page by the handle of @makeupshakeupbynidanazir evolved over time. Nida has always been fond of make-up and lipsticks. As a child she always bought makeup and accessories from her pocket money. Applied the same on her dolls, herself, her cousins and her mother and grandmother occasionally. Over time she mastered the skill. From turning pages of magazines to learning online through YouTube etc. her skills enhanced steadily. It was her friend’s engagement and Nida offered to do her make-up. The outcomes were really appreciable. The friends decided to open up on online platform to display her make-up skills. The bookings soon followed and today Nida is a known name in the local make-up industry.
Saba married a doctor who lived in Saudi Arabia. Soon after her marriage, she moved to KSA with her husband. She always liked chocolates and began exploring the chocolates of KSA. Later in 2016, she shifted back to Kashmir with her kids. The kids and herself started missing the unique chocolates of KSA. One day Saba decided to curate her own. The chocolates turned out to be good. She shared the same with her sister and cousins. She was influenced to upload the same on Instagram. Steadily, the popularity of her chocolates grew and orders started to flow in. Today Saba is an established name in the curated and customized local chocolate industry.
There are innumerable other success stories which will be discussed steadily. But the underlying point of the present article is that the informal sector in Kashmir has been growing ever since the formal industrial set-up took a back-set during 1950s. Initially it was hidden and the returns were menial or limited. However, with the growth of the internet boom the women in the region have been able to harness the benefits and the informal sector has been growing steadily and sustainably. In Kashmir, this sector can be directly related to women’s empowerment and is expected to increase steadily over time.
The author teaches at the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology, J&K and can be reached at [email protected]
Rural mart inaugurated under NABARD scheme
Shopian, Sept 20: National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) has collaborated with National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) for extending the grant support to SHGs promoted by NRLM for setting up rural marts. These marts aim to promote and provide a platform for women’s self-help groups to market their handmade products.
The rural mart was inaugurated on 20 Sept 2022, at Shopian
Dr AK Sood, CGM NABARD J&K, SSP Shopian Tanushree, NRLM Reyaz Ahmad, and ADDC Shopian, Manzoor Hussain were present for the inauguration ceremony.
The mart will give numerous SHGs an opportunity to sell their homemade goods, including apparel, handloom and handicraft products, homemade food items, dry fruits, and more.
For a period of three years, NABARD has agreed to commit Rs 4.79 lakh as financial support for each rural market. NABARD will pay for the components, such as shop rent, salesman salaries, marketing costs, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Dr Sood, CGM NABARD, urged the female SHG members to use the mart as an opportunity for economic growth and to guarantee the continuity, quality, and quantity of local goods for both locals and tourists.
Additional Mission Director NRLM commended SHGs for taking such a unique initiative in the district.
“Rural mart to be run by female SHGs is the first step towards women empowerment in the district,” said Tanushree, SSP Shopian
Members of various SHGs from the district attended the event. Deputy General Manager NABARD Surinder Singh, District Development Manager NABARD Rouf Zargar, DPMs NRLM Uzma Mehraj and Irfan were also present on the occasion.
Wood shortage, high prices due to Russia-Ukraine war affect timber business in Kashmir
Srinagar: Every summer Altaf Ahmad 35, a small timber trader from north Kashmir Baramulla district used to be busy with his timber business, but this year instead of attending to customers at his unit, Altaf spends his day playing cricket in his village outskirts. The war in far-off lands has affected his business badly.
The prices of KD Wood mostly imported from Russia and Ukraine have soared many times, while the supply had dwindled.
“The Russia-Ukraine war has badly hit our timber business in Kashmir. This is the construction season here, we were expecting our business will double as there was lockdown from the past two seasons because of Covid19, but due to the war we are on the verge of complete breakdown this season too,” said Altaf Ahmad.
Altaf believes that their business is at a halt not only because of less supply of timber but also due to the less demand due to price rises as customers are reluctant to purchase at higher rates.
“There is the increase of 20% to 50% in the rates that has abruptly brought down the demand because customers are unable to purchase on such higher rates. We used to earn a good profit, but are presently on destruction mode where survival seems very much difficult,” said Altaf
Russia is one of the highest timber suppliers in the world and ranks as the seventh biggest exporter of forest products worldwide, which accounts for 22% of the global trade. And it clearly shows that the global market will continuously impact as long the Russia-Ukraine war continues. A country like China, which is in support of Russia in the conflict, has also been affected by limited trade sanctions as it depends on the import of timber, logs, and wood chips even for their domestic use.
Halted construction work
For Sajad, who was planning to complete the pending works of his newly built house and get married next year, the Russia- Ukraine conflict has brought a tsunami of hopelessness because the sudden surge in the timber rates has halted his plans of construction work and marriage back home, he feels it is unbearable to bear all the expenses in such a tough situation where other commodities all already in the surge.
“The sudden increase in timber rates halted all my construction works because, I was expected to purchase timber say for example for Rs 1 lakh, now it will cost me Rs 1.5 lakhs an increase of fifty thousand. Now, I am too confused about whether to do it or not,” said Sajad Ahmad from the Bemina area of Srinagar.
Showkat Ahmad another timber trader from North Kashmir says Ukraine timber was mostly used in Kashmir for the past couple of years as compared to Russian and German timber because Ukraine timber was available at cheaper rates. With a war going on in Ukraine the demand for German and Russia will arise, but it’s going very much costlier for customers.
“People prefer Ukraine timber because it’s easily affordable for them in contrast with German and Russian timber due to its low cost. The war in Ukraine has put everyone both (buyer and seller) in a catch22 situation because one doesn’t know what’s going to happen next,” says Showkat Ahmad who deals with the timber business for the past decade.
Business Kashmir visited various units in central and north Kashmir among them was Changa Timber Gallery, Sopore.
“I am into this business for the last one year but, I think this kind of situation will only benefit those dealers who have piles of stock available in the stores because they can increase rates on that stock which they have purchased at low rates earlier and a trader like me will go more into loss due to these unprecedented rates who’s new into this business and has very much less stock available at times,” says Aijaz Ahmad Changa, a 30-year-old BCom graduate.
Kashmiri Timber Traders mostly purchase timber from Gujarat and in Gujarat, they directly import the timber from Russia, Ukraine, and Germany. Business Kashmir contacted Singla Timbers Private Limited one of the oldest timber factories in Mithirhar, Gandhidham Gujarat who are in this business since 1946.
“The whole world is witnessing inflation it will remain for some time maybe for another year and there is also less supply of timber from the last few months because of that we are witnessing an increase in the rates of timber,” says Pulkit Singla director Singla Timbers.
“Kashmiri traders prefer Ukraine timber because of low price, but at the same time Ukraine timber also differs in quality in comparison to others.”
He says the lack of local wood production forces people to buy imported wood.
“India only imports 2% of the world produced timber. The local timber in India is not of that quality and one has gone through a long process before getting its access. The forests are like agricultural fields for countries like Russia and Ukraine, they cut the trees and do the plantation of it again and again but, in India, that thing is lacking. It’s also because of the weather,” he said.
Altaf and other timber traders in Kashmir are now waiting and praying for the end of the war in Ukraine so that their business will see that charm again.
“I only want the war in Ukraine to end, so that our miseries will also end,” concluded Altaf.
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