Asia Minute: India’s Economy Struggles

Dec 1, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic continues to hit economic growth around the islands, and around the world. Now one of the world’s largest economies has officially entered its worst recession in decades.

Government officials in India are scrambling to look at the bright side of grim economic numbers these days.

But that’s a challenging proposition.

India’s latest broad economic measure came out Friday — an economy that shrank 7.5% in the quarter that ended at the close of September.

An economic adviser to the State Bank of India wrote in the Indian Express that by comparison, things could be much worse because in the previous quarter the economy tumbled by nearly 24% compared to a year earlier.

While that’s true, it’s also the case that India is now among the worst-performing major economies in the world.

And the damage threatens to linger in part because of the composition of the country’s business structure which is dominated by small and medium-sized businesses.

Optimists point to some recent marginal improvement from month to month. For example, car sales in October were up 5% compared to September, but down nearly five times that amount compared to a year ago.

The BBC reports some measures of the service economy are also showing month to month increases. But India’s economic growth had already started to slow before the pandemic, and the pace of any recovery — when it does come — depends as it does elsewhere on first slowing the spread of the virus.