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Understanding the Boom and Its Aftermath

India's Dream Run, 2003-08

The web version of this article corrects a few errors that appeared in the print edition.
 

From 2003, the Indian economy enjoyed a boom in growth for five years. The economy grew at a rate close to 9% per year, until it was punctured by the financial crisis of 2008. What explains that boom? Did the sustained liberal reforms finally pay off? Or was it a debt-led, cyclical boom, coinciding with an exceptional phase in the world economy? This paper contends that it was the latter case, driven by private corporate investments, financed by rising domestic savings, and topped by unprecedented inflows of foreign capital- leaving behind heightened corporate leverage, and frothy asset markets. As the global economy faces a semi-slump and precarious macroeconomic balance, how to reverse the current slowdown is at the crux of the discourse on India's policy paralysis. With the corporate sector mired in over-leverage, perhaps the most credible policy options now available are to step up public infrastructure to boost investment demand, and expand bank credit on easy terms to the informal sector and agriculture - which were throttled during the boom years - so as to ease supply constraints.

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