We find it hard to talk about China without talking about India. Sometimes, for the sake of economic comparison, we pit the two against each other. Other times we pit the two, often along with South American kindred spirit Brazil, against the developed economies of the West. india and China seemed to zag while the rest of the world zigged during the global economic crisis, and were able to grow while the US, China, and Europe stagnated. But as 2011 ends, the two growing powerhouse economies are showing some vulnerability.
At Project Syndicate, Stephen Roach warns us not to carried away by concerns that China and India will struggle in the coming year. He is a little worried about India's ability to avert crisis. As for China, Roach says not to expect a "hard landing," as China's policymakers have taken necessary action to ward off any major downfall:
That is particularly evident in Chinese officials’ successful campaign against inflation. Administrative measures in the agricultural sector, aimed at alleviating supply bottlenecks for pork, cooking oil, fresh vegetables, and fertilizer, have pushed food-price inflation lower. This is the main reason why the headline consumer inflation rate receded from 6.5% in July 2011 to 4.2% in November.
Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China, which hiked benchmark one-year lending rates five times in the 12 months ending this October, to 6.5%, now has plenty of scope for monetary easing should economic conditions deteriorate. The same is true with mandatory reserves in the banking sector, where the government has already pruned 50 basis points off the record 21.5% required-reserve ratio. Relatively small fiscal deficits – only around 2% of GDP in 2010 – leave China with an added dimension of policy flexibility should circumstances dictate.
India, however, "is more problematic," Roach notes:
India is more problematic. As the only economy in Asia with a current-account deficit, its external funding problems can hardly be taken lightly. Like China, India’s economic-growth momentum is ebbing. But unlike China, the downshift is more pronounced – GDP growth fell through the 7% threshold in the third calendar-year quarter of 2011, and annual industrial output actually fell by 5.1% in October.
But the real problem is that, in contrast to China, Indian authorities have far less policy leeway. For starters, the rupee is in near free-fall. That means that the Reserve Bank of India – which has hiked its benchmark policy rate 13 times since the start of 2010 to deal with a still-serious inflation problem – can ill afford to ease monetary policy. Moreover, an outsize consolidated government budget deficit of around 9% of GDP limits India’s fiscal-policy discretion.
Read Why India is Riskier than China here.
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