Column : Why reforms aren’t lifting growth

Investment is unlikely to take off as highly leveraged firms and stressed banks can't take on more risk

Recent initiatives by the government—the postponement of GAAR, FDI in multi-brand retail, and the proposal to set up a Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI), earlier called the National Investment Board, have not started showing up in pushing growth up as yet. This is not surprising because deeper problems remain. Power projects still face problems in obtaining coal as raw material and collecting money for power distributed and sold to states. Highly leveraged companies and banks with stretched balance sheets are in no position to take further risk. Investment is likely to remain low till policy changes to solve deeper problems and companies and banks have time to clean up their balance sheets. The cautious optimism that came with policy reforms has not yet started giving signals of a growth upswing.

Recent data on output, exports and credit do not show an improvement. Under these circumstances, GDP growth in 2013-14 could well hover around 5-5.5%. The government seems to be banking on fast track clearances to stalled projects. This is unlikely to be have a large effect in the short run. Few companies are in a position to start investing in new projects today. Few banks are in a position to lend to them. Perhaps these are among the reasons why data is not showing a pick-up so far.

Let us look at the most recent data. Monthly and quarterly data needs to be seasonally adjusted before it can be used. Otherwise, seasonality in the data can make month-on-month comparisons meaningless. But once this is done, it offers more insights into the most recent trends in the economy than the yearly growth rates do. Instead of being an average of the last 12 months, the data can reflect the month-on-month moving average. This indicates what year-on-year data would do with a lead of about 5 months. We look at a few leading and coincident indicators of the economy using seasonally-adjusted data below. This data is available at, from where it can be downloaded. In most cases, the data shows the 3-month moving average of the month-on-month seasonally-adjusted variable.

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