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India’s Path From Crony Socialism to Stigmatized Capitalism

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NEW DEHLI – Is India about to get its mojo back? As the country’s exports accelerate on the back of today’s synchronous global economic expansion, the negative effects of the November 2016 demonetization of high-value bank notes and the enactment last July of a new goods and services tax (GST) are receding. Provided that macroeconomic pressures from high oil prices are contained, and sharp corrections to elevated asset prices are managed, India is poised to regain its status as the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

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But ongoing efforts by the government will be key to reviving private investment and sustaining medium-term growth. Specifically, economic policymakers must address the long-standing problem of over-indebted firms and under-capitalized public-sector banks – the so-called “twin-balance-sheet problem.”

To that end, many distressed companies have been forced to clean up their balance sheets under a new bankruptcy code that was adopted in December 2016, and more companies are likely to follow suit this year. Meanwhile, the government has also announced a large recapitalization package (about 1.2% of GDP) to shore up public-sector banks, so that they can write down their stressed assets.

As these reforms take hold, Indian firms should finally be able to resume spending, and banks will once again be able to lend to the........

© Project Syndicate