IMF says global growth recovery an opportunity for Indian economy

IMF expects the Indian economy to recover sharply in 2018 to grow at 7.4%, though 30 basis points lower than its earlier estimate in April.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday pared its growth forecast for the Indian economy by half a percentage point to 6.7% for 2017, blaming the lingering disruptions caused by demonetisation of high value currencies last year and the roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

However, IMF said the structural reforms undertaken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government would trigger a recovery—above 8% in the medium term.

In its latest World Economic Outlook, IMF said the global economy is going through a cyclical upswing that began midway through 2016. It raised the global growth estimate marginally for 2017 to 3.6% while flagging downside risks. The upward revisions in its growth forecasts including for the euro area, Japan, China, emerging Europe, and Russia more than offset downward revisions for the United States, the United Kingdom, and India.

“In India, growth momentum slowed, reflecting the lingering impact of the authorities’ currency exchange initiative as well as uncertainty related to the midyear introduction of the countrywide Goods and Services Tax,” it said in the WEO.

However, IMF expects the Indian economy to recover sharply in 2018 to grow at 7.4%, though 30 basis points lower than its earlier estimate in April.

One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

In its South Asia Economic Focus (Fall 2017) released on Monday, the World Bank reduced India’s GDP growth forecast to 7% for 2017-18 from 7.2% estimated earlier, blaming disruptions caused by demonetisation and GST implementation, while maintaining at the same time that the Indian economy would claw back to grow at 7.4% by 2019-20.

Both the Asian Development Bank as well as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have also cut their growth projections for India to 7% and 6.7%, respectively, for fiscal 2017-18.

IMF said a gradual recovery in India’s growth trajectory is a result of implementation of important structural reforms. GST, “which promises the unification of India’s vast domestic market, is among several key structural reforms under implementation that are expected to help push growth above 8% in the medium term,” it added.

The multilateral lending agency said India needs to focus on simplifying and easing labour market regulations and land acquisition procedures which are long-standing requirements for improving the business climate. It also called for briding the gender gap in accessing social services, finance and education to accelerate growth in developing countries like India.

IMF said given faster-than-expected declines in inflation rates in many larger economies, including India, “the projected level of monetary policy interest rates for the group is somewhat lower than in the April 2017 WEO.”

In its monetary policy review last week, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) kept its policy rates unchanged and marginally raised its inflation forecast for rest of the year.

Highlighting the growing income inequality within and among emerging market economies, IMF said a country’s growth rate does not always foretell matching gains in income for the majority of the population. “In China and India, for example, where real per capita GDP grew by 9.6% and 4.9% a year, respectively, in 1993–2007, the median household income is estimated to have grown less—by 7.3% a year in China and only 1.5% a year in India,” it said.

Source: Live Mint

Modi, Putin agree to expand nuclear power plant, push defence ties

India and Russia signed five pacts, including a crucial agreement on setting up two more atomic power plants at Kudankulam

India and Russia on Thursday reaffirmed their “special and privileged strategic partnership” and signed five pacts, including a crucial agreement on setting up two more atomic power plants at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin discussed ways to smoothen bilateral relations.

The pacts were signed in St Petersburg on the third leg of Modi’s four-nation, six-day tour of Europe. Modi is in St Petersburg for the 18th India-Russia annual summit as well as the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The two countries are also marking 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between them this year.

“Met President Putin. We had a wonderful meeting during which we discussed India-Russia relations,” Modi wrote in a Twitter post after a one-to-one meeting with the Russian leader.

The highlight of the day was India and Russia concluding a much-awaited pact for setting up the last two units of the Kundankulam nuclear power plant with Moscow’s help. The general framework agreement (GFA) and credit protocol for units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam nuclear plant was among the five pacts signed on Thursday.

