【英语财经】印度是全球经济低迷中的曙光? India is a light in a gloomy world economy

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所属分类:双语财经

2016-3-23 21:53

小艾摘要: Forty years ago I worked on the Indian economy for the World Bank. Ever since, I have been fascinated by the place. The ability of this huge and poor nation to sustain a lively democracy has been amon ...
India is a light in a gloomy world economy
Forty years ago I worked on the Indian economy for the World Bank. Ever since, I have been fascinated by the place. The ability of this huge and poor nation to sustain a lively democracy has been among the world’s political wonders. Yet its economic performance has fallen short of what it might have been. Despite improvements in policy and performance since the crisis of 1991, this remains the case. Nevertheless, India is now the world’s fastest-growing large economy. What might it be in future?

It is with this question in my mind that I have visited Delhi in recent days. It is hard to judge what is happening in terms of immediate performance and policy. But four conclusions emerge. First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party government, in power since 2014, represents continuity rather than the pro-market transformation many supporters naively expected. Second, short-term performance and prospects appear favourable relative both to the immediate past and to what is happening almost everywhere else. Third, medium-term performance should also be decent, provided the government implements the reforms it has already outlined. This is partly because India retains so much potential. Yet, fourth, it also faces risks, external and internal. Success must not be taken for granted.

Consider, then, the character of the government. It is centralised in the office of the prime minister. Its orientation is more towards management than to markets, and more towards projects than to policies. It has shown no inclination towards radical privatisation or restructuring of inefficient public monopolies. It continues to spend large sums on inefficient subsidies. To be fair, the upper house, which the government does not control, has so far blocked legislation where the government wishes to do the right thing. A salient example is the services tax — a national value added tax that would accelerate integration of India’s internal market.

An MP, from neither the BJP nor the Congress party, told me the government was “above average”. When it is compared with those of the past quarter of a century, this seems right.

When the government came to power, the economy was suffering from rapid consumer price inflation and sizeable fiscal deficits. Helped by falling oil prices, the former is down from above 10 per cent in 2013 to below 6 per cent. The central government’s fiscal deficit is forecast to fall from 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product in 2013–14 (April to March) to 3.5 per cent next year. The economy grew only 5.3 per cent in 2012–13. This is forecast to reach 7.5 per cent in 2015–16. The Ministry of Finance’s latest Economic Survey forecasts growth at between 7 per cent and 7.75 per cent next year, albeit with downside risks. This would not be stellar by India’s standards. But it would be stellar by those of the world.

Performance, then, seems satisfactory. Will it remain so? Probably, particularly since the central bank should be able to cut interest rates below today’s 6.75 per cent in the next few months. Furthermore, after two poor years, the coming monsoon rains may well be bigger. Yet the near-term optimism must be qualified: first, exports, stagnant for years, are now falling; second, credit growth has slowed sharply; and, third, gross investment fell from 39 per cent of GDP in 2011–12 to 34.2 per cent in 2014–15. It is vital this is at least stabilised.

India could sustain growth at something close to current rates into the medium term. According to the International Monetary Fund, its GDP per head (at purchasing power parity) is just 11 per cent of US levels, against China’s 25 per cent. This indicates substantial room for fast catch-up growth. The economy is also reasonably well balanced. Dramatic transformation might not be in the offing: in the absence of a crisis, that was never likely. But improvements are on the way. They include accelerated infrastructure investment; greater openness to foreign direct investment; more effective administration; consolidation and recapitalisation of public sector banks; a proper bankruptcy code; freedom for states to compete on pro-growth policies; delivery of public assistance by means of the system of unique identification numbers; and, not least, the GST.

Nevertheless, India must not be complacent. The country has shifted from socialism with restricted entry to capitalism without exit: closing down businesses and laying off workers is extremely difficult. The latter is one reason why jobs in the organised private sector amount to 2 per cent of the labour force. Markets for land, labour and capital are all highly distorted. High protection at the border restricts the ability to participate in global value chains. Important product markets are uncompetitive. Even the vaunted information technology sector seems to be losing its dynamism. The overall quality of education is poor. In all, a huge amount of change is still needed. Yet pressure from a rising middle class is likely, in the end, to force much needed reforms.

This leaves three other risks. One is outright conflict, most plausibly with Pakistan. This at present looks unlikely. Another is a global slump. But a slump big enough to derail growth in a nation of India’s size and diversity, as long as it is well run, seems a modest probability.

A final risk derives from the BJP’s “Tea Party” — its chauvinistic, intolerant elements. Muslims make up 14 per cent of the population. One of the miracles of post-independence India is the way people divided by religion, caste and opinion have managed to live democratically and mostly peacefully, side by side. This is a great achievement. If it is to last, responsible politicians must remember that they govern for all Indians, including those they dislike or disagree with. Tolerance of differences matters in all democracies. In one as huge and complex as India, it is truly vital.

