Friday, November 21, 2014
9

什么在困扰印度?

美国剑桥—印度最近在宏观经济方面的萎靡表现可堪哀。在多年的卓著表现后,GDP增长率开始大幅放缓。今年年产出增长很可能低于5%,而2011年为6.8%,2010年为10.1%。

改革因为没完没了的政治僵局而陷入了停顿。所有主要新兴经济体都面临着外部需求疲软的状况,但印度的减速因投资下降而被放大了,而投资下降又反映了正式方向的迷失和商业信心的滑落。就连IMF也预测,2013年印度经济只会略有改善,因为政府难以令陷入停顿的一系列经济改革重获生机。

印度最近的堕落反映了全球观点令人注目的变化。几年前,印度还是最酷的投资目的地。各国首脑一个接一个地来到孟买会见商业领袖,希望外请贸易和投资大扩张的障碍。如今,他们早已意兴阑珊,宏观经济数字也随之一蹶不振。

目前出现的变化也许将改变局势。印度年近耄耋的总理辛格最近终于警醒,意识到了重获动力的迫切需要。全世界经济学家都对拉古兰·拉詹(Raghuram Rajan)出任财政部首席经济学家翘首以待。拉詹是学术研究的超级巨星,政治经济学领域的天才作家,也是IMF前首席经济学家。但印度国大党主席、印度最有权力的政治家索尼娅·甘地是否同意辛格的改革计划还远未可知。

诚然,内阁已被洗牌,为提拔年轻不长做好了准备。但这一过程延续了一个传统,即大部分部长被任命的原因并不是是否能够胜任和所取得的成就,而是他们是否对甘地家族忠诚。

不幸的是,在印度这样一个穷国,只有持续的快速增长才能持续产生发展的果实。1981—2010年间,印度的贫困率(该指标被公认只是个概念性的指标,而且极难测量)下降了一半,降到了30%以下——一个令人瞩目的成就。但增长更快的东亚的进步更大,同期贫困率从77%降到了14%。

为何印度增长加速势头减弱了?多年来,印度一直在从20世纪90年代早期实施的经济自由化的长期影响中获利。但此后,担任财政部长的辛格开始成为中心人物。他可以指望IMF——由于在1991年时印度曾求助于援助计划,因此该机构拥有真正的政策杠杆——提供外部支持来战胜改革的巨大内部障碍。但是,如今,印度不再有外部力量可以制衡阻碍进一步自由化的国内政治压力。

确实,印度政府必须认真考虑该国日益增加的失去投资级信用评级的风险。主要评级机构越来越多地指出印度缺少增长战略,其预算赤字也越来越大。但这样做的影响力有限,因为当局有能力强迫本地银行、保险公司和退休基金吞下债务。

事实上,国内储蓄者的“金融抑制”税是印度重债政府的一大隐秘资金源。这一金融抑制税还防止了资金流入私人部门投资项目,后者的回报率远高于政府。

好消息是,从经济角度看,要让印度经济重塑增长,还有充分的现成策略可用。印度在避免像此次危机前几十年的美国那样实施金融自由化,这是正确的。尽管如此,印度可以在不用承担不必要风险的情况下做很多事情,以拉詹为首的委员会在几年前便给出了详细的计划。

零售部门是低效率的一个巨大源头,该部门通过让价格提升而给印度穷人造成了极重的实质税负。印度不应该谴责沃尔玛等外国零售商,而应该找出模仿并从这一效率极高模式中获益的办法。基础设施正在缓慢改善,但道路、港口、水供应以及电网在印度的大部分地区仍然严重不足。

当然,印度国内政府不能简单地不顾平民和环境创造基础设施。但障碍还包括各级腐败官僚和政客,他们组成了一张阻碍改革的大网。

有人认为,对一个12亿人口的民主国家来说,中央政府的瘫痪在所难免,让印度重获生机的唯一办法是在各邦之间建立一个更松散的联邦。权力下放能放松较成功邦的经济束缚。此外,通过解决经济疲软邦依赖援助的文化,从长期看印度贫困地区也可以获利。

如果印度像如今的欧洲那样各自为政、权力分散,那么它可能从迈向这个方向的步骤中获利,尽管欧洲本身正挣扎着想要集中化。权力下放可能听起来不太现实,但欧盟曾一度这样做过。如果辛格的新改革计划再次受阻,或许应该采取更激进的打算了。

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    1. CommentedHimadri Mayank

      Dear Kenneth, I disagree!

      The demographic dividend that India is projected to reap over the next couple of decades is going to be largely provided by the economically weaker states of Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa, where fertility rates are still high. Devolution is not the key, rather a consistent focus to improve education, healthcare, training, livelihood in these states is important to create a workforce, that can provide dividends. So, welfare and budgetary devolution is not only unwise, but also unjust.

      Further, a fair amount of efficiency is reduced not because of economically weaker states dragging the stronger ones, but because of corruption, which is rampant across all regions. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu, all are equally infested with graft. The recent anti-corruption drive might go a long way in making the basis of next general elections to be corruption, and probably institution of a constitutional authority of Ombudsman. Only by achieving more economic efficiency through less corruption can India achieve a sustained growth.

      Having said that, given that India has a federal structure of governance, to some extent, policy devolution is already taking place. States have been given a discretion in allowing FDI into multi-brand retail trading within their territories. The JNNURM incentivises state governments to undertake urban policy reforms to get financial assistance from the central government.

