Indian media’s financial illiteracy is mind-boggling. Here is the Indian rupee nominal exchange rate against a basket of currencies. Up means rupee is appreciating unlike $/Rupee exchange rate. Contrast UPA with NDA, both 1 and 2.
Bank NPAs are indigestion from that credit binge.
Which government – UPA or NDA – has been better for India’s economic and social indicators? Dismiss the rhetoric and stick to the facts. In this analysis, I’ve chosen 10 key parameters. They cover both economic and social criteria.
1.GDP growth: Average GDP growth in 1998-2004 (NDA) was 6% a year. Average annual GDP growth in 2004-13 (UPA), up to June 30, 2013, was 7.9%.
Caveat 1: The Vajpayee-led NDA battled US-led economic sanctions following the Pokhran-II nuclear test in May 1998. It faced a short but expensive Kargil war in 1999 and the dotcom bust in 2000. When it took office, it had the lag effect of the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 to contend with.
Caveat 2: The UPA government, in contrast, benefited from the economic momentum of the high (8.1%) GDP growth rate of 2003-04 – the NDA government’s final year – and rode that wave. The global liquidity bubble in 2004-08 bouyed foreign inflows, helping UPA-I achieve a high GDP growth rate in its first term. The Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008 did hurt the Indian economy but the ensuing US Federal Reserve asset buying programme attracted a steady flow of near-zero interest dollars into India from 2009.
Despite these caveats, the UPA government’s average annual GDP growth rate of 7.9% in 2004-13 clearly scores over the NDA government’s average annual growth rate of 6% (though high inflation boosted the former significantly). First strike to UPA.
2. Current Account Deficit:
2004: (+) $7.36 billion (surplus).
2013: (-) $80 billion.
The winner here is clearly NDA. It ran a current account surplus in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Under UPA this dipped into deficit from 2006 and has spun downwards since.
3. Trade deficit:
2004: (-) $13.16 billion.
2013: (-) $180 billion.
Again, advantage NDA.
4. Fiscal deficit:
2004: 4.7% of GDP.
2013: 4.8% of GDP.
Not much to choose between the two.
Caveat: This extract from the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) report, published in 2010, explains why and when the UPA government’s fiscal defict began to spiral out of control.
“The central budget in 2008–2009, announced in February 2008, seemed to continue the progress towards FRBM targets by showing a low fiscal deficit of 2.5% of GDP. However, the 2008–2009 budget quite clearly made inadequate allowances for rural schemes like the farm loan waiver and the expansion of social security schemes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the Sixth Pay Commission award and subsidies for food, fertilizer, and petroleum.”
“These together pushed up the fiscal deficit sharply to higher levels. There were also off-budget items like the issue of oil and fertilizer bonds, which should be added to give a true picture of fiscal deficit in 2008–2009. The fiscal deficit shot up to 8.9% of GDP (10.7% including off-budget bonds) against 5.0% in 2007–2008 and the primary surplus turned into a deficit of 3.5% of GDP.
“The huge increase in public expenditure in 2008–2009 of 31.2% that followed a 27.4% increase in 2007–2008 was driven by the electoral cycle with parliamentary elections scheduled within a year of the announcement of the budget.”
The recent announcement of the Seventh Pay Commission comes again, not unexpectedly, at the end of an electoral cycle.
2004-2013: 9% (Both figures are averaged out over their respective tenures).
Advantage again to NDA. Inflation under NDA was on average half that under UPA, leading to the RBI’s controversial tight money policy, high interest rates and rising EMIs.
6. External Debt:
March 2004: $111.6 billion.
March 2013: $390 billion.
The UPA suffers badly in this comparision, a result of lack of confidence in India’s economy and currency following retrospective tax legislation and other regressive policies, especially during UPA-2.
1999-2004: 60 million new jobs created.
2004-11: 14.6 million jobs created.
Clearly, the UPA’s big failure has been jobless growth – a bad electoral omen.
1998-2004: Variation: Rs. 39 to 49 per $.
2004-13: Variation: Rs. 39 to 68 per $.
(Rupee rose from 40-plus to 39 between October 2007 and April 2008.)
The NDA government’s economic and fiscal policies, despite the various crises of 1998-2000 pointed out earlier, evoked more global confidence, leading to a relatively stable rupee (Rs. 10 variation) compared to the Rs. 29 variation during UPA’s tenure.
2004: India was ranked 123rd globally on the human development index (HDI) in 2004, with a score of 0.453.
2013: India has slipped 13 places to 136th globally on the HDI in 2013 with a score of 0.554.
2004: Rs. 44,327 crore.
2013: Rs. 2,31,584 crore.
Here again, profligate welfarism, as the ADBI report quoted earlier shows, has led to a rising subsidy bill. Worse, a significant amount is siphoned off by a corrupt nexus of politicians, officials and middlemen.
Conclusion: UPA scores above NDA on one of the 10 parameters (GDP growth), is level on one other parameter (fiscal deficit) while NDA does better than UPA on the remaining eight parameters.
The next time Finance Minister P. Chidambaram wishes to stage an encounter with facts, he would do well to be aware of those facts.
Sources: Economic Survey of India, UNDP, IMF, Planning Commission of India.