PAKISTAN’S PM CALLS FOR ANOTHER IMF BAILOUT, AMID ECONOMIC TURMOIL - Business Guardian
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PAKISTAN’S PM CALLS FOR ANOTHER IMF BAILOUT, AMID ECONOMIC TURMOIL

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The comments came a day after the IMF agreed to a staff-level agreement with Islamabad that, if approved by its board, would disburse the last tranche of $1.1 billion under an existing $3 billion standby arrangement.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, underscored the urgent need for a sustained financial lifeline from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to salvage the country’s ailing economy, as reported by ARY News on Thursday. Addressing the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) apex committee, attended by both civilian and military leadership, Sharif expressed that another long term bailout program was imperative for stabilizing Pakistan’s fragile economic landscape.

The Prime Minister’s statement followed closely after the IMF’s agreement on a staff-level arrangement with Islamabad. This agreement, subject to board approval, would release the final instalment of USD 1.1 billion under the existing USD 3 billion standby arrangement. Sharif revealed that the IMF had completed the review process for this disbursement, anticipated to reach Pakistan by the upcoming month. “We will succeed gradually in breaking the begging bowl and coming out of the debt trap with the reforms,” emphasized PM Sharif, highlighting the necessity of structural reforms for economic independence.

Additionally, he called for unified support from all political factions and provincial governments to effectively implement measures aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability. The visit of the IMF mission to Islamabad, focused on the final review of the stand-by program, revealed Pakistan’s interest in securing yet another bailout package. With the current stand-by arrangement set to expire on April 11, Pakistan had to adhere to stringent IMF conditions, including budget revisions, interest rate hikes, tax increments, and adjustments in utility tariffs, as reported by ARY News.

Dawn reported that the IMF confirmed Pakistan’s pursuit of a 24th medium-term bailout package to facilitate enduring structural reforms. This affirmation coincided with the announcement of the staff-level agreement, marking the successful conclusion of the existing short-term facility. According to the IMF’s end-of-mission statement, pending executive board approval, Pakistan could access approximately USD 1.1 billion (equivalent to 828 million special drawing rights) by late April.

The continuous reliance on IMF bailouts underscores Pakistan’s persistent economic challenges and the need for comprehensive reforms to alleviate its financial vulnerabilities. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s call for unity in addressing these issues reflects the gravity of the situation and the collective responsibility required to navigate the country towards economic stability and sustainable growth.

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Economic

Senior citizen deposits skyrocket 150% to Rs 34 lakh cr in 6 years

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This represents a remarkable 81% increase in account numbers and a staggering 150% jump in total deposits compared to 2018.