The reactors will be built by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and Russia’s JSC Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, the regulatory body of the Russian nuclear complex. Each of the two units will have a capacity to produce 1,000 megawatt (MW)of power. One 1,000MW nuclear power plant in Kudankulam is operational while another 1,000MW capacity plant is expected to go on stream later this year. Two others of equal capacity are under construction. India’s current nuclear power generation capacity is about 7,000MW.

A joint statement noted that the economies of India and Russia complemented each other in the energy sector and both countries will strive to build an “energy bridge”. It said the future of Indian-Russian cooperation holds great promise across a wide spectrum covering nuclear power, nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear science and technology.

Traditionally, India and Russia have shared a close relationship that dates back to the days of the Cold War, when the US tilted toward India’s neighbour and arch rival Pakistan. Much of India’s military hardware is still of Russian origin though India has diversified its defence procurement with major purchases of military hardware from the US, Israel and France.

On its part, Russia has been concerned at the rapidly warming ties between India and the US including the recent signing of a military logistics agreement.

India’s concerns vis-à-vis its once “trusted strategic partner” include its present tilt towards China with which India has a difficult relationship mainly due to an unsettled border dispute and Beijing’s close ties with Pakistan. Last year, Russia held its first ever military exercises with Pakistan, raising concerns in India.

Once seen as on the same page vis-à-vis concerns on terrorism emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan, currently there are divergences between New Delhi and Moscow on that issue as well with Russia favouring a role for the rebel Taliban in a future Afghanistan against the rise of the Islamic State in the war-torn country. That Russia did not back India’s demand to name two Pakistan-based terror groups as perpetrators of terrorism against India last year at the Goa Brics (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit did not go down well with India.

In an interview to PTI on Thursday, Putin tried to assuage some of India’s concerns. “Russia is respectful toward all Indian interests,” Putin said. “Russia does not have any tight military relations with Pakistan.”

Putin added: “No matter where terror threat comes from, it is unacceptable and Russia will always support India in fight against terror.”

“There is no other country in the world that Russia has “deep cooperation” in delicate areas such as missiles,” Putin said adding Russia’s “trust-based” ties with India will not be diluted by Moscow’s growing ties with Pakistan and others.

The statement also said that India and Russia were looking to expand trade from the current $ 7.7 billion level to $ 30 billion by 2025.


India, Russia to set up $1 bn fund to promote business:Nirmala Sitharaman

Both the countries would contribute USD 500 million to the fund, Sitharaman said while addressing India-Russia Business Forum at the ongoing International Engineering Sourcing Show (IESS).

India and Russia are setting up a USD 1 billion fund to promote mutual investments in infrastructure and technology projects, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.

Both the countries would contribute USD 500 million to the fund, Sitharaman said while addressing India-Russia Business Forum at the ongoing International Engineering Sourcing Show (IESS) here yesterday.

While the Russian funds would be channeled through Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Indian contribution will be accrued from National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.

Sitharaman elaborated upon other measures being taken by Russia and India to scale up their economic engagement and to boost bilateral trade and investment.

As part of these initiatives, the India Russia CEO Forum will hold its meeting this year at a mutually convenient date. The forum was constituted in St Petersburg in June 2016.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Russia is estimated at USD 1.2 billion till date while Indian investment in Russia is around USD 4.9 billion.

“There is tremendous potential for enhancing such investments,” the minister said, adding that initiatives like Make-in-India would catalyse Russian investment in several Indian sectors including Defence production.

“The Make-in-India initiative was launched by the government in order to encourage businesses to manufacture products in the country, creating additional jobs for local population. This is a major drive to foster innovation, enhance skill development, protect intellectual property and build best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure,” she said.

India and Russia are engaged in robust cooperation in the energy sector, including collaborations in civil nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and renewable energy.


India giving World Bank all evidence of improved ease of doing business

India is providing detailed evidence to the World Bank on ease of doing business as it seeks to break into the top 100 countries on the bank’s index from its current rank of 130.

Officials said logs of construction permits, containerised cargo movement at ports and setting up of a company are being provided to World Bank as part of the Narendra Modi government’s efforts to ensure it does not miss any point to score to improve India’s rank.