四十年前,我曾为世界银行(World Bank)做印度经济研究工作。自那时起,印度就成为了一个让我魂牵梦绕的地方。这个贫穷大国维持充满活力的民主政体的能力,一直被誉为世界政治奇迹之一。然而,其经济表现却并不尽如人意。虽然自1991年危机以来,印度的政策和经济表现都有所改善,但政治经济发展不平衡的状况依然没有改变。尽管如此,印度如今已成为世界增长最快的大型经济体。那么,印度的未来将是什么样呢?

带着这个问题,我最近几天造访了新德里。很难判断印度当前经济表现和政策方面正在发生什么。但我得出了4项结论。首先,印度总理纳伦德拉?莫迪(Narendra Modi)的印度教民族主义的印度人民党(Bharatiya Janata Party)政府,自2014年上台以来保持了政策的连续性,并未进行许多支持者天真地期待的市场化转型。第二,相对于刚刚过去的一段时期以及几乎所有其他地区的情况,印度的短期表现和前景似乎值得赞赏。第三,中期表现也应当不错,如果政府能够实施早已规划的改革的话。这部分得益于印度蕴藏的巨大潜力。然而,第四,印度也面临着来自外部和内部的风险。成功绝不是理所当然。

那么,我们看看印度政府的角色。印度政府以总理办公室为核心。它更注重管理,而非市场;更注重项目,而非政策。印度政府没有表现出任何激进私有化或重组效率低下的公共垄断部门的倾向。政府继续斥巨资进行低效的补贴。事实上,不受政府控制的议会上院,至今还阻挠政府执行正确政策所需要的立法。这方面突出的例子是服务税——一项将加速印度国内市场整合的全国性增值税。

一位既非印度人民党也非国大党(Congress Party)的下院议员对我说,现在的印度政府“在平均水平之上”。如果与过去25年间的政府相比,他说的似乎没错。

本届政府上台之际,印度经济正遭遇急剧的消费价格通胀和巨额财政赤字。得益于油价下跌,印度的通胀率已从2013年的逾10%下降至不到6%。中央政府的财政赤字预计将从2013-14年度(2013年4月至2014年3月)的相当于国内生产总值(GDP)的4.5%,下降至明年的3.5%。印度经济在2012-13年仅增长5.3%,预计2015-16年的增速将达到7.5%。印度财政部最新的经济调查报告预计,尽管存在下行风险,明年经济增速将处于7%至7.75%之间。按印度的标准衡量,这并不突出,但按照全球标准,却很显眼。

由此看来,经济表现似乎令人满意。这种局面能持续下去吗?有可能,尤其是印度央行应该能在未来几个月下调当前6.75%的利率。此外,连续两年季风降雨不足之后,今年即将到来的季风降雨可能会猛烈得多。但短期的乐观必须有度:首先,印度多年来一直不景气的出口如今正在下滑;第二,信贷增长已大幅放缓;第三,总投资已经从2011-12年占GDP的39%下降至2014-15年的34.2%。至少要让这些因素企稳,这一点至关重要。

印度可能在中期内一直维持接近当前水平的经济增速。国际货币基金组织(IMF)的数据显示,印度人均GDP(按购买力平价算)只有美国水平的11%,而中国为美国的25%。这预示着巨大的快速增长追赶空间。印度经济也相当平衡。剧烈的经济转型可能不会发生:只要不出现危机,就绝不会发生。但各项改善都在进行中,包括加快基础设施投资、扩大对外国直接投资的开放、提高行政管理效率、公共部门银行合并与资本重组、修订破产法、赋予各邦自行推出促增长政策的自由、通过唯一身份识别号码系统发放政府援助,以及(尤其是)推行商品服务税(GST)。

然而,印度一定不能自满。印度经济已从准入受限的社会主义转型为没有退出机制的资本主义:关停企业和裁员都极为艰难。后者是组织化私营企业提供的就业占到劳动人口2%的原因之一。土地、劳动力及资本市场都高度扭曲。对国内市场的大力保护限制了印度参与全球价值链的能力。重要的产品市场缺乏竞争力。就连印度所夸耀的信息技术业似乎也正在失去动力。教育质量整体较差。总之,印度仍需进行大量改革。来自崛起的中产阶层的压力最终可能迫使政府推行亟需的改革。

印度还面临另外三大风险。一是爆发直接冲突——最有可能的对象是巴基斯坦。目前看来不太可能。另一风险是全球经济下滑。但只要印度经济运行良好,出现严重到足以破坏印度这样规模和多样性国家的经济增长的下滑,这样的概率似乎不大。

最后的风险源于印度人民党的“茶党”倾向——沙文主义、狭隘主义。穆斯林占印度人口的14%。独立后印度的奇迹之一是,宗教、种姓及观念不同的民众基本上实现了在一个民主政体下和平共处。这是伟大的成就。如果要延续这种成就,负责任的政治家必须牢记,他们是为所有印度人治理这个国家,包括那些他们不喜欢或者与他们意见不同的人。在所有民主国家,对差异的宽容都很重要。在印度这样庞大而复杂的国家,宽容更是至关重要。

译者/隆祥

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