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What lies ahead

International Journal of All Research Education and Scientific Methods (IJARESM), ISSN: 2455-6211
Volume 9, Issue 4, April -2021, Impact Factor: 7.429, Available online at: www.ijaresm.com
What Lies Ahead?
Nirav Shedge
Economics Student, University of Mumbai, Mumbai, India
‘The aftermath of covid19 on the Indian economy’
The paper examines the impact the Coronavirus pandemic left on the Indian economy. While India is showing
some signs of reviving, with lockdown easing, and economic activity surging slowly. Yet the unemployment rate
remains high. Although some firms have started rehiring, still, the informal sector activity is tepid. Though this
might be a little heartening, it should not deceive us into thinking that the economy is doing well. The pandemic
has left India with record amounts of economic contraction. The paper lays out the issue on the same and
focuses on the likely impacts that India will have to face going forward.
Keywords: Macroeconomic policy, Development, Banking, Markets, Investment, Jobs.
It all started in early December 2019 that the world witnessed its first coronavirus (covid19) case in China. Since then,
life has been plodding. By the end of March, it was all around the globe. Day by day the number of covid19 infected
cases were exponentially growing. When the news spread about the wet market in Wuhan, China (from where the
disease began) by early January most of the economists argued that this virus would most likely have a global
economic impact, given the fact that China is the biggest manufacturing hub in the world, and contributes extensively
in the global supply chain. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid19 as a pandemic on 11 th March
2020, scaring myriads of citizens. And by the end of March, almost all the countries around the world went into
lockdown. Currently, most of the economies are facing an unprecedented crisis, while some are even arguing that the
pandemic’s impact on the economy is worse than the Great Depression during the 1930s.
As soon as the lockdown was announced in India on 24 th March in 2020, the unorganized sector in India completely
shut down which contributes to about 94% of the workforce. Hence, their incomes stopped. The unorganised sector
consists of people who do not have substantial savings, and hence their livelihoods were in jeopardy. During the initial
phase of lockdown, it was expected that the pandemic would leave India more impoverished. Given that it is one of the
poorest countries in the world. The pandemic caused both supply and demand to fall drastically. While the revised data
recently stated that the economy contracted by 24.4% in the worst-hit April – June quarter, and a contraction of 7.3% in
the July – September quarter. During the last quarter of 2020, the statistics office stated a positive growth rate of 0.4%.
While this may be partially heartening, but we are still facing an unprecedented unemployment rate, consumption is
low, investment has fallen, and Non-performing assets (NPAs) are likely to rise, given the economic distress.
The worst-hit quarter was April- June when the stock markets fell by record amounts, the unorganized sector
immediately shut down, and according to the Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE) around 12.2 crores (122
million), Indians lost jobs during the coronavirus lockdown in April. This pushed the Indian economy into a recession
with two successive quarters of negative growth. While the government’s fiscal and credit support might help the
economy to an extent, but the damage done to the economy due to the lockdown has been so severe that it would take
much longer to recover (U-shaped recovery).
The covid19 pandemic is by far the disastrous economic fallout we have ever seen. Many rich classes have seen their
income and wealth increase, while the poor have seen the opposite of it. Hence, economic inequality has also risen. The
demand for work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has also increased
substantially. In September, a report came out estimating the demand for work under MGNREGA went up to about
38.79%, due to the lockdown situation.
The businesses that were not performing well before the pandemic have been hit tremendously due to the lockdown
when the economy itself was shut. The banking sector has also seen a rise in NPAs, and if in the coming days the
macroeconomic environment is not sound,they will rise further. According to the CARE Ratings, the NPAs witnessed
moderation and reached Rs. 8.4 lakh crore in Q1FY21. With all the forbearance and a six-month moratorium for
payment of interest to banks, the NPAs will be postponed, but this does not end the problem. Hence, given that several
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International Journal of All Research Education and Scientific Methods (IJARESM), ISSN: 2455-6211
Volume 9, Issue 4, April -2021, Impact Factor: 7.429, Available online at: www.ijaresm.com
businesses have suffered losses, and a few have shut down, few experts argue that the NPAs will rise even further in
the coming years. While there will be businesses with no hopes of repayment of the loan, such loans are written off by
the banks. Hence, as the saying goes, ‘there is no free lunch’the financial sector suffers losses due to the write off of
Many experts have been arguing that India will rebound strongly by the end of 2021, or early 2022. However, while the
damage which had been serious due to the pandemic will leave us with many constraints that we will have to face
going forward, given record amounts of debt, business closure, unprecedented unemployment rate, and as a result this
stabilized the supply chains and weaker consumer demand.
