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India’s democratic pageant

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

Last week, India’s independent Election Commission announced the dates for the next general election. The world’s largest single exercise of the democratic franchise will take place over a staggering 37 days in nine “phases,” some a week apart, from April 7 to May 12. Some 814 million eligible voters will elect, for the 16th time, a new parliament and government, casting their ballots at more than 930,000 polling stations — after choosing from an estimated 15,000 candidates belonging to more than 500 political parties.

Democracy, of course, is a process, not an event. But India’s elections — with their outsize logistical and security challenges, myriad languages, and candidates identified not just by name but also by electoral symbols to aid illiterate voters — are events that evoke admiration each time they occur.

It takes a sizeable forest to furnish enough paper for posters, electoral rolls, and ballots. And the thousands of electronic voting machines that are manufactured in India can survive heat, dust, and power failures — and retain their results safely until the votes are ready to be counted, sometimes weeks later. (Because no votes are counted until the last ones are cast, counting day is May 16.) Moreover, every election has at least one story of officials battling through snow or jungle to ensure that the preferences of remote constituents are duly recorded.

India Markets Weekahead: Markets back on track for pre-election rally

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

The week started on a sombre note but with institutional activity picking up, the Nifty closed with gains of 1.97 percent at 6276 despite a mid-week trading holiday. Political activity also gained momentum with 11 parties coming together to form a Third Front to oppose both national parties.

 

The Election Commission may announce election dates in the coming week — the code of conduct coming in will halt any policy decisions.

Is gold a good investment once again?

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

The increase in gold prices in the last two months has rekindled interest in the yellow metal as a vehicle for investment. It was after the 2008 global financial crisis that gold became the most preferred asset, with prices doubling in four years.

Why was gold preferred? It was not so much as a hedge against inflation but as an insurance against uncertainty. When the economy is faltering and the future looks bleak, gold becomes a preferred asset.

India’s disrupted democracy

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

India’s 15th Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament) passed into history ignominiously this month, following the least productive five years of any Indian parliament in six decades of functioning democracy. With entire sessions lost to opposition disruptions, and with frequent adjournments depriving legislators of time for deliberation, the MPs elected in May 2009 passed fewer bills and spent fewer hours in debate than any of their predecessors.

Interest rates likely to remain high

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(Rajiv Deep Bajaj is the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Capital Ltd. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised its benchmark repo rate by 25 basis points to 8 percent at its policy review meet in January. The reverse repo rate rose to 7 percent while the bank rate and marginal standing facility rate climbed to 9 percent. This is the third hike in repo rate since RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan assumed office in early September.

India Markets Weekahead: It’s time again for an election year ‘rally of hope’

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

Despite a volatile Friday, it was a good week for the markets and saw the Nifty close about 90 points higher at 6,261, with sentiment supported by better-than-expected quarterly results and benign inflation data.

The few earnings that disappointed investors seemed to affect specific stocks without having a bearing on either the sector or the markets.

How much will U.S. recovery help India?

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

After a prolonged slowdown, the U.S. economy is finally showing signs of recovery though much of it comes from investment in inventories and may not be sustained at the present high rate.

The United States is the largest economy with a share of more than 22 percent in the world GDP. Naturally, even small changes in its behaviour have a perceptible impact worldwide. To India, the United States counts for a lot, although possibly less than it does for China.

U.S.-India dispute: A diplomat and a double-standard laid bare

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(The following essay is commentary. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Reuters)

Relations between the United States and India have crashed to their lowest ebb since the last millennium, something many Americans might have missed during the holiday buzz.  A spat over the treatment of a diplomat and her maid threatens the foundations of a key international partnership, and the implications extend far beyond foreign policy. This case could endanger American diplomats, businesspeople and tourists travelling abroad.

The year 2013 in perspective

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

The economy was already in distress before 2013, but with no significant action by the government and increased pressure from external sources resulted in more danger signals. It is now doubtful whether the economy will recover in the current fiscal.

The rot began in 2011. It took hardly two-and-a-half years to bring down the growth from 8.8 percent to 4.5 percent. The monsoon was good but badly distributed with the result that the summer crop did not show much improvement.  Industry is amidst stagnation with zero growth in April- October. The capital goods sector has been hit the hardest because investment declined, while the only silver lining was the improvement in external trade. Exports increased and imports declined which brought down the CAD to less than 2 percent of GDP.

India Markets Weekahead: Investors to remain bullish in election season

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

A surprise decision by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to keep the repo rate unchanged and a dovish statement from Ben Bernanke in his last news conference as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman improved sentiment with the Nifty closing 106 points higher at 6,274.

Markets tottered for three days during the week amid fears the Nifty could break a crucial support zone between 6,120 and 6,140. Investors had discounted a 25 bps hike in monetary policy based on inflation numbers that were the highest in 14 months. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan should be lauded for taking a practical stance as food inflation is expected to cool considerably in December due to improved supplies and the monsoon effect.

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