Is the Indian Economy Returning to a Long Period of Stagnation ?

India’s economy slowed in early summer to its weakest pace since the bottom of the global economic downturn in 2009, government statistics released Friday evening showed.

The Central Statistics Office in New Delhi said that the economy grew 4.4 percent in the quarter ended June 30, well below economists’ expectations of 4.8 percent. The quarter was the weakest since output grew 3.5 percent in the quarter that ended March 31, 2009.

The accumulating signs of economic distress — slower growth, a widening current-account deficit, higher oil prices and rising inflation in general — suggest that the monthlong fall of the Indian rupee in currency markets may be a symptom of fundamental troubles in the Indian economy and not just part of the broader difficulties experienced by Asian emerging market currencies in recent weeks.

From corner stores to corporate boardrooms, the consensus in Mumbai these days is that stagnation may continue over the next few months, although almost no one expects a steep downturn.

Inflation will probably remain a problem, however, given that India relies almost entirely on imported oil, which becomes more expensive with each drop of the rupee. So important is oil to India’s trade deficit that desperate bidding for scarce dollars by Indian refiners helped drive the rupee briefly to a record low on Wednesday, before the Reserve Bank of India stopped the rout that evening by arranging to transfer dollars from its reserves to oil importers.

Relatively slow growth in the 3% GDP range and inflation in the 10% range. This would be an economy in stagflation.


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