IMF: India’s economy is an elephant that’s starting to run

Pedestrians and motorcyclists pass an elephant walking past a market in the Pankore Naka of Ahmadabad, Gujarat, India. (Bloomberg pic)

NEW DELHI: India is on track to hold its position as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies as reforms start to pay off, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The US$2.6 trillion economy was described by Ranil Salgado, the IMF’s mission chief for India, as an elephant starting to run, with growth forecast at 7.3% in the fiscal year through March 2019 and 7.5% in the year after that. The nation accounts for about 15% of global growth, according to the Washington-based fund.

Key risks flagged by the IMF in its annual Article IV assessment of the economy include higher oil prices, tightening global financial conditions and tax revenue shortfalls. Authorities should take advantage of stronger growth to bring down debt levels, simplify the consumption tax system and continue to gradually tighten monetary policy, it said.

After a shock cash ban in late 2016 and a disruptive nationwide sales tax last year, India’s economy is once again gaining momentum. Growth reached the fastest pace in seven quarters in January through March, and high-frequency indicators from purchasing managers’ surveys to auto sales data show the economy is likely to grow above 7%.

Risks are mounting though. The rupee has plunged 7% against the dollar this year, the worst performer among major Asian currencies, threatening the inflation outlook. The Reserve Bank of India delivered its second straight interest rate hike last week as policymakers seek to maintain economic stability against a global backdrop of trade tensions and high oil prices.

Continuing structural reforms would be key to high growth, Salgado said in a conference call. Further rationalization of the goods and services tax would give maximum benefits, and labour reforms would be an incentive for companies to expand, he added.