New Delhi: The Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das on Friday said India’s GDP growth in 2020-21 will be in negative territory.
Shaktikanta Das addressed a press conference announcing measures to ease the financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is his third press conference (the other two being on March 27 and April 17).
“Turning to the growth outlook, economic activity other than agriculture is likely to remain depressed in Q1:2020-21 in view of the extended lockdown. Even though the lockdown may be lifted by end-May with some restrictions, economic activity even in Q2 may remain subdued due to social distancing measures and the temporary shortage of labour. Recovery in economic activity is expected to begin in Q3 and gain momentum in Q4 as supply lines are gradually restored to normalcy and demand gradually revives,” the RBI Governor said.
For the year as a whole, there is still heightened uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic and how long social distancing measures are likely to remain in place and consequently, downside risks to domestic growth remain significant. On the other hand, upside impulses could be unleashed if the pandemic is contained, and social distancing measures are phased out faster.
He said that the MPC also decided to continue with the accommodative stance as long as it is necessary to revive growth and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, while ensuring that inflation remains within the target.
“These decisions are in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth,” he added.
Das said that domestic economic activity has been impacted severely by the lockdown which has extended over the past two months. High frequency indicators point to a collapse in demand beginning March 2020 across both urban and rural segments.
“The only silver lining was provided by agriculture, with the summer sowing of rice, pulses and oilseeds in the country progressing well, with total area sown under the current kharif season up by 43.5 per cent so far, and the rabi harvest promising to be a bumper as reflected in record procurement,” he added.
Retail inflation, measured by the consumer price index, moderated for the second consecutive month in March 2020 to 5.8 per cent after peaking in January. This was mainly due to food inflation easing from double digits in December 2019 – January 2020.
In April, however, supply disruptions took a toll and reversed the softening of food inflation, which surged to 8.6 per cent from 7.8 per cent in March. Prices of vegetables, cereals, milk, pulses and edible oils and sugar emerged as pressure points.