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Nehru’s last stand?

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its leader, Narendra Modi, in India’s general election last month has raised a crucial question about the country’s future. With the BJP sweeping to power on a platform of aggressive nationalism and business-friendly corporatism, has the socioeconomic consensus dating to India’s first prime minister, the democratic socialist Jawaharlal Nehru, come to an end?

The “Nehruvian consensus” facilitated India’s democratic maturation and accommodated the country’s many diverse interests, without permitting any one group or section to dominate the nascent nation-state. It is fashionable today to decry Nehruvian socialism as a corrupt and inefficient system that condemned India to many years of slow economic growth. But at its core was the conviction that in a land of extreme poverty and inequality, the objective of government policy must be to improve the welfare of the poorest, most deprived, and most marginalized.

In Nehru’s day, the best way to accomplish that was by building up structures of public ownership and state control of resources, as well as by boosting economic capacity through government intervention. Of course, Nehru’s economic vision had its flaws, giving rise, for example, to the so-called “license-permit-quota Raj,” under which government control stifled entrepreneurial activity, which in turn held growth rates below those of India’s Southeast Asian neighbors.

India Markets Weekahead: Pre-budget rally may be muted

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A man looks at a screen across the road displaying the election results on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The Nifty touched a new high of 7,700 before cracking on Friday to slip about 0.5 percent for the week. This was primarily triggered by the unrest in Iraq and the subsequent rise in crude prices.

The markets were also overbought aided by a relentless rally since May 9‎, with the CNX Nifty climbing about 16 percent, S&P BSE Midcap Index rising 26 percent and the S&P BSE Small cap index jumping 35 percent. The last one-month saw 115 multi-baggers with 92 percent of traded stocks gaining during the period. The probability of picking a loser was minimal. It seemed making money had never been so easy.

Election 2014: Imbalanced participation of women

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The marginalization of women in electoral politics is deeply embedded in the party system and the imbalanced gender power relations in the main political dispensations in India. They continue to be discriminated against not only in terms of seat allotments to contest elections but also within the rank and file of major political parties.

The reasons for women being on the fringes are varied but the focal factor that excludes them from the process is the patriarchal and male-dominant party competition structure that continues to exist in the Indian subcontinent. This not only dissuades females from electoral politics but also acts as a barrier in their quest to share political power.

How to get India on the highway to high growth

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The president’s address to parliament this week lays out the new government’s roadmap to get India’s economy back to high growth. That will take time and is not easy either.

True, the BJP government led by Narendra Modi inherited a weak economy – growth was a mere 4.7 percent; industry was static; there was no employment generation; and inflation was at over 8 percent. The only comfort was that foreign exchange reserves exceeded $312 billion.

Indian markets: Earnings in focus, better to stick to fundamentals

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It’s reasonable to ask whether the Indian stock market has lost steam after the blistering run-up seen over the past couple of months. Since August, the markets have rallied about 40 percent, with many stocks in high-beta sectors such as infrastructure generating a return of more than 100 percent. At a one-year forward price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple of 15x, the Nifty isn’t exactly cheap for retail investors right now.

The Narendra Modi-led government, which contested and won the elections on the development plank, is expected to push for reforms in no time, taking on knotty issues related to taxation and infrastructure.

The primacy of good governance for Modi

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

At his second cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 10-point programme that set out a comprehensive agenda for his ministers. The agenda is a good cocktail of short-term needs and long-term objectives.

The underlying message, however, is of good governance. That is what Modi has been harping on during his election campaign and which he sincerely believes is the secret of his success in Gujarat.

Markets Weekahead: After new Modi govt, correction to continue for a few weeks

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

After a dream run for markets, we witnessed a correction last week with the Nifty declining about 1.86 percent to close at 7,229. The smaller stocks also paused — the NSE mid-cap index lost about 4.5 percent.

Incidentally, India entered the top 10 markets in terms of market capitalization and we should soon cross the market capitalization of US $ 1.5 trillion once the upswing resumes.

LIC launches online term insurance plan, finally

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

There are 24 life insurance companies operating in India, and Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), the industry’s biggest player, was one of only five which did not have an online term plan, until now.

LIC had earlier tested the online waters with an immediate annuity plan, but stayed away from the most-purchased plan – online term insurance.

Food prices matter: here’s why

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Investors are cautiously starting to examine the topic of food price inflation once again. The United States recently saw a sharp rise in producer price food inflation. Further down the economic development ladder, producer prices for the food manufacturing industry of China have been steadily creeping higher from the lows reached two years ago.

The rupee at a crossroads

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The rupee was tossed around quite a bit in the last 10 months. It dropped to a low of nearly 69 to the dollar, creating an economic crisis, before it recovered and is now at 59-60. The threat is not that it may drop once again, but that it may appreciate further and upset the economy in other ways.

Why would the rupee appreciate? Because there are expectations the Narendra Modi government will facilitate development and enable the economy to get back on course. This is what drove the Sensex beyond 25,000. But the currency market was more stable in spite of the huge inflow of $2.2 billion in 10 trading days of May.

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