      And such measures, although still undesirable due to potential economies of scale, are inevitable, and probably work, in a democracy of 1.2 billion, as you have written.

    2. CommentedIDIKULA MATHEW

      Indian dynamics are not really comparable with the falling dynamics of global economy. Indian government and the central bank is doing the balancing act very well and maintaining a steady growth as well.
      Reforms are not stalled - I am not sure what is the reason on this comment. Reforms being executed is always slow in a massive democracy and there are several non economic but constructive reforms rolling out in parallel too.
      estimated from IMF etc are for world to be pacified and manipulated rather .These rating agencies are to pacify and hold wealth in some nations. India follows its dynamic balancing and growth irrespective of the IMF estimates.

    3. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

      Understanding India would need a torturous journey a few hundred kilometers from the periphery or from any large city, into the interiors where a vast majority is living, very close to the Dark Ages. With rivers as the only source of running water, with no access to toilets, no schools, and health centers with no equipment and medicine, we have multitudes of people surviving on government sponsored Rs.2 /kg (4 cents/kg) rice. Statistics is very simple, 55% of people living in a rural economy where the whole of agriculture contributes to less than 25% of the GDP and is not growing as productivity is shrinking every year as more hands depend on less area of land. Industrialization and diversification of agriculture in some States like Guajarat have augured well, but lack of governance, which is exacerbated by corruption and lack of political will had taken its toll in most of the other States. Local politics, which is just a way to prolong the agony, takes the round to make the society be based on more divisive forces, so that leadership cannot take root to integrate the ideas of salvation. The core sector cannot function in such a sorry ground of constant in-fights where land acquisition is virtually stalled with no end in sight.

      Reforms, in retail included, is just one other whiff of wishful thinking that would change nothing in the interiors of the country.

      Procyon Mukherjee

    4. CommentedAndrés Arellano Báez

      Who cares what rating agencies said? Why they still exist? We are talking about a group of companies with an incredible record of failure after failure. They should be eliminated of our society.

    5. CommentedAmit Sheth

      FDI is a fickle thing- it can turn on as fast as it is turned off. As pointed out by M. Patel, structural reforms and transparency, are more important. Granted India is not doing too well there right now but some states, led by Gujarat and its dynamic leadership, are showing promise, and consequently, parts of India are growing faster and smarter. Let's hope that the vote for development, rather than caste politics, in states like Bihar and Gujarat spreads further. In the long term, India will do better not to rely too much on central government and its 5 year plans.

    6. CommentedLinda Jamin

      Even economists need to study the POLITICAL and social realities of a region before offering an "analysis" and/or predictions regarding its socioeconomic future. Ancient cultures with complicated social systems in over-populated regions respond well to top-down economic reforms in dictatorships but aren't we supposed to all be cheering for the "democratization" of emerging economies? Or are we just disappointed that the Ghandis and their cronies aren't tough enough. Maybe they need to take a few lessons from the House of Assad or study the tactics used in Bahrein? In any case it's clear that it's necessary to read Aruhundhati Roy as well as K.Rogoff in order to understand what's at play in India and what its future might be.

        CommentedVaradarajan Seshamani

        Not just the political and social systems and situations prevailing, but also the laws, their complexities, their vaguenesses, the discretionary powers in the rules associated with such laws and the resultant parallell systems that operate and are powers untom themselves. Beyond that, one should look at the effects of this type of top down environment on the people weilding the powers - who are part of the powers that be and you may begin to see, in about 2 decades what a mess it all is.

        CommentedM Patel

        It's actually very simple. Culture and Social systems are extremely poor predictor of prosperity. Neither the religion nor the culture could explain the vast gap between two germanys or two koreas or two latin countries. Compare North Korea with South Korea or East Germany with West Germany. Here is 1 country, 1 people and 1 culture which gets vivisected into 2 parts with 1 part embracing Socialism and another part embracing free-market. 50 years later, Socialist part is dirt poor and non-socialist part is well-off.
        Corruption and poverty is positively correlated with red-tape and Socialist/Communist type economic model. Solution is to cut the red tape.

    7. CommentedM Patel

      Nehruvian Socialist license permit system, and absolute discretionary governmental power are troubling India because they hamper growth and promote crony corruption. Structural reforms (i.e. abolish Nehruvian system and take-away discretionary power) is the solution.

      Most article on India's economy falsely equates FDI permit with Reform. This articles are lobbying for foreign investment with little regard for how sweet heart deals are cut. Investments are important but much more important is structural reforms.

      Permit is an oxymoron of Reform. Current system of doling out sweet heart permits to chosen investor, in a non-transparent manner, will result in bad investments and corruption ( example: In 1993s, Enron lobbied and got a sweet heart deal to setup a power plant at Dabhol, India. Government of India owned banks were arm-twisted to provide loans to dabhol power corporation. The power plant built had very high fixed and operational cost making it unviable. After a bankruptcy, writeoff of billions of rupees, and in midst of a power crisis, The plant is still making losses and not running even at 50% capacity).

      Walmart/McDonald should be welcomed to India but it is wrong to say that it will benefit India's poor because only upper middle class Indians can afford them. Poor would be simply shooed away at the entrance.


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