According to a research report by the State Bank of India, the share of senior citizen term deposits has doubled over the last five years, reaching 30% in fiscal year 24. Many individuals have opted to secure their savings at higher interest rates before potential rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The report reveals an impressive 74 million senior citizen term deposit accounts in India, collectively valued at Rs 34 lakh crore.
This signifies an outstanding 81% surge in account numbers and a remarkable 150% increase in total deposits compared to 2018. “The increased in deposit rates, the higher interest rate differential for senior citizens and the special deposit schemes for senior citizens (for example WE-CARE by SBI) has propelled a tectonic shift in deposits accretion for citizens ably supported by also Government initiatives on SCSS, Mahila Samman Savings Certificate and so on,” noted the report.
Rapid surge in senior deposits :-
The report estimate suggests that there are around 74 million senior citizens term deposits accounts in the country with total deposit of Rs 34 lakh crore. Out of such 74 million accounts, almost 73 million accounts are in the size of up to Rs 15 lakh. By assuming 7.5% interest on Sr citizen bank deposits, Rs 2.6 lakh crore is the interest earned. In 2018, SBI had estimated that there are around 41 million senior citizens term deposits accounts in the country with total deposit of Rs 14 lakh crore. So, in 6 years, there has been an increase of 81% growth in number of accounts and 150% in amounts. “Interestingly, these 74 million accounts is a significant jump from that in FY19, when we had estimated that there were around 41 million senior citizens term deposits accounts in the country with total deposit of Rs 14 lakh crores.
So, in a short span of 5 years, there has been an increase of 81% growth in number of accounts and 143% in amount in this cohort! The average balance in the accounts has grown handsomely by 38.7%, to Rs 4.6 lakh cr from earlier Rs 3.3 lakh crore, “ said Dr. Soumya Kanti Ghosh, Group Chief Economic Adviser State Bank of India. In recognition of challenges faced by the senior citizen in sunset years with medical and other care needs growing exponentially as nuclearization of families gains velocity, the government has deftly ensured superior interest offerings through specialized schemes like SCSS as also card rates of banks having 50-75 bps mark-up for this segment.
The Government of India’s Senior Citizen Savings Scheme (SCSS) has emerged as a cornerstone of this financial upswing. Launched to safeguard senior income, SCSS allows deposits up to Rs 30 lakh with a guaranteed 5-year tenure and an attractive 8.2% interest rate. This, coupled with tax benefits and a secure investment environment, has proven immensely popular. The report reveals that SCSS outstanding deposits in H1 FY24 stand at Rs 1.62 lakh crore, a significant 89% increase since FY14.
Banks enhance Offers with special senior citizen benefits :-
Commercial banks are also vying for a share of the senior savings pie by offering competitive rates. Many banks provide a 50 basis point (bps) premium over the standard card rate for senior citizens. Additionally, leading banks like SBI and HDFC have introduced special fixed deposit schemes with tenures tailored for seniors and interest rates 75 bps higher than regular rates. These initiatives, along with SBI Green Rupee Term Deposit’s additional 100 bps for green initiatives, further incentivize senior savings.
Harnessing the Power of Compounding: Maximizing Interest Income :-
The report estimates that senior citizens earn a combined Rs 2.7 lakh crore in interest annually. This includes Rs 13,299 crore from SCSS and a significant Rs 2.5 lakh crore from regular bank deposits. Assuming an average 10% tax burden on this income, the government stands to gain approximately Rs 27,106 in taxes.

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Economic

India travel industry set to soar, revenue nears $24 billion in 2024

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India’s travel and tourism market is on track to reach a revenue of USD 23.72 billion in 2024, with an estimated annual growth rate of 9.62% according to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF). Projections indicate that this growth trajectory will propel the market volume to USD 34.25 billion by 2028. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on preserving India’s rich heritage while developing world-class tourism infrastructure has been pivotal in shaping the sector’s growth. The recent announcement of 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in tourism-related ventures, including hotels and recreational facilities, aims to foster further development in the industry.

The package holidays market is emerging as the largest segment, with a projected market volume of USD 10.48 billion in 2024. By 2028, the number of users in this segment is expected to increase significantly, reaching 64.74 million. The average revenue per user (ARPU) in the package holidays market is forecasted to be USD 209.70 by 2028, with online sales contributing 60% of the total revenue. In alignment with global trends, India’s tourism industry is focusing on promoting sustainable and eco-friendly travel options to attract travellers.

The sector is poised to contribute USD 250 billion to the country’s GDP by 2030, generating employment for 137 million individuals. Prime Minister Modi’s recent dedication and launch of 52 tourism sector projects worth over Rs 1400 crores under the Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD Scheme demonstrate the government’s commitment to tourism infrastructure development. These projects aim to enhance visitor experiences and promote community participation in tourism initiatives.

Additionally, visionary campaigns such as ‘Dekho Apna Desh People’s Choice 2024’ and ‘Chalo India Global Diaspora Campaign’ seek to engage citizens and the Indian diaspora in promoting tourism and showcasing India’s cultural heritage. The revamped Swadesh Darshan 2.0 Scheme further underscores the government’s commitment to integrated destination development and community engagement in tourism projects. With India’s tourism industry poised for exponential growth, driven by infrastructure development and rising disposable incomes, the nation is set to emerge as a leading global tourism destination.

