India: Direction uncertain
Comment of the Day

April 19 2012

Commentary by David Fuller

India: Direction uncertain

This is an informative analysis (will require subscription registration, PDF also provided) by James Lamont for the Financial Times. Here is the opening:
Concern is mounting that the world's largest democracy is reverting to the sluggishness last seen under the 'licence Raj'.

Facing both ways: Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi last December. The prime minister has had his reform plans hobbled by the more leftist instincts of the Congress party chief

As India's central bankers in Mumbai prepare this week to lower borrowing costs for the first time since 2008, they are praying for at least a glimmer of economic reform in New Delhi in return.

Senior officials at the Reserve Bank of India want parliament's current budget session to pass higher energy costs on to consumers in order to pare down a subsidies bill estimated by the Paris-based OECD to be as much as 9 per cent of gross domestic product. Even the most meagre fiscal consolidation, they say, would give reason for optimism that the left-leaning Congress party-led government, with two years still to run until parliamentary elections, has some will remaining to put the economy on a high-growth trajectory to rival China.

However, many critics claim that in the world's largest democracy the clock is in fact turning back to a statist model reminiscent of that seen in the 1970s. Forty years ago, an inward-looking economy tangled up in red tape was stuck with the sluggish "Hindu rate of growth" of about 4 per cent. A reversal would diminish the clout of a nation regarded by western and regional partners as a counterbalance to the growing power of Beijing.

Taking tough decisions is not a hallmark of the administration led by the 79-year-old prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

David Fuller's view I remain concerned about the uninspiring leadership shown by India's ruling Congress Party (see also Tuesday's Comment of the Day).

However, you will find a more hopeful analysis at the end of the FT's article under the headline: The opposition - Leaders who shine outside the national limelight.

The question for investors: when will India fulfil more of its undoubted potential?

The stock market will show us and it remains delicately poised at the moment - Sensex and Bombay Banks Index.

This short analysis, kindly forwarded by a subscriber takes a more optimistic contrarian view.

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