NEW DELHI – To hear some people tell it, the bloom is off the Indian economic rose. Hailed until recently as the next big success story, the country has lately been assailed by bad news.
Tales abound of investor flight (mainly owing to a retrospective tax law enacted this year to collect taxes from Indian companies’ foreign transactions); mounting inflation, as food and fuel prices rise; and political infighting, which has delayed a new policy to permit foreign direct investment in India’s retail-trade sector. Some have even declared that the “India story” is over.
But today’s pessimism is as exaggerated as yesterday’s optimism was overblown. Even as the world has faced an unprecedented global economic crisis and recession, with most countries suffering negative growth rates in at least one quarter in the last four years, India remains the world’s second-fastest-growing major economy, after China.
Many reasons have been cited for this success. India’s banks and financial institutions were not tempted to buy mortgage-backed securities and engage in the fancy derivatives trading that ruined several Western financial institutions. And, though India’s merchandise exports registered declines of about 30%, services exports continued to do well. Moreover, remittances from overseas Indians remain robust, rising from $46.4 billion in 2008-2009 to $57.8 billion in 2010-2011, with the bulk coming from the blue-collar Indian expatriate community in the Gulf.