From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Export led growth
Mains level : Paper 3- Contribution of export in the growth
To aim for achieving high growth rate by focusing only on the domestic consumption and domestic demand could result in failure. The article argues for the focus on export to achieve the objective of growth.
Domestic-demand led growth and its limitations
- The debate in India has focused on domestic-demand led growth.
- But there is no known model of domestic demand/consumption-led growth, anywhere that has delivered quick, sustained, and high rates of economic growth for developing countries.
- India’s GDP growth of over 6 per cent after 1991 was associated with real export growth of about 11 per cent.
- Moreover, domestic-demand led growth requires more public spending, tax cuts, private investment, and/or financial sector reforms: which is not feasible in the present context due to pandemic.
- Consumption growth will be limited by the fact that household debt has grown rapidly in the last few years.
- Consumption now can grow only if incomes grow.
- Government spending could be a short run option, but COVID has limited that possibility.
Why India should not follow advanced countries’ fiscal policies
- India’s interest rates are not at zero and are unlikely to be so because of persistent inflation.
- India’s borrowing is still considered risky which is reflected in ratings.
- The favourable interest rate-growth differential that supports expansionary policy in the advanced countries is absent in India.
- India may well have scope for expansionary fiscal policy in the short run but not as a medium run growth strategy.
Why India should focus on export
- Given all the above factors, India does not have the luxury of abandoning export orientation because the alternatives are so limited.
- India’s market is too small to sustain any kind of serious import substitution strategy.
- Small size of the market makes it difficult to offer investors the domestic market as bait and incentivising them to export.
- India’s big, unexploited opportunities are in unskilled labour exports.
- India is vastly under-exporting relative to its labour force.
- Because China’s wages are rising as it has become richer, it has vacated about $140 billion in exports in unskilled-labour intensive sectors.
- Post-COVID, the move of investors away from China will probably accelerate to hedge against supply chain disruptions.
- India did not take advantage of the first China opportunity, now, a second opportunity stemming from geo-politics should be seized by India.
- As India contemplates atmanirbharta, two deeper advantages of export orientation are always worth remembering.
- 1) Foreign demand will always be bigger than domestic demand for any country.
- 2) If domestic producers are competitive internationally, they will be competitive domestically and domestic consumers and firms will also benefit.
Why openness of ecnonomy is important
- Exploiting this opportunity in unskilled exports requires more not less openness.
- To be internationally competitive, many parts and components have to be imported from so many different sources.
- One indicator is the foreign or import contribution to exports.
- China and Vietnam at the time of their export boom in textiles and clothing suggests that exports were highly dependent on imports (between 40 and 45 per cent).
- In contrast, India’s import share is about 16 per cent.
- Achieving Chinese and Vietnamese levels of success will therefore require greater imports and openness.
- Export success will require genuine easing of costs of trading and doing business in India.
- In the case of clothing, a key policy change in India will be to eliminate tariffs on all inputs.
- It will also require signing free trade agreements with Europe that still impose high duties on India’s clothing export, while Bangladeshi and Vietnamese exports which enjoy preferential access to world markets.
Consider the question “As India contemplates atmanirbharta, we should not forget that export dynamism is essential for the rapid and sustained high economic growth. Comment.”
In sum, resisting the misleading allure of the domestic market, India should zealously boost export performance and deploy all means to achieve that. Pursuing rapid export growth in manufacturing and services should be an obsession with self-evident justification.