Through strategic partnerships and innovative campaigns, India aims to unlock its vast tourism potential and position itself as a premier destination for travellers worldwide. India’s tourism sector is undergoing a transformative phase, characterized by robust infrastructure development, technological advancements, and evolving consumer preferences. The government’s proactive measures, such as the promotion of sustainable tourism practices and the facilitation of foreign investment, are instrumental in driving the industry’s growth trajectory.

The emphasis on promoting local communities’ participation in tourism initiatives not only enhances visitor experiences but also contributes to inclusive development and empowerment. By leveraging India’s diverse cultural heritage and natural attractions, the tourism sector has the potential to become a major driver of economic growth and job creation. Strategic initiatives like the ‘Dekho Apna Desh People’s Choice 2024’ campaign and the ‘Chalo India Global Diaspora Campaign’ play a pivotal role in engaging stakeholders and fostering a sense of pride in India’s rich heritage.

These campaigns aim to showcase the country’s cultural diversity and historical significance to a global audience, thereby enhancing its appeal as a tourist destination. Moreover, the government’s commitment to integrated destination development through schemes like Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD underscores its vision for sustainable tourism. By investing in infrastructure projects at pilgrimage sites, heritage destinations, and recreational facilities, India aims to enhance visitor experiences and boost tourism revenue.

As the tourism industry continues to evolve, innovation and collaboration will be key drivers of its success. Strategic partnerships with stakeholders across sectors, including hospitality, transportation, and technology, will facilitate the seamless integration of services and enhance the overall tourist experience. Looking ahead, India’s tourism industry is poised for exponential growth, fuelled by a combination of favourable policies, infrastructure development, and increasing international recognition.

By capitalizing on its unique strengths and addressing emerging challenges, India has the potential to emerge as a premier global tourism destination, offering enriching experiences for travellers from around the world. Through concerted efforts and a shared vision for sustainable development, India is well-positioned to realize its ambition of becoming a leading player in the global tourism landscape. As the nation continues on its journey towards economic prosperity and inclusive growth, tourism will undoubtedly remain a cornerstone of its development agenda.

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Economic

Fitch Ratings affirms stable outlook for PSU banks, cites India’s growth, resilience

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Funding remains a strength for PNB as customer deposits constituted about 91 per cent of total funding in 9MFY24 by our estimates, driven by high depositor confidence due to the bank’s close state linkages.

Fitch Ratings has affirmed a stable outlook for public sector banks in India it rates, with the rating action underlined by India’s robust medium-term growth potential supported by expectation of a GDP growth of 7 per cent in 2024 and 6.5 per cent in 2025 and investment prospects. “The economy remains resilient as healthy business sentiment, buoyant financial markets and the government’s capital spending buffered global economic headwinds and inflation. These factors are conducive for banks to sustain profitable business, provided risks are well-managed,” the Fitch report points out.

The ratings of Canara Bank, State Bank of India, Union Bank of India and Punjab National Bank among others are driven by criteria ranging from government support, strong operating environment, dominant presence, double digit loan growth, strong profitability and dominance of deposits and modest capital buffers. The score of ‘bb+’ given on operating environment (OE) of the State Bank of India is precisely because of this view of India’s robust medium-term growth potential.

According to Fitch, the State Bank of India has the highest probability of extraordinary state support among Indian banks, if required. This takes into consideration SBI’s market position as the largest Indian bank, the state’s 56.9 per cent controlling ownership and its broader policy role than peers. The rating agency has also given a stable outlook on the international depository receipt (IDR) which is a negotiable certificate issued by a bank, representing ownership of a number of shares of stock in a foreign company that the bank holds in trust.