The growth in the economy in the coming years will proceed with a degree of concerns that might interfere in the
Indian economy’s recovery.
Sluggish Consumption
Stronger aggregate demand is extremely crucial for any economy to rebound, especially after a severe recession. In a
contemporary economy, the demand for discretionary items is what keeps demand high, which strengthens production
and hence employment is strong. A survey conducted by LocalCircles received 44,000 responses. The survey
concluded that about nearly 48% of the respondents plan to spend somewhere between 1000 to 50,000 INR on
discretionary items, while 10% plan to spend over 50,000 INR on discretionary items. Despitesevere job losses, and a
fall in incomes of myriads of citizens the sales for many discretionary items saw a surge. So, the survey study
concludes thatthe demand for discretionary items is extremely important to keep the economy going. But on the other
hand,we have still got a significant portion of the population who haven’t got their jobs back, and hence their demand
cannot be expressed. Thus, we cannot conclude the fact that the demand has picked up intensively becausewe have still
got many businesses and franchisees who have shut down due to consistent losses.
Source – Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
As the above chart illustrates, consumer behaviour has also been pessimistic. This is one of the reasons behind
aggregate demand not picking up strongly. Consumers are worried that the virus will infect them if they go out in
malls, and in crowded places, due to which their demand cannot be expressed. Only if people go to the market to buy
commodities/goods sales will occur, and firms will continue selling. If people do not demand products, producers will
have to lower their production, otherwise, they will run in losses. However, the chart does show the future expectations
to improve, but all bets are off since unemployment is high, and demand generation will take time. One of the main
constraints that India will have to face going forward is consumer consumption. Given the massive job losses and
depletion in incomes of quite a few households, the consumer demand will take a much longer time to revive. Since
aggregate demand will pick up slowly, till then it will compromise other macroeconomic variables, which might
contribute to delaying the process of economic prosperity.
Weaker Investment and Dissaving
Production cannot take place without investment. One of the key components of economic growth is investment. It
helps in boosting aggregate demand, such as expenditure on capital spending, i.e., machines, factories, raw materials,
automation, and infrastructure spending. A stronger investment comes with a multiplier effect such as, creating
employment opportunities for households (which encourages demand), apart from improving supply chains. The
second constrain that will come between is investment in the economy. One of the ways how firms expand is through
investment. With the unemployment rate being high, investment will become the most significant factor in
strengthening employment. The private businesses investment fell by 47% due to a strict halt in economic activity, (i.e.,
the lockdown phase). As a result, the investment is further declining, and will perhaps take a longer time to pick up.
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International Journal of All Research Education and Scientific Methods (IJARESM), ISSN: 2455-6211
Volume 9, Issue 4, April -2021, Impact Factor: 7.429, Available online at: www.ijaresm.com
Amid a recession when jobs are lost, and firms are experiencing a decline in profits, people tap into their savings to
fund their consumption which should at least continue at a rudimentary level. This leads to dissaving, as people start
withdrawing their deposits from the banks (to keep cash in hand) to fund their expenditure. But, on the flip side,the
deposits to the banks increased since people withdrew their assets from the stock market, and mutual funds, and started
depositing them into banks to keep them liquid. (especially when stock markets were crashing, and falling record
amounts during the first quarter of 2020, and a few days during the lockdown). According to the Reserve Bank of
India (RBI), the bank deposits also increased by 9.8% year-on-year to Rs.137.10 lakh crore till April 24. The irony is,
this was happening at a time when banks were cutting interest rates on their deposits. To give an example, the State
bank of India (SBI) reduced its interest rates on fixed deposits to 5.5% from 5.7% in the second quarter of 2020. In
total, the demand and time deposits increased by 12% in September 2020, showing a sign that many people are
ambiguous about the future and want to save more.
Thus, the deposits started increasing, but the credit demand did not increase, since the businesses that were shut down
did not need credit support, as they were uncertain about the future and repaying the borrowed money was a huge
concern. While this left banks with a surplus of funds, which they later lent to the RBI and earned some interest on it
through the reverse repo rate. Amid this collision between deposits increasing and credit borrowing not increasing, the
cut in repo rate by the RBI and reduction in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) wouldn’t turn out to be much effective.
