India says 2012-13 GDP growth could hit decade-low
City: India’s economic growth could slow to as little as 5.5 per cent this fiscal year, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told media, signalling the possibility that Asia’s third largest economy will expand at its slowest pace in a decade.
“I’m looking forward to this year ending with 5.5 to 6 per cent growth, barring any unexpected shocks, and next year getting back to 7 per cent growth, and in 2014-15 getting back to 8 per cent growth,” he said in an interview on Sunday at a G20 meeting in Mexico.
The last time full-year growth fell below 6 per cent was in 2002-03 when the economy expanded 4 per cent. A slump in industrial activity because of slow policy-making and the global slowdown, combined with a drought, have dragged on India’s performance this fiscal year, which ends in March 2013.
Until now, the government had estimated growth this year at around 6 per cent. The International Monetary Fund last month slashed its 2012 calendar year economic growth forecast for India to 4.9 per cent from 6.1 per cent.
Chidambaram said India had the wherewithal to again reach its economic potential. “In 2004-2008 we had 9 per cent plus growth. It’s not as though we have not done it before,” he said. “We have slowed down thanks to the world and some domestic factors, but we are absolutely confident that we will get back to the higher-growth path.”
Chidambaram said he was concerned about inflation, which hit a 10-month high of 7.8 per cent in September.
“We must learn to live with some inflation, but inflation cannot be at an unacceptable level. Today it is at an unacceptable level,” he said.
India’s central bank left interest rates unchanged at 8 per cent last week, defying government pressure to lower rates for the first time since April.
Rate cut expectations had grown after Chidambaram outlined a recent plan to cut the country’s hefty fiscal deficit and boost growth. The bank’s announcement failed to calm markets, pushing bond yields and swap rates higher. Chidambaram said that with a combination of monetary policy, spending cuts, and a tightening of tax collection, India could lower the deficit and foster growth.
“I’m confident that with determination, hard work, and some pain, we will be able to contain the fiscal deficit at 5.3 per cent,” Chidambaram said.
The revision in the fiscal deficit target will result in additional market borrowing up to the new level, he added. The government borrows via rupeedenominated bonds that foreign investors are allowed to trade.
“I don’t expect any additional borrowing over 5.3 per cent,” he said. That level of borrowing will amount to at least 200 billion rupees ($3.72 billion), a senior finance ministry official told Reuters in New Delhi.
Previously, the government had pegged gross market borrowing for the current fiscal year at 5.7 trillion rupees ($106.04 billion) to finance the original deficit target of 5.1 per cent.
The finance minister also rejected the possibility that India might suffer a ratings downgrade, after Standard & Poor’s recently said the country faces a one-in-three chance of a credit rating downgrade to junk status over the next two years.
“India certainly does not deserve a downgrade and we are taking steps that will contain the fiscal situation,” he said. The Reserve Bank of India cut its GDP growth forecast for Asia’s third-largest economy this fiscal year to 5.8 per cent from 6.5 per cent previously. It raised its inflation projection in March to 7.5 per cent from a previous 7 per cent.