IMF Executive Board Concludes 2012 Article IV Consultation with IndiaPublic Information Notice (PIN) No. 12/36
April 17, 2012
Public Information Notices (PINs) form part of the IMF's efforts to promote transparency of the IMF's views and analysis of economic developments and policies. With the consent of the country (or countries) concerned, PINs are issued after Executive Board discussions of Article IV consultations with member countries, of its surveillance of developments at the regional level, of post-program monitoring, and of ex post assessments of member countries with longer-term program engagements. PINs are also issued after Executive Board discussions of general policy matters, unless otherwise decided by the Executive Board in a particular case.
On March 9, 2012, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the 2012 Article IV consultation with India.1
India’s growth remains one of the highest in the world, but a range of factors have weighed it down. Following a rapid recovery after the global financial crisis, the economy has slowed more than most other major emerging markets, as investment has been dampened by a confluence of cyclical and global factors, as well as by concerns about structural impediments. Consumption, particularly in rural areas, and exports, with increasing geographical destination diversity and sophistication, have been the bright spots. At the same time, inflation is elevated, and its recent moderation is primarily due to base effects. While monetary policy has been tightened, the fiscal deficit remains high. The unsettled global outlook has added to policy challenges. After the boom in capital inflows in 2010/11, rising global risk aversion has reduced the flow of capital. The rupee depreciated the most among major Asian currencies in 2011, partly due to India’s current account deficit. Concerns about global growth have harmed investor sentiment and advanced economies’ bank deleveraging has raised the cost of external finance.
Growth is projected at about 7 percent for 2011/12 and 2012/13, with inflation forecast to remain above the RBI’s comfort zone. Investment is anticipated to pick up modestly from the slump recorded in late 2011, and consumption should remain robust, but exports are expected to cool. Inflation is projected to fall in the near term, but to stay above the Reserve Bank of India’s objective. The current account is projected at 2.8 percent of GDP.
Growth risks are to the downside. The main domestic risk is a further weakening of private investment if government approvals do not accelerate, reform efforts are not reinvigorated, and inflation remains high and volatile. At the same time, external risks continue to be elevated as Euro area growth could underperform and bank deleveraging could intensify even in the absence of a new full-fledged global financial crisis. Inflation risks remain, as momentum indicators are mixed.
Executive Board Assessment
Executive Directors noted that sound macroeconomic policies and fundamentals enabled India to weather well the global economic crisis. Nevertheless, economic growth has slowed below trend in the last year due to cyclical and structural factors, and while inflation has come down, it is still high. Some Directors noted that it is difficult to attribute the current slowdown to structural factors. Downside risks prevail in light of the uncertain global environment, supply constraints and elevated funding costs. A major challenge will be to bring growth back to potential and ensure its inclusiveness, while further lowering inflation. Directors underscored that this will require a reinvigoration of structural reforms and fiscal consolidation.
Directors encouraged continued vigilance against inflation. They agreed that policy rates should be kept unchanged until inflation is clearly on a downward trend, given the uncertain outlook for growth. They encouraged the Reserve Bank of India to stand ready to raise policy rates if inflation starts to rise again, while it could consider cutting rates if the inflation momentum clearly eases.
Directors stressed that fiscal consolidation is crucial to crowd in private investment and lower inflationary expectations. They supported the planned reorientation of expenditure toward infrastructure and the social sectors, and highlighted the need to rationalize fuel and fertilizer subsidies and improve public expenditure management. They encouraged tax reform, especially the introduction of the goods and services tax.
Directors considered the flexible exchange rate regime to be an important buffer against external shocks, and supported the policy of intervening in the foreign exchange market only to contain volatility and to prevent disruptive movements. They welcomed the authorities’ moves toward further trade and gradual capital account liberalization.
Directors underscored the importance of structural reform to raise public and private investment and boost inclusive growth. While some progress has been made, many Directors were of the view that a more determined effort to remove structural impediments is required in several areas. On the other hand, some Directors felt that structural reforms were progressing at a measured pace. Continuing to develop infrastructure, which in turn requires facilitating land acquisition and mining, would ensure that India’s growth potential remains intact. Financial sector development and reform are needed to improve access to credit and diversify funding sources. Addressing skill mismatches, increasing labor market flexibility, and improving agricultural productivity are crucial to support formal job creation and reduce poverty.
Directors welcomed the FSSA’s finding that India’s financial system is broadly stable, albeit with room for improvement in the regulatory and supervisory framework, and encouraged development of a prioritized action plan to implement key recommended reforms. They welcomed measures to increase the quantity and quality of bank capital, strengthen inter-regulatory cooperation, and clarify supervisory responsibilities. They encouraged close monitoring of asset quality and provisioning; continued development of domestic bond markets; a gradual reduction of credit concentration limits, with due regard to development needs for financing, and a reduction in mandatory holdings of government securities by financial institutions, while ensuring adequate liquidity buffers for financial stability.