Although this successfully contributed to injecting liquidity into the market, however, most of it was going into the
stock markets. This is one of the reasons why stocks markets are booming today, despitea disturbed economy. As a
result, many economists have been arguing that the monetary policy has become ineffective in tackling India’s
recession, i.e., it is stuck in a liquidity trap. In a nutshell, until the economic activity doesn’t pick up strongly the
demand for credit is not going to spring up. Hence, investment, as well as demand for loans, might stay low for some
The lockdown in India pushed around 12.2 crores (122 million) out of jobs. Among them, 75% were small traders and
wage labourers. Around 18 million salaried people lost their jobs. One of the main reasons why aggregate demand is
not picking up is due to unemployment. India has still got a significant portion of the population who still haven’t got
their jobs back, and hence their demand, especially for the discretionary items is not being expressed. As businesses
shut down immediately, they saw their revenues falling, as sales stopped (for non-essential goods), and debt was
pilling. Eventually, a few franchises couldn’t afford to bear the losses, and hence they completely shut down, for
instance, restaurants, travel agencies, etc. They laid off the workers working for them, and the supply side (for nonessential goods) constrained to some extent. While the government has extended enormous support in the budget 2021.
The Modi government has committed Rs.1.97 lakh crore, over 5 years starting FY2021-22 in the manufacturing sector.
This initiative will help in providing jobs to the youth, apart from strengthening the manufacturing companies. More
importantly, the budget has even focused on financing the ongoing infrastructure projects, such as the National
Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) which was announced by the finance minister in December 2019. Around Rs.20,000 crore
have been allocated in setting up a Development Financial Institution (DFI). The basic function of DFIs is to provide
long-term financing to industries where the risks are higher and the ordinary financial system are unwilling to finance
such projects/industries. Other than this, the budget has even focused enormously on building road and highway
infrastructure in various states. In sum, all the expenditure on providing financial capital will help in creating jobs,
mainly for the unskilled.
Unemployment Rate (%) in India (2020-21)
Unemployment Rate (%) Urban
Unemployment Rate (%) Rural
Source – Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE)
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International Journal of All Research Education and Scientific Methods (IJARESM), ISSN: 2455-6211
Volume 9, Issue 4, April -2021, Impact Factor: 7.429, Available online at: www.ijaresm.com
As the above graph demonstrates, the unemployment rate both in the rural as well as the urban area drastically went up
during the lockdown phase. In urban areas, the unemployment rate was around 9% in the first quarter of 2020 (prelockdown) which later on expeditiously went up to about 23%. Amid the lockdown when the economic activity was
completely shut down, the demand plummeted significantly, which later even stabilized the firms that were supplying
the goods. Hence, jobs both in secondary as well as in the tertiary sector were lost, while some of them haven’t come
back yet. Although the data shows some positive numbers entering into 2021.It is important to note a fact that the
above data doesn’t include the jobs lost in the unorganised (informal) sector. The unorganised sector is the one that has
been severely afflicted due to the pandemic, and hence take will take time to recover.
Employment boom?
There are odds that employment might shoot up, by mid next year (2022) since by then the economy would
significantly improve with growth rate picking up strongly, and consumer demand will also strengthen by then. The
businesses and companies that laid off their workers due to persistent losses, given the lockdown will start rehiring the
workers. This will create more job opportunities for households. However, the second wave of covid19 virus might add
fuel to the fire, hence it’s important to curb the second wave, otherwise, all bets are off for the foreseeable future.
Inflation or Deflation?
Any economics textbook will tell you that once demand falls, the price of the goods/services also fall to attract
consumers. In today’s case, or rather due to lockdown production as well as consumption both got afflicted. Hence,
today what we are experiencing is due to job losses the aggregate demand hasn’t picked up strongly. While supply
chains are gradually recovering, but the demand isn’t that strong. Hence, the deflation of goods/services is likely to
happen to attract customers and close sales. Consumption for mostly non-essential goods has been tepidand will take a
longer time to boost. While retail inflation did pick up, with food and fuel prices going up. In early March a poll of over
50 economists showed that the retail inflation climbed to 4.83% in February from January 4.06% in 2021. In early
March 2021, the retail inflation climbed to 5.03% as food and fuel prices went up. Most of the inflation that is
increasing is due to the food and fuel prices going up, and not due to the government’s deficit, or monetization. It is
important to note that the RBI has been asked to maintain retail inflation at 4%.
