With inflation continuing to remain high, the apex bank is likely to continue with tightening measures despite weakening domestic and global demand that has hurt manufacturing activity
Notwithstanding the economic slowdown, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to hike the repo rate by a further 25 basis points as inflation continues to remain elevated, according to Nomura Financial Advisory and Securities (India). However, the central bank may keep policy rates on hold thereafter, it said in a report published this week.
A dip in the Purchasing Managers Index to 52.6 in August this year, from 53.6 in the previous month, reflected lower domestic and new export orders. But core infrastructure sector output growth rose to 7.8% y-o-y in July, from 5.2% in June, indicating a slight pick-up in infrastructure investment activity.
With interest rates and inflation likely to remain up for some months more, Nomura suggested that consumption growth could moderate further, even as export orders are on the decline due to weakening global demand.
But it's not all bad news. There has been good rainfall this monsoon season which could have a positive effect on the festive season underway and this could lead to an improvement in domestic demand from the rural sector that could give an impetus to the economy as a whole.
Among the major sectors, cement, steel and electricity recorded double-digit growth, but natural gas and fertilisers continued to see negative year-on-year growth. The pickup in infrastructure sector output growth suggests that investment activity is improving and this should help ease supply-side inflation pressures over time.
According to K R Choksey, challenging macro-economic factors (interest rate hikes and rising fuel prices) continued to impact automobile manufacturing volumes. The major impact was seen in passenger car companies which have reported a y-o-y decline in volumes.
Commodity prices have started to show some stability but high cost of ownership is negatively affecting the demand sentiment, especially in the passenger car segment.
Overall, data released over the past few days indicates that the economy is slowing further, as both domestic and external demand is weakening, even though investment seems to be picking up.
The export orders component of the manufacturing PMI fell further to 45 in August 2011, from an already low level of 49.2 in July 2011. The trade deficit widened to $11.1bn in July from $7.7bn in June, as import growth accelerated to 51.5% y-o-y in July from 42.2%. Non-oil imports also continued to rise in July 2011, which further suggests strong momentum in infrastructure investment activity.
On the price front, CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation eased marginally to 8.4% y-o-y in July 2011 from 8.6% in June 2011, above Nomura (brokerage house) expectations of 7.7%. Meanwhile, the input price index of the manufacturing PMI rose to 65.6 in August from 64.3 in July 2011, suggesting that input cost pressures remain strong, although the output price index eased slightly to 55.6 from 56.0. These price-related PMI prints suggest that core WPI (wholesale price index) inflation is likely to stay elevated.
The slowdown is not limited to manufacturing, but it has also affected real GDP growth. The moderation in GDP growth has been largely due to weaker final consumption, resulting from elevated prices, high interest rates and lower government spending. The government is likely to reduce spending on subsidies to meet its fiscal deficit target.
Real GDP growth eased to 7.7% y-o-y in the second quarter of 2011 from 7.8% in the first quarter of the year 2011, largely in line with its expectations, Nomura said. It is expected that growth will remain below 8% in the next few quarters because of high interest rates and elevated prices, leaving the GDP growth forecast for the financial year 2011-12 unchanged at 7.7% y-o-y.
Terming the move for acquiring a 'large number' of planes as 'risky', the CAG said the aircraft acquisition had 'contributed predominantly' to the airline's massive debt liability of Rs38,423 crore as on 31st March last year
New Delhi: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has come down hard on the civil aviation ministry over the decision to acquire 111 planes for Air India through debt, calling it 'a recipe for disaster' and also on the merger of the two erstwhile state-run carriers.
The merger of Air India and Indian Airlines was described as 'ill-timed' by the CAG which said this exercise was undertaken "strangely from the top (rather than by the perceived needs of both these airlines), with inadequate validation of the financial benefits".
Terming the move for acquiring a 'large number' of planes as 'risky', the CAG said the aircraft acquisition had 'contributed predominantly' to the airline's massive debt liability of Rs38,423 crore as on 31st March last year.
In its latest report tabled in Parliament on Thursday, the government auditor said, "The entire acquisition (for both Air India and Indian Airlines) was to be funded through debt (to be repaid through revenue generation), except for a relatively small equity infusion of Rs325 crore for Indian Airlines.
"This was a recipe for disaster ab initio and should have raised alarm signals in ministry of civil aviation, Public Investment Board and the Planning Commission," the report said.
The CAG felt there is a need for some 'harsh decisions' to improve the health of the airline.
"The airline is in a crisis situation. Salary payments and ATF obligations are becoming difficult. If the airline has to survive, the management and employees will have to set personal interests aside and undertake some harsh decisions, till the health of the airline improves," it said.
Significantly, the CAG recommended, among other measures, "a total hands-off approach (by the government) with regard to the management of the airline".
The CAG also took the civil aviation ministry to task for liberalising the bilateral air traffic entitlements with other countries in a manner which "did not provide a level playing field to AI (and to a lesser extent other Indian private airlines)".
The report dealt with several aspects of the ailing national carrier's losses, fleet acquisition, merger, huge debt burden, delay in joining the global airline grouping Star Alliance and its financial and operational performance.
On merger, the CAG said this was also carried out "without adequate consideration of the difficulties involved in integration (notably in terms of HR and IT, among other areas)".
Though Air India had 'inherent strengths', it said "there was no evidence of civil aviation ministry having provided it with positive support in the last few years".
Noting that the fleet acquisition process took an 'unduly long time', the CAG said the initial proposal was made in December 1996 and its examination continued 'in fits and starts' till January 2004 when a plan was made to buy 28 planes, which was revisited and later a decision taken to acquire 68 aircraft.
It said the revised plan saw 'a dramatic increase' in the number of planes to be purchased and maintained that the sequence of events up to November 2004 clearly demonstrated that the pre-merger AI 'hastily reworked' its earlier plan.
Observing that many assumptions for the revised plan were 'flawed', the CAG said the negotiation process was "irregular and adversely affected the transparency of the process".
Maintaining that 'no benchmarks' relating to comparable prices and commercial intelligence were set, it said, "Consequently, in the absence of such benchmarks, the effectiveness and efficacy of negotiations and the reasonableness of the price arrived at is difficult to ascertain."
Other factors responsible for the 'critical' state of affairs in AI were "chronic operational deficiencies, a weak financial position, grossly inadequate equity capital and undue dependence on debt funding providing little or no cushion for the financial shock when it came". Besides, high fuel prices and global recession also hit the airline hard.
SEBI members have been issuing orders arbitrarily
Chairman UK Sinha may have started out...