2013年经济学人 反攻 The fightback(在线收听


Finance and Economics;India's economy;The fightback;


Undercurrents of optimism about reform, and some fighting talk, in India;


After a storm-tossed six months for the economy, India's authorities are trying to get things back on an even keel. On June 25th the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced measures to try to stabilise the rupee. It has lost a fifth of its value against the dollar in the past year (see chart), reflecting global woes but also a slowdown in India and a drying up of capital inflows. Its decline is widely seen in India as a bad thing, stoking inflation and hurting firms with foreign-currency debt.


India has long shied away from letting fickle foreigners buy government bonds, but the RBI this week loosened the rules to tempt in sovereign-wealth funds and other long-term investors. It also slightly eased restrictions on Indian manufacturing and infrastructure firms seeking funds abroad.


IKEA, a Swedish furniture chain, boosted morale by saying it would invest up to 1.5 billion EURO(1.9 billion Dollar) in India—although on closer inspection that sum was spread over many years. Coca-Cola followed suit with the announcement of an additional 3 billion Dollar in investment, taking the total earmarked for India by 2020 to 5 billion Dollar. A ratings agency proved oddly helpful, too: on June 25th Moody's signalled it would not follow Standard and Poor's and Fitch, which have both warned of a possible downgrade of India to junk status. Its rating, which hovers just within investment grade, remains stable, the agency said.


The impact of all this? Not much. The rupee is still near record lows. Yet there is a feeling that a bleak picture may be improving slightly, mainly thanks to a government reshuffle. Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister, left his position on June 26th to contest the largely ceremonial post of the presidency. Mr Mukherjee, who presented his first budget in 1982, has had a disastrous stint as finance minister this time round, pursuing controversial tax claims against foreigners, including Vodafone; failing to tame the budget deficit; and chairing troubleshooting committees that often fired ordnance at India's own feet.


Responsibility for the finance ministry, for a time at least, has passed to Manmohan Singh, the prime minister. Although even less of a spring chicken—at 79, compared with Mr Mukherjee's 76—he has credentials as a reformer, having served as finance minister when India unveiled its liberalisation in 1991.


At the end of his career, the hope is that Mr Singh makes a stand and rams through budget cuts and vital changes on tax and foreign investment. “It could make a difference,” says an official. “He has a lot of credibility. It is an area that is close to his heart and his reputation will be much more on the line… The situation is tough so there is a limit to what can be done, but it is a mood-lifter.” His party, Congress, which leads the ruling coalition and is run by Sonia Gandhi, its hereditary chief, is lukewarm about making tough decisions. But there are signs that it may have successfully wooed one or two smaller parties outside its present coalition, which may help it push tricky changes through parliament.


The promise of a push on reforms has been made—and broken—consistently by the government for years. With a busy electoral timetable up to general elections in 2014, it may be harder to fulfil than ever. Still, others, stepping back from the hurly-burly, can see a silver lining in India's great wobble, particularly the fall in the currency. T.C.A. Ranganathan, the chairman of Exim Bank of India, which finances trade, says: “The exchange rate has moved in our favour. I'm fairly happy.” He reckons a weaker rupee will help spur a long-awaited boom in manufacturing. Kaushik Basu, the government's chief economic adviser, no slouch on the need for reform, agrees. A cheaper currency means India is “getting an advantage for our export sector”. Perhaps, in time, that may prove more important than today's firefighting.

印度政府在过去几年中针对改革的承诺一直反口复舌,2014年的印度总统大选意味将会有更多的高层活动,届时部分工作和议题将会更难开展。但仍然有人渐渐淡出唇枪舌剑,在印度如今经济局势的剧烈震荡,尤其是货币持续贬值的趋势当中看到了希望。主管贸易注资的印度进出口银行主席T.C.A 阮甘那桑说:“我很高兴看到卢比汇率正在朝我们希望的方向发展。”他认为,卢比的持续疲软可以帮助完成一次久盼未临的制造业昌旺。一向对经济改革信誓旦旦的印度政府首席经济顾问巴素也认同这一观点。廉价货币对印度的出口业来说“可能是一种优势”。时间会证明,这一切将会比现在的改革与保守派之争更为至关重要。