While the economy will slowly bounce back, with its macroeconomic variables slowly strengthening there is a
possibility that deflation might continue for some time, since demand will not revive soon, and to attract customers
prices might keep falling.
The second aspect of inflation is deficit financing. The unprecedented crisis caused businesses to fail, private
investment to fall, aggregate demand to plummet, employment got disturbed, wages went down, NPAs are expected to
rise, and supply chains are disturbed. This overall has completely afflicted the macroeconomic environment of the
country. And hence, the government had to step in with its support. When the pandemic hit the nation, and the
lockdown was announced the government immediately figured that the poor will be the ones who will get affected the
most due to the lockdown. With that into consideration, the Union government announced a package of 1.7 lakh crore
on 27th March, which included free food and cash transfers to the poorer households. The package even comprised of
giving Rs.500 each to 200 million poor women through the Jan Dhan accounts. Later in May the government further
announced a package of Rs.20.97 lakh crore to help the businesses, farmers, and poor people. Among the 20.97 lakh
crore, RBI is to provide 9 lakh crores.
Source – Atmanirbhar Bharat (Financial Express)
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International Journal of All Research Education and Scientific Methods (IJARESM), ISSN: 2455-6211
Volume 9, Issue 4, April -2021, Impact Factor: 7.429, Available online at: www.ijaresm.com
The above chart illustrates the breakdown of the stimulus package. While many economists did argue that the package
rolled out does include many positives, but probably needs to do more. While some experts even argued that we
shouldn’t compare India with developed economies that extended a large and exemplary fiscal and credit support.
Although India’s stimulus package has an important positive to point out. Given that the government hasn’t extended a
large stimulus package, it wouldn’t trigger inflation in the long term, unlike the United States. With democracy coming
back in the United States (Biden Administration), president Joe Biden announced a package USD 1.9 trillion-dollar
package, which is the second stimulus package to revive the economy. Economists did argue that this would entail
inflation in the long-term causing interest rates to shoot up. Even the chairperson of the Federal Reserve said inflation
is likely to rise as the economy recovers, which will cause interest rates to go up. However, he does believe that the
inflation would be temporary, and to return to full employment durable inflation is important. Unlike the United States,
we did not announce large stimulus support, and hence inflation is less likely to increase, at least not above RBIs target.
The Bad loans
One of the biggest problems due to the pandemic has been the non-performing assets (NPAs) in the Indian banking
system. India’s credit to GDP ratio in 2020 was around 56%, and with this data, one might raise the question that the
banks are not lending. While even though one may believe this fact to be true, yet the country’s gross non-performing
assets (GNPAs) are among the highest globally, and are expected to even rise due to the halt in economic activity in the
second quarter of 2020. Although the RBI did announce a six-month moratorium on payment of instalments of term
loans, which postpones the problem but doesn’t end it. The hope was that the businesses would start flourishing as soon
as the lockdown would be lifted, but coronavirus had different plans. With the fear of virus infecting citizens, the
demand for goods/services stayed low, and hence businesses couldn’t see revenue. Banks are usually the first ones to
get affected amid any economic fallout. The GNPAs in India are mostly held by the Public sector Banks (PSBs). The
chart below will illustrate the gross NPAs data released by RBI, in banks in September 2020, and what they are
projected to be in September 2020.
Medium stress
Severe Stress
SEPT -20
SEPT -20
Source – RBI financial Stability Report, January 2021.
The above data signifies that the NPAs again in the public sector are amounted to be the highest among all. The
GNPAs in PSBs are expected to increase from 9.7% in September 2020, to 16.2% by September 2021, and similarly
for PVBs (Private Sector Banks), FBs (Foreign Banks), and Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs).
While this is just some monotonous data, but the fact of the matter is, the problem of NPAs haven’t just increased due
to the pandemic, rather the pandemic has just exacerbated the problem. To cut long story short, with all the economic
distress around the nation due to the pandemic the NPAs will rise even further as businesses haven’t bounced back
strongly yet. Further, the households and borrowers who have borrowed the loans will find it difficult to repay the
borrowed money, given the unemployment and losses that amounted due to a halt in economic activity. Therefore, this
aggravates the financial system in India.
