Thank God, we're India: It's our turn to tell them what to do
Once upon a time, the rich world told us how to run our economies. Now that they are in trouble, it's time for us to tell them what to do.
The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries are meeting next week to discuss the European debt crisis and how they can help the indebted countries in Europe.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in a speech that the US and Europe must get their house in order by following prudent macroeconomic policies rather than seeking help from China. The US President has become a Robin Hood of sorts by taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor in a $440 billion jobs plan.
The world has turned upside down and the emerging economies, which were so far dictated to by the developed nations on how to run their policies, are now telling the developed countries what to do.
Watching the crisis developing in the US and Europe from India, one can feel the superior position we are in at present. India does not need to borrow funds from abroad to finance its debt, as there is enough liquidity in the banking system to absorb the debt. India is growing at over 7 percent levels while there is a threat of recession in Europe and the US is projected to grow at 2 percent levels for 2011.
Interest rates in India are high, with the RBI benchmark policy rate at 8 percent and have scope to be reduced if inflation is contained. Interest rates in the US are at 0-0.25 percent while in the eurozone it is 1.5 percent. There is not much scope to reduce interest rates in the US and eurozone to spur the economies.
India's debt is rated just at investment grade by the rating agencies and, given its growth rate and the fact that government has brought down the fiscal deficit from 6.8 percent of GDP in 2009-10 to 5.1 percent in 2010-11, the rating is stable and can be upgraded.
The ratings of countries in the eurozone are yet to reflect the debt problems and many of them are in the higher category of investment grade ratings. Ratings in these countries can only come down and not go up. The US rating is AA+ with a negative outlook by S&P, implying that a further downgrade is possible if things don't improve.
Indian debt is in demand and the question is of easing restrictions on foreigners investing in India debt. The debt limits of $25 billion is fully utilised by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) while the infrastructure debt limit of $25 billion will be utilised if the investment norms are eased, which the government is doing so in October 2011.
Investors are shunning the debts of indebted countries in the eurozone. Italy had to pay record rates for its auction of 3.9 billion of five-year bonds. The bonds were sold at yields of 5.6 percent, up from previous auctions levels of 4.93 percent. Italy is rated A+ with a negative outlook by S&P. Italy is one of the most indebted nations in the eurozone with debt-to-GDP ratio of 116 percent as compared to Indian central government debt at around 50 percent of GDP.
Italy had to go to China to make it subscribe to its debt, as it feared that there would be no takers for its auction.
India, while not the best run of countries given its issues of inflation, subsidies, corruption and lack of reforms, is still on a much better footing than the developed nations. Inflation, running at 9.78 percent levels, can come off with prudent monetary and fiscal policies. The RBI has been running a tight monetary policy for the last 18 months while the government has budgeted for a fiscal deficit of 4.6 percent of GDP for 2011-12 against 5.1 percent seen in 2010-11.
Subsidies are an issue with the government lacking the political will to free fuel prices but there is a sense of worry on the subsidy bill, which is running up due to high prices of oil. The subsidy bill will be three times the budget estimates for 2011-12.
Corruption is a big issue with the revelations of the 2G scam. The government has taken tough steps in arresting the corrupt even if they belonged to key political allies. The people's movement through Anna Hazare has also awakened the common man to corruption and hopefully corruption is on its way down in India.
Every Indian has her day and India is basking in the sunshine at present in relation to the gloom in the developed world.
Arjun Parthasarathy is the Editor of www.investorsareidiots.com, a web site for investors.
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