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26 Apr, 2021 10:29

India’s double-digit growth in doubt amid massive surge in Covid cases

India’s double-digit growth in doubt amid massive surge in Covid cases

A record jump in Covid infections is threatening to derail India’s projected double-digit economic recovery from the pandemic-driven slowdown last year. Economists are reassessing their bullish forecasts.

The South Asian nation reported a record number of infections for a fifth straight day on Monday, with 352,991 new reported cases over a 24-hour period and at least 2,812 people have died. Total infection numbers since the beginning of the pandemic have exceeded 17 million.

“This second wave of virus cases may delay the recovery, but it is unlikely in Fitch’s view to derail it,” said the ratings company. Fitch stuck to its 12.8% GDP growth forecast for the 12 months through March 2022. 

This month, the Reserve Bank of India also retained its growth estimate of 10.5% for the current fiscal year. However, Governor Shaktikanta Das said the surge in infections brings more uncertainty and could delay economic activity from returning to normalcy. 

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There are already signs of deepening contraction in retail activity in the week through April 18 relative to its pre-pandemic January 2020 level, according to Bloomberg Economics’ Abhishek Gupta. He said that’s a key risk for an economy where consumption makes up some 60% of gross domestic product. 

“The surge in infections has led to the re-imposition of partial lockdowns in the more affected cities and states, and could trigger full lockdowns if the situation worsens,” senior investment director for Asian equities at Aberdeen Standard Kristy Fong was quoted as saying by the Economic Times. “This will have a knock-on impact on the re-opening of the economy and recovery prospects.” 

Indian policymakers have signaled that they are ready to take steps to support growth, but some economists see the pandemic weighing on consumer confidence, which is the backbone of the economy. 

Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund raised its fiscal year 2022 growth forecast for India to 12.5%, from the 11.5% estimated earlier in January. It said, “Even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible.”

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