World Bank officials had a few queries for the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) when they met on August 1 after completing field inspection and verification of claims over the 14 parameters on ease of doing business.

While the World Bank does not share its findings, one observation made by its team was that people were carrying paperwork to the offices of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation even as registration was made free of all physical touch-points. “We clarified that it is only for claims that one needs to file the papers,” said a senior DIPP official, who did not wish to be identified.

Besides, DIPP is now gathering its own evidence for cases where it feels respondents have not have kept in mind the assumptions made by the World Bank study.

“In case of construction permits the study is limited to warehouses or buildings on the outskirts or setting up of a company parameter is only for domestic enterprises and not how long it takes for a foreign entity,” the official said.

DIPP is taking a proactive approach to provide evidence on its part even after the field investigations have been wrapped by the World Bank team. Final rankings will be announced in October. The ranking considers business environment in Delhi and Mumbai. India compares unfavourably even with countries such as Mexico, which is ranked 38, and Russia, which is at 51. Prime Minister Modi has set a target for India to be in the top 50 in three years.

Specific areas DIPP has targeted are starting business, insolvency procedures, construction permits, ease of trade across borders and electricity connections. According to the department, total number of days required to start a business has been reduced to 12 from 29 in the past year. A team of researchers spent two weeks in Delhi and Mumbai talking to actual users and stakeholders to study and verify implementation of reforms, officials said.

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Brexit offers lifeline on $800 billion emerging company debt

Britain’s vote to exit the European Union (EU) has thrown a lifeline to emerging-market companies facing an $800 billion wall of maturing debt.

By hindering the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates, the referendum result has led to speculation borrowing costs will remain lower for longer as policy makers attempt to prevent Europe’s turmoil turning into a recession. This means developing-nation companies that borrowed when it was cheaper to do so won’t have to pay more to service those bonds, at least for now.

The prospect of fewer defaults shows how the so-called Brexit vote is proving a blessing for developing-nation companies that need to pay back about $200 billion per year from 2017 to 2020. Economists from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the Bank for International Settlements have been warning Fed monetary tightening may set off an increase in corporate failures in emerging markets. Defaults have been climbing since 2013 and reached a seven-year high in the second quarter.

“We might even see a decline in default rates again in the third and fourth quarters of this year,” said Apostolos Bantis, a Dubai-based credit analyst at Commerzbank AG, who recommends investing in Latin American company bonds. “The overall outlook now is more positive for emerging-markets corporates because the Fed is very unlikely to move any time soon following the Brexit.”

Uncertain outcomes

The policy uncertainty engulfing the developed world has boosted the appeal of emerging countries, usually viewed by investors as more vulnerable to political risk. Yields on a Bloomberg index tracking developing-nation corporate bonds have fallen 27 basis points to 5.19% since the UK vote, adding to a recovery that started when oil prices began rebounding from a 20 January low.

The sentiment shift means that defaults are probably past their peak, according to Kathy Collins, an analyst at Aberdeen Asset Management in London. By 28 June, S&P Global Ratings had recorded 10 emerging-market corporate defaults in the second quarter, the worst quarterly tally since mid-2009. The rating company’s 12-month junk-bond default rate climbed to 3.2% at the end of May from 2.9% at the end of April.

“Given where commodity prices are at the moment, we’re not expecting too many more defaults,” Collins said. “In the first six months of this year, we’ve seen a lot of companies be very proactive in terms of tenders and buybacks in the market.”

Buying back

Russia’s Novolipetsk Steel PJSC and shipping operator Sovcomflot OJSC have announced they intend to buy back debt totaling as much as $2 billion. Latin American bonds sales surged over the past week, which HSBC Holdings Plc partly attributed to an increased likelihood of “ultra-low global policy rates” for longer. Brazilian meat packer Marfrig Global Foods SA sold $250 million of securities to repurchase outstanding notes in a push it said would “lengthen its debt maturity profile and reduce the cost of its capital structure.”

