No country escapes. Only China is forecast to show positive economic growth, and that is a meagre 1%. Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) foresees a considerable rebound in 2021, the extent of the depressionary forces pressed by the pandemic remains uncorroborated and hence not comparable to any economic crises of the past.
In an economy that struggles to battle with huge unemployment and stressed asset abundances every year, the pandemic seems harshly unkind as the recovery charts start to form not a ‘v’ but a ‘k-shaped’ recovery chart. The Economic Survey 2021, predicted a ‘v-shaped recovery and projects the real economy to grow at 11% in 2021-22. The estimates match closely to the one given by IMF, with the latter predicting 11.5% in its global outlook report. If the same is achieved, the real GDP shall reach the pre-pandemic level of 2019-20.
Across the globe, various patterns of recovery are anticipated such as V-shaped, U shaped, W shaped, L shaped and even K shaped if upper-income groups recover fast, however, low-income groups continue to lose ground. Further, it may be that all of these patterns will be observed in different countries, for the profile over time depends on the social and sanitary policies implemented to stop the spread of the virus and the nature of the economic stimulus.
However, a closer look at the GDP numbers points to a ‘k-shaped’ recovery. A ‘k-shaped’ recovery chart essentially means that different sectors of the economy shall grow and revive at different paces, thereby forming distinct staggers in the process of being mapped. While the richer households and businesses are witnessing their incomes and profits grow at a faster pace, income and consumption are plummeting to the bottom. These differences are visible in employment and consumption statistics as well.
Such a stark split in the recovery of different sectors essentially translates to a dismembered recovery pace, wherein a handful of the sectors see an upward rise whereas the other handful observes a downward trajectory, indicating the ailing sector in an economy that might need investment, restructuring or other such incentives for their upheaval. More often than not, the rather well equipped and modernized players observe the upward trend on the chart, whereas the non-adaptive, orthodox players observe the boorish one.
The Indian scenario recounts economists as considering the rebound of the Indian economy being in tandem with the aforementioned phase of recovery, as the pandemic has rendered the already gaping inequalities in the Indian forefront as a vastly dilapidated social dynamic. This forecast further hurts the chances of the quarterly growth agendas massively as the second wave of the virus also threatens to loom large over the heads of the jurists and economists.
Such a staggering growth chart would quite obviously lead to a ballooning of the fiscal debt, and the said monetary incentives and policies would fail to correct the deviations kept in mind should they not be adapted to the problem at hand, thereby suggesting an even slower recovery chart, as compared to a ‘v-shaped’ form of recovery that indicates a faster and all-round revival of the economy.
The highlights from the address by Duvvuri Subbarao feature certain key points with regards to the opinion stated above, these key points entail RBI’s pledge to buy 1 trillion rupees worth (about $14 billion) of sovereign notes through the G-Sec Acquisition Program in the upcoming quarter, supporting overall growth, ensuring price stability in the economy, financial stability of earning households, yield curve management and lastly protecting savers in India who are grappling with non-yielding deposits, moreover, the RBI needs a separate instrument for each objective.
At the outset, the privatization of state-run banks may be a step in the right decision. Instead of utilizing scarce budgetary resources to recapitalize government-controlled lenders, it would be advisable to employ that money in an arena where it will be more productive. It is an indisputable fact that banks and NBFCs have written off over ₹2 trillion in the past two years. From the lender’s perspective, the RBI moratorium provided momentary relief to borrowers, but the consequences of such stalling of the economy remain in an uncharted zone. Adding fuel to fire is the rise in bad loans as the moratorium has come to an end. These bad loans are likely to snowball in the coming quarters and propel banking institutions and NBFC-lenders to take a cautious approach just when credit is most needed to keep the economy going.
From the borrower’s perspective, the numerous schemes and relaxations accorded by the government have been formulated to push the demand side up but the key lies at the grassroots level. Therefore, though government policies and relaxations revolve around customer’s interests and well-being at the core, the well-being of banks and NBFCs themselves remains precarious in a demand-mute and liquidity-dry market therefore raising concerns about smooth policy implementation. Especially in light of the cautious lending approach, smaller traders, MSMEs and individual borrowers thereby hurling them in an abyss of stagnancy, litigation and perhaps more debt and thus being severely hit.
It goes without saying that the pandemic has given rise to an urgent need to lessen the negative economic consequences, safeguard the vulnerable population of the society and pave the way for sustainable recovery. However, it is an admitted fact that the inability of low- and middle-income countries to invest in robust immunization programs could result in “a deeper and longer-lasting crisis, with mounting problems of indebtedness, more entrenched poverty and growing inequality” as rightly pointed out by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Therefore, the subsisting inequalities and vulnerabilities that characterize the present growth path, coupled with the structural and institutional changes that are needed in India and the world should be adequately addressed to witness positive growth in the post-COVID era.