The bank’s business profile score of ‘bbb-’ is the highest among Indian banks and reflects the Fitch view of SBI’s ability to generate business consistently through the cycle while managing risk better than peer state banks. It also reflects the competitive advantages of its dominant size and market share and unparalleled domestic reach that offset the sector’s limited pricing power. Still, government influence can weigh on SBI’s traditional business model – loans are about 60% of assets – and even more so on its risk appetite, similar to other state banks. The risk profile score of ‘bb’ given on double-digit loan growth takes into consideration its advantage over peers in portfolio selection due to scale, brand loyalty and widespread presence. Fitch Ratings believes that the bank’s appetite for risk has been higher than is typical for a bank with its market position — despite total loan growth slowing to 14.5 per cent yoy in 9MFY24, from 16 per cent in the financial year ended March 2023 (FY23).

The other bank affirmed by Fitch Ratings as ‘outlook stable’ is Canara Bank at ‘BBB-’, reflecting the Fitch view of a high probability of extraordinary state support for the bank, if required. This takes into consideration the state’s 63 per cent ownership as well as the bank’s large size and reach and the assessment of the state’s strong propensity to support the banking system in general. Canara’s business profile score of ‘bb+’ reflects the bank’s strong local franchise and reach as India’s fourth-largest state bank. This is counterbalanced by the bank’s high risk appetite, which has weighed on its traditional business model in the past and was partly a result of government influence, similar to other state banks.

According to Fitch, growth appetite of Canara Bank is higher for farm loans, along with some opportunistic growth in corporate loans in recent years, although Canara appears to have been more cautious towards retail loans than its peers. The Fitch estimate is that that the loan/customer deposit ratio rose by about 200bp in 9MFY24, from 79 per cent in FY23, and is now close to the 82 per cent level in FY18. It expects the ratio to increase moderately over the next one to two years, although the bank’s excess investments in liquid government securities should continue to support liquidity. In the case of Punjab National Bank, the rating action of Punjab National Bank at ‘BBB‐’; Outlook Stable’ draws from the Fitch view that PNB’s long-term IDR and Government Support Rating (GSR) or shareholder support rating (SSR) are at the same level as India’s sovereign rating (BBB-/Stable).

This reflects Fitch’s expectation of a high probability of extraordinary state support for the bank, if required. This takes into consideration its large size with a market share of 6 per cent in sector assets and 7 per cent in deposits, the state’s 73 per cent ownership, and PNB’s quasi-policy role through social lending. The bank’s business profile score reflects the bank’s large franchise and its ability to support profitable business generation. However, this is counterbalanced by PNB’s larger risk appetite – due partly to the government’s influence – that has weighed on its traditional business model, similar to other state banks.

This has resulted in significant earnings volatility over the previous cycle, although volatility has eased amid the clean-up of bad loans, observes Fitch Ratings. Funding remains a strength for PNB as customer deposits constituted about 91 per cent of total funding in 9MFY24 by our estimates, driven by high depositor confidence due to the bank’s close state linkages. The ‘BBB‐’; Outlook Stable’ rating by Fitch for Union Bank of India again rests on the bank’s long-term IDR and GSR being at the same level as the Indian sovereign’s IDR (BBB-/ stable), reflecting the view of a high probability of extraordinary state support for UBI.

The bank’s large size with a market share of 5 per cent in sector assets and 6 per cent in deposits, the state’s 75 per cent ownership and its quasi-policy role through social lending are factored into the action. The risk profile score considers its evolving portfolio mix, but also the bank’s growth appetite returning, including in corporate loans, which could test its enhanced underwriting standards and risk controls.

The bank’s funding also remains a strength as customer deposits constituted about 95 per cent of total non-equity funding in 9MFY24, driven by high depositor confidence due to the bank’s close state linkages. Fitch estimate is that Union’s loans/customer deposits rose to 77.8 per cent in 9MFY24, from 73.7 per cent at FY23 and there is moderate headroom for the ratio to rise, as it is approaching the pre-Covid-19 levels of 79.3 per cent.

