Budget 2018-19: No money where the mouth is C.P. Chandrasekhar

Billed as the last full budget of this second NDA government, Budget 2018 was not expected to surprise. The leadership of that government may be pleased with having played, during its nearly 4-year tenure, with programmes varying from “Make in India” to Swach Bharat Abhiyan, experimented with demonetisation, and launched the Goods and Services tax regime. But while none of these immediately benefited the “common man”, some of them like demonetisation hit the vulnerable, and the GST disrupted production and damaged the operations of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). There was also evidence that agriculture had been neglected…

The Golden “Diwali Gift” Jayati Ghosh

The Modi government made its supposed determination to end corruption in India its signature theme. The massive damage done by demonetisation as well as the continuing chaos produced by the flawed introduction of the Goods and Services Tax have all been justified on the grounds of reducing possibilities of corruption and tax avoidance. Similarly, the imposition of Aadhaar requirements on the population for access to all manner of publicly provided goods and services is regularly justified on the grounds of reducing “leakages” and misappropriation of benefits. The Prime Minister has sought to burnish his image of anti-corruption crusader through emotional…

The de-digitisation of India Jayati Ghosh

So it’s official: cash use is back in almost full force in the Indian economy. Cash withdrawals from ATM machines – a reasonable if incomplete proxy for the use of cash in the economy – are nearly back to the level of just before the demonetisation shock of 8 November 2016. RBI data on use of debit and credit cards to withdraw money from ATMs show that such withdrawals, which had collapsed to only Rs 850 billion in December 2016 largely because of the sheer unavailability of cash with such machines, amounted to Rs 2.27 trillion in July 2017, only…

Strangulating the Informal Economy Prabhat Patnaik

The fact that there has been a slowdown of late in the rate of growth of the Indian economy is accepted by all, including even Narendra Modi in his all-over-the-place diatribe against critics on October 4. The government however sees it as remediable since the economy, it believes, “is on the right track”. The first question to ask however is: why should it matter if the year-on-year quarterly GDP growth-rate has been slowing down for the last six consecutive quarters and is now down to 5.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017-18 (which is the lowest for any quarter…

The Truth About Demonetization Prabhat Patnaik

After months of dilly-dallying the Reserve Bank of India has finally come out with the figure that nearly 99 percent of the currency notes demonetized in November 2016, came back to the banking system. The total value of demonetized currency, in the form of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes, was Rs. 15.44 lakh crores, of which Rs.15.28 lakh crores came back to the banking system, which is 98.96 percent. Since a few small windows are still open for the return of demonetized currency, the final figure will certainly exceed 99 percent, which puts paid to the government’s claim that demonetization would…

What is really happening in Indian Manufacturing? C.P. Chandrasekhar & Jayati Ghosh

Data on organised manufacturing production do not really capture the impact of demonetisation and its effects on demand, but looking at some sub-sectors of consumer non-durable goods provides more insight. Indian_Manufacturing (Download the full text in PDF format) (This article was originally published in the Business Line on August 14, 2017.)

The GDP Elephant Jayati Ghosh

National income is hard to estimate in India where so much activity and employment is in the informal sector. Much of GDP calculation is not purely “technocratic” but relies on judgments and assumptions. As long as our system of national accounting does not clarify the real impact on the economy and the actual degree of deceleration of economic activity, we will remain in the dark. GDP_Elephant (Download the full text in PDF format) (This article was originally published in Quatrz India: June 5, 2017)

Industrial Growth and Demonetization Prabhat Patnaik

Some weeks ago when the official “quick estimates” of GDP for the third quarter of 2016-17 (October-December) had been released, putting the GDP growth in this quarter (over the corresponding quarter of 2015-16) at 7 percent, which broadly conformed to the CSO’s prediction before demonetization, a veritable chorus had gone up that the critics of demonetization had been proved wrong, that the measure did not have the recessionary effect they had claimed it would. The fact that this growth estimate was spurious, produced at the behest of the BJP government which specializes in “post-truths”, was pointed out by many (see…

Narendra Modi on Poverty Prabhat Patnaik

In his speech to BJP workers in Delhi after the Assembly election results had been declared, Narendra Modi announced that his policy henceforth would be to empower the poor by providing them with opportunities, instead of handing out doles to them, which, he believes, is what the various “pro-poor” welfare programmes amount to. Newspapers were quick to underscore, and in general laud, this shift in approach from “welfarism” to “development”. Since government policy is set to reflect this shift from now on, its implications are worth examining. Nobody obviously prefers “doles” to development, neither the recipients of these “doles” nor…