Sunday, 4 December, 2022
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It’s time our expectations got real — there could be an economic tsunami around the corner

As with the number of cases, most people seem to be underestimating the economic impact of Covid-19, such as forecasters fiddling with positive growth numbers.

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Forget the details, what is the big picture? First, Covid is going to end up much bigger than most people might have expected. India is about to overtake China in the total number of cases, at about 84,000 — something that was once a very distant prospect. After all, there were barely 500 cases in India at the start of the first lockdown less than eight weeks ago, when China’s number was already over 80,000.

The government tracks the doubling rate and sees a slowing down, but it’s not nearly slow enough. We have seen three doublings, i.e. an eight-fold increase, over the last 32 days. Assuming the doubling rate slows further, and there are less than two doublings over the next 50 days (say by early July), we could well see a tally of around 300,000. That would place India among the top four Covid-hit countries, behind the US, Russia, and Brazil — none of them models for their response to Covid-19. If this outcome is to be averted, what we need to see is not doubling but the daily tally of cases peaking and then beginning to fall.

If the business of doubling continues, be prepared for bad news not just from the perspective of the coming medical challenge but also for the economy, which will take longer to return to anything resembling normalcy. As with the havoc potential of an unchecked Covid epidemic, most people also underestimate the related economic impact. Forecasters are still fiddling with positive growth numbers for this financial year. And the stock market continues to react to short-term news. Both discount the possibility of a tsunami that may be round the corner. If the experts say that the right comparison for what we are living through is with what happened in the Great Depression, then it is time our expectations of the future got less unreal.

Also read: Govt lockdown package frees farmers from mandi monopoly, strips essentials of stock limits

Meanwhile, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the two sets of measures that the finance minister announced this past week, except with the method of totting up the size of the “stimulus” on offer — even tax refunds are listed, as though they are government largesse. The measures themselves are broadly in line with what most people have advocated, but they are sensibly or cleverly (depending on your point of view) designed to minimise the actual outlay of central government money. Also, little has been done to improve state governments’ spending ability. Even without foreseeing any shadow between announcement and execution, the limits of government capacity are evident.

The starkest figure that the finance minister mentioned on Thursday was 80 million migrants taking shelter in places provided by governments and civil society, a number so startling as to boggle the mind. That so many can be provided with temporary shelter is in itself heroic; that they will all soon be fed, as promised, makes it even more so. And yet, what Nirmala Sitharaman is able to offer the poor and migrants seems pitifully small. It is inevitable that many millions will be left to fend for themselves. In the absence of many work options in rural areas, and given the collapse of the government’s make-work programme, we face the prospect of those millions slipping back into poverty.

Finally, a thought about the private sector employers who are clamouring for government action to bring back missing workers. Surely they must take some responsibility for so many of their workers being willing to take long treks to the uncertainties of village homes that they had left in search of work in the first place. It says something about how employers have abandoned these millions, and taken no responsibility for creating a sense of either shared fortunes or mutual belonging. To then cheer state governments that have arbitrarily and without consultation scrapped labour laws only adds insult to injury. As one observer has commented, the answer to problematic laws is not lawlessness. Besides, governments that act arbitrarily could be looked at askance by sought-after investors, who might wonder if they will be at the receiving end of similar arbitrariness tomorrow (as they have been in the past).

By Special Arrangement with Business Standard

Also read: Modi govt’s ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ is same UPA scheme that Sonia-led NAC shot down


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  1. Sitharaman is like a doctor who tells her patient to eat almonds and do yoga for next 6 months sothat he will be healthy and will not need medicine. But the patient is suffering from fever and body ache. He needs medicine now. so the patient request that he may be given medicine as he does not have money to buy almonds for next six months. Sitharaman tells him that she has waived her fees. That means patient has saved lot of money. he can use that money to buy almonds. …. ( F.O.)

  2. Readers are aware of some highly significant developments beginning 12 May , 2020 , particularly relating to economic sector in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on 12 May , 2020 a consolidated economic package amounting to a huge Rs.20 lakh crores in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic . The theme outlined is to make a self-reliant India by promoting local businesses. In other words , it is an expression of a gigantic or elephantine endeavor to promote indigenous business in India. Prime Minister shared with the nation on 12 May that the pandemic coronavirus ( COVID-19) disaster has given signals of opportunity as well. Details of said rupees 20-lakh crore package were left for Finance Minister to share with the nation. And these details have been announced by the Finance Minister on 13- 15 May 2020. Briefly speaking , the one aspect of the economic package can clearly be read to address the setback or damage done by coronavirus pandemic while the thrust can be read to signify a well-meaning endeavor towards self-reliant India in days to come. In addition , it is an expression of intent to seize the opportunity that is perceived to have come with the disaster. In the context of these developments on India’s horizon , it may be apt to refer readers to this Vedic astrology writer’s predictions capable of being parked into “ historic predictions”. Through this writer’s predictive alerts in article – “ Predictions