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Economic

Price pain greater in rural India due to rising rural food inflation: Crisil

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Rural India continues to feel a sharper price pinch with inflation inching up in rural areas to 5.4 per cent from 5.3 per cent while urban inflation eased markedly to 4.1 per cent from 4.8 per cent. Inflation moved in opposite directions in urban and rural areas in March, according to a CRISIL report. The rating agency attributes this to rising food inflation in rural areas which crept up to 8.6 pr cent as compared to 8.4 per cent in urban India. Urban food inflation declined compared with the previous month when it was 9.2 per cent. The effect of inflation varies with income groups since the share of spending on food, fuel and core categories differs across classes. Items such as food and fuel, being essential, occupy a greater share in the consumption basket of lower income classes.

According to CRISIL, higher rural food inflation relative to urban was primarily a result of higher rural inflation in vegetables and cereals. Additionally, fuel inflation was significantly lower in urban areas (- 8.2 per cent) compared with rural areas (-0.2 per cent). Since the weight of core items is higher in the urban consumers’ basket, soft core inflation benefited urban inflation to a greater extent. Accordingly, all income segments in rural areas faced a higher burden than their urban counterparts. The top urban segment faced the lowest burden since core items occupy a 60 per cent share in their consumption basket.

Due to high food inflation, the poorest segment, particularly in rural India, faces a higher burden, shows the CRISIL report. The RBI’s bi-monthly household inflation expectations’ survey in February 2024 showed that households’ perception of current inflation moderated by 10 basis points from the previous survey to 8.1 per cent in January.

Median inflation expectation for the three months ahead rose 10 bps to stand at 9.2 per cent, while declining for the one-year horizon by 10 bps to 10.0 per cent, according to the latest survey conducted during 2-11 January, 2024 involving participants from 6,062 urban households. Female respondents accounted for 52.3% of the sample households. “A higher share of respondents foresees a rise in inflation in the near term but, over a one-year horizon, the share of households anticipating higher inflation has moderated as compared to the previous survey round,” according to the survey.

Consumer price index (CPI) inflation eased to a five-month low of 4.9 per cent in March from 5.1 per cent in February. While core inflation declined to a record low of 3.3 per cent, fuel deflated 3.2 per cent on the back of lower domestic fuel prices. The worry, though, remains on persistently high food inflation, at 8.5 per cent. Higher cereals inflation, erratic vegetable inflation and elevated pulses inflation are a cause of concern given the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) prediction of higher-than-normal temperatures between April and June.

Although headline inflation eased to 5.4 per cent on-year in fiscal 2024 from 6.7 per cent, food inflation surged to 7.5 per cent from an already high 6.6 per cent in fiscal 2023. The March 2024 reading of 8.5 per cent food inflation creates some disquiet given the prediction of higher-than-average temperatures over the next few months that can stress vegetable production and some of the rabi crop that is yet to be harvested. In March 2024, inflation in vegetables softened, as per CRISIL to 28.3 per cent from 30.2 per cent in February.

Inflation in key vegetables such as onions hardened to 36.9 per cent vs 21.9 per cent in February that of potatoes to 41 per cent from 12.4 per cent. Inflation in tomatoes eased but remained high at 32.5 per cent as comparted to 41.8 per cent. Vegetables inflation excluding tomatoes, onions and potatoes (TOP) moderated to 24.4 per cent from 34 per cent in February. This was led by cooling inflation in garlic to 150.7 per cent from 263.9 per cent ), in brinjal to 18.9 per cent vs 23.2 per cent and in lady’s finger to -7.7 per cent vs .4 per cent in February 2024.

In March 2024, foodgrain inflation inched up to 10.2 per cent from 9.8 per cent in February, with cereals inflation rising 8.4 per cent vs 7.7 per cent and wheat inflation (from non-public distribution system sources) rising to 4.7 per cent from 2 per cent partly due to an adverse base while rice inflation, on the other hand, inched down to 12.7 per cent vs 12.9 per cent in February.