Indian markets (SENSEX – 50,000 mark)
The first advanced estimates by the government are showing that the Indian economy is likely to end this year (2021)
with a contraction of 7.7%. Yet, on the other side, the Indian Markets are touching the 50,000 mark (SENSEX). This
disconnect is vague, between the markets and the economy in general. Even after a contraction of 24% in the April –
June quarter and a contraction of 7.3% in the July – September quarter in 2020, the stock markets are reaching a record
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International Journal of All Research Education and Scientific Methods (IJARESM), ISSN: 2455-6211
Volume 9, Issue 4, April -2021, Impact Factor: 7.429, Available online at: www.ijaresm.com
high today. All thanks to the RBI. On 28th March the RBI cut its policy rate, with Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) being one
of them. While a cut in CRR helped in injecting liquidity into the markets, but most of the liquidity was going into the
stock markets. Nonetheless, this is not only in Indiabut even in the United States. The stock markets in the United
States are also reaching unprecedented heights, and a key explanation for it is the liquidity that the central banks around
the globe have put in the system. The increase in liquidity is not going into new credit, but rather with interest rates
being below the inflation rate in India, the only place where people are finding right is indeed the equity market. And
thus, we are seeing that the stock markets are flourishing, and reaching the 50,000 mark, despite a disturbed economy.
Even though stock markets are flourishing, and reaching record heights it must not hoodwink us into thinking that the
economy has strengthened and rebounded, as still there is a lot of distress to deal with, and will perhaps take a longer
time to rebound.
India’s vaccine diplomacy
India is one of the largest producers of vaccines in the world. It has provided around 481 lakh doses of covid vaccines
to other countries such as Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Seychelles. As many experts
have been arguing that global inequality is set to rise in the distribution of vaccines. Many of the rich nations are
vaccinating their population with all the advanced medical facilities, while the opposite is happening in the poorer
nations. Among that, India stands out in terms of how it has helped its neighbouring countries in providing vaccines.
According to a report published on ‘Money Control’, it briefs out the number of vaccine doses India has provided to
other countries as of 17th February 2021. Some consignments have been signed, while some countries have received the
Note- Some countries have approached for additional vaccines, and hence the data might have changed. The data
mentioned below is as of 17th February2021].
 Dominican Republic had signed a consignment of 20,000 vaccines from India.
 Mexico received a shipment of 8,70,000 vaccines doses from India.
 Dominica received 35,000 vaccines from India.
 Afghanistan received 5,00,000 vaccines from India.
 Sri Lanka received 5,00,000 doses from India.
 Brazil received 2 million vaccines from India.
 Seychelles received 50,000 vaccines from India.
 Mauritius received 1,00,000 doses from India.
 Myanmar received 1.5 million vaccines from India.
Source – Money Control (for the above data)
While writing this paper India has successfully supplied vaccines to more than 70 nations and many are in the line for
further support on vaccines. This is India’s diplomacy in terms of vaccination. India is named as one of the largest hubs
for vaccines. In the coming period, many more nations are expected to approach India for vaccines, given the colossal
number of people infected due to the covid19 pandemic.
Conclusion - A new normal?
The world and India in particular which plagued severely due to the coronavirus pandemic is anticipated to return as a
new normal. Given the immense use of video conference calls for meetings, lectures, workshops on various platforms
have elevated the importance of technology which was earlier blamed for replacing the jobs. Socially and
economically, there will be a new normal. Production, travel, entertainment industries will experience massive changes.
Today, while going out of the house the first thing that comes into mind is to carry a mask. This has certainly led us to
a new beginning. The virus is extremely virulent, and even more dangerous than many of the past viruses. Many have
already experienced distress due to the pandemic and the losses it amounted to. Global inequality will rise among many
nations and the rich and the poor in advanced economies. Physical distancing will be followed for quite a while in the
coming years, and people will take extreme care of their health. Businesses might experience slow recoveries, which
would further delay in strengthening the employment, and hence standard of living might be lower for many
households. Owners of big technology companies will see their wealth increase, given the massive use of technology
amid the lockdown, and even in the future. And on the other hand, many of them might see their wealth deplete. The
pandemic certainly afflicted the nation, but as Albert Einstein once said, ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great
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