The issuance boom may prove short lived if the prospect of Fed tightening re-emerges. The UK’s vote to end its 43-year association with the EU has also ushered in a period of uncertainty for global markets that may eventually turn investors off developing-world assets. In June, the BIS reiterated a warning that emerging market non-bank borrowers that have accumulated $3.3 trillion in dollar debt are coming under strain as their economies slow and currencies weaken.

“If we get some volatility in emerging markets, say from political noise coming from the EU, and there is no access to capital markets from some issuers, that could be really negative,” Badr El Moutawakil, an emerging-market credit strategist at Barclays Plc in London said.

Even after the Brexit dust settles, looming elections in the US, Germany, France and possibly the UK mean a lengthening list of potentially disruptive events, strengthening the hands of dovish central bankers. Emerging-market companies have raised $3.71 billion of international bonds since the UK’s referendum on 23 June.

“External factors are more supportive,” said Bantis from Commerzbank. “The default trend of the past quarter is unlikely to continue.” Bloomberg


US, Europe combined infra spending less than China’s

Despite a crying need for better infrastructure, investment in it has actually fallen in 10 major economies since the financial crisis, including the US, according to a new study by the McKinsey Global Institute. Meanwhile, China is still going gangbusters on roads, bridges, sewers, and everything else that makes a country run.

“China spends more on economic infrastructure annually than North America and Western Europe combined,” according to the report published Wednesday.

Economists around the world have been arguing that now is a great time to invest in infrastructure because interest rates are super-low and the global economy could use the spending jolt. “Is anyone proud of Kennedy airport?” Harvard University economist Lawrence Summers likes to ask.

The MGI report cites 10 countries where infrastructure spending fell as a share of gross domestic product from 2008 to 2013: the US, UK, Italy, Australia, South Korea, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. The study counts 11 economies, but that’s because it lists the European Union as a separate entity.

In contrast to the widespread declines, the institute says, infrastructure spending grew as a share of GDP in Japan, Germany, France, Canada, Turkey, South Africa and China. The chart from the MGI report shows China’s strength in infrastructure spending. Its bar is the highest. There’s such a thing as too much infrastructure spending, of course. At current rates of investment, China, Japan, and Australia are likely to exceed their needs between now and 2030, the McKinsey & Co-affiliated think tank says. To fund more public infrastructure, the report favours raising user charges such as highway tolls, among other measures.

To encourage more private investment in infrastructure, MGI argues for increasing “regulatory certainty” and giving investors “the ability to charge prices that produce an acceptable risk-adjusted return.”



India’s e-commerce sector to see $120 billion revenue by 2020: Assocham-Forrester report

The country’s e-commerce sector is expected to see revenues of USD 120 billion by 2020 from USD 30 billion at the end of last fiscal, a report said.

The increase would be mainly on the back of young demographic profile, rising Internet penetration and relatively better economic performance, the Assocham-Forrester study said.

India’s e-commerce sector saw revenues of USD 30 billion at the end of the financial year 2015-16. It is expected to reach USD 120 billion by 2020, it said.

“While in terms of base, India may be lower than China and other giants like Japan, the Indian rate of growth is way ahead of others. Against India’s annual expansion of 51 per cent, China’s e-commerce is growing at 18 per cent, Japan 11 per cent and South Korea 10 per cent,” the study noted.

The report further said that India has an Internet user base of 400 million in 2016 whereas Brazil has 210 million Internet users and Russia 130 million, among the BRICS nations.

About 75 per cent of the country’s online users are in the age group of 15-34 years since India is one of the youngest demographies globally and one out of every 5 (online user) visits the Indian Railways site, the report said.

In India, about 60-65 per cent of the total e-commerce sales are being generated through smart phones. Branded apparel, accessories, jewellery, gifts, footwear are among the major hits on the e-commerce platforms, it added.