However, easing pulses inflation at 17.7 per cent vs 18.9 per cent capped the rise in foodgrains inflation. March inflation in meat and fish accelerated for the second straight month to 6.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent driven by chicken, which rose to 8.5 per cent from 5.6 per cent in February and fish and prawn to 6.6 per cent vs 6.1 per cent in February. The pace of deflation in edible oils slowed significantly as prices declined 11.7 per cent on-year compared with 14 per cent in the previous month, spices inflation moderated for the seventh straight month to 11.4 per cent from 13.5 per cent.

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Politics

Experts see minimal impact on Indian pump prices, stalemate over IMEC

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The impact of Iran-Israel conflict on India does not cover a rise in petrol prices in India even as experts see a likely continuation of shipping disruptions at Red Sea and the India Middle East Corridor project remaining on paper. With Iran finally striking Israel with drones and missiles over the weekend, tensions continued to mount in the global landscape. However, Asian markets were trading on Monday morning as market participants looked confident of a truce in the Middle East after the Biden administration urged Israel not to take retaliatory action against Iran, according to Avdhut Bagkar Technical and Derivatives Analyst, StoxBox, an investment advisory firm.

A report by the Global Trade Research Initiative suggests a deeper unrest as India’s trade problems due to shipping disruption in the Red Sea may aggravate because of the fresh conflict between Iran and Israel. The instability in West Asia could force projects like the IMEC Trade corridor to remain on paper for long time. The tensions might not affect petrol prices in India, says GTRI. Bagkar points out that the oil and gas sector index was up 0.5 per cent amidst several Indian equity indices opening lower and remaining weak throughout Monday, tracking weak cues from global markets. Investors also fretted about escalating tensions between Iran and Israel and its potential impact on crude oil prices, inflation, and the likelihood of rate cuts.

On a positive note, the ongoing conflict is unlikely to disrupt crude oil and gas production significantly, according to GTRI insights, since major producers like the USA, Russia and North Sea operators are not in the conflict zone and Saudi Arabia has not been directly involved. However, shipping disruptions in the Red Sea, which have forced longer routes around Cape of Good Hope for trade with Europe and North America’s east coast, might lead to higher oil and gas prices. In India, the impact on consumers may be minimal as the Government could offset price increases by reducing taxes, suggests the GTRI report.

On a larger canvas, the conflict may imperil the IMEC project. The ongoing conflict has put the IMEC — a major strategic initiative intended to enhance connectivity between India, the Gulf and Europe – on uncertain footing. Stability required for such projects is currently undermined by the volatile situation, especially with key players like Saudi Arabia, pivotal to the corridor, caught in the regional tensions. What is at stake is India’s trade with Iran and Israel — both at modest levels – which would continue to be vulnerable. Merchandise exports and imports from Israel for FY2023 were USD 8.4 billion and USD 2.3 billion respectively, leading to a merchandise trade surplus of USD 6.1 billion. India’s key exports to Israel are diesel which accounts for USD 5.5 billion and cut and polished diamonds worth USD 1.2 billion.

India’s key imports from Israel are rough diamonds to the tune of USD 519 million and cut and polished diamonds worth USD 220 million as well as electronics and telecom components like ICs, parts of photovoltaic cells of USD 411 million, potassium chloride of USD 105 million and herbicide (USD 6 million.

In 2023, India’s trade with Iran included merchandise exports worth USD 1.7 billion and imports of USD 672 million. Key exports from India to Iran were rice to the order of USD 1.03 billion, organic chemicals of USD 113 million and key imports from Iran were methenol at USD 176 million and petroleum coke of USD 85 million. Trade with Iran and Israel are at higher risk due to potential escalations and disruptions in maritime security affecting red sea shipping routes.

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Business

India’s overall exports in FY24 at $ 776.68 bn passes FY23 nos, trade deficit improves 35.77 %

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Overall trade deficit significantly improved by 35.77 per cent to USD 78.12 billion in FY24 from USD 121.62 billion in FY23.

Despite persistent global challenges, India’s overall exports (merchandise + services) in financial year 2023-24 (FY24) reached USD 776.68 billion, surpassing the USD 776.40 billion of overall exports achieved in 2022- 23 (FY23) with a growth of 0.04 per cent year-on-year as electronic goods, drugs and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, iron ore, cotton yarn/fabs./made-ups, handloom products etc. and ceramic products and glassware delivered strong numbers. Overall imports in FY24 (April-March) declined 4.81 per cent at USD 854.80 billion. Overall trade deficit significantly improved by 35.77 per cent to USD 78.12 billion in FY24 from USD 121.62 billion in FY23.

The country’s robust performance in external trade is underlined by the highest monthly merchandise exports in March 2024 at USD 41.68 billion as compared to USD 41.96 billion in March 2023 while imports were USD 57.28Billion, as compared to USD 60.92 billion in March 2023. Services maintained upward momentum with India exporting USD 339.62 billion of services in FY24 compared to USD 325.33 billion in FY23. The country achieved services trade surplus of USD 162.05 billion in FY24 with services imports coming at USD 177.56 billion in FY24 as compared to USD 182.05 billion in FY23.

Ashwani Kumar, President, FIEO points out that the achievement in overall export figures for the FY24 is impressive despite Russia Ukraine war, Red Sea crisis, tight monetary stance by the developed world and falling commodity prices posing challenges. Aditi Nayar Chief Economist ICRA notes that India’s merchandise trade deficit eased to an 11-month low of USD15.6 billion in March 2024, led by a larger yoy decline in merchandise imports vis-à-vis such exports, while also trailing the levels seen in the year-ago month. This comes amid a halving of gold imports and a fall in non-oil non-gold imports. “This is expected to augur well for the current account number in Q4 FY2024, which may witness a small, transient surplus of USD1-2 billion in the quarter,” says Nayar.

On a slight downside, in FY24, merchandise exports declined to USD 437.06 billion as against USD 451.07 billion during FY23 while imports came down to USD 677.24 billion as against USD 715.97 billion during FY 23. This however, lowered merchandise trade deficit for FY 24 at estimated at USD 240.17 billion as against USD 264.90 billion during FY 23. India’s exports of merchandise and services combined in March 2024 at USD 70.21 billion also dipped 3.01 per cent over March 2023 while overall imports in March 2024 at USD 73.12 billion, exhibited a negative growth of 6.11 per cent over March 2023. Overall trade deficit is estimated to significantly improve by 35.77% from USD 121.62 Billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 78.12 Billion in FY 2023-24; Merchandise trade deficit improves by 9.33% at USD 240.17 Billion in the current FY as compared to USD 264.90 Billion in FY 2022-23.

Among main drivers of merchandise export growth in FY 2023-24, non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery goods which comprises basket of gold, silver and precious metals, grew to USD 33.67 billion, compared to USD 30.87 billion in March 2023. The same basket of imports in March 2024 were USD 35.21 billion, compared to USD 36.51 billion in March 2023. In FY24, non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports increased by 1.45 per cent to USD 320.21 billion, as compared to USD 315.64 billion in FY23. The imports of this basket of goods were USD 422.80 billion in FY24 compared to USD 435.54 billion in FY23.

In a sectoral show of strength, electronic goods exports increased by 23.64 per cent from USD 23.55 billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 29.12 billion in FY 2023-24 while drugs and pharmaceuticals exports increase by 9.67 per cent from USD 25.39 billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 27.85 billion in FY 2023- 24. Engineering goods exports increased by 2.13 per cent from USD 107.04 billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 109.32 billion in FY 2023-24. Exports of agricultural commodities namely tobacco grew 19.46 per cent, fruits and vegetables grew 13.86 per cent, meat, dairy and poultry products grew 12.34 per cent, spices grew 12.30 per cent, cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed items grew 8.96 per cent, oil seeds grew 7.43 per cent and oil meals exhibited positive growth of 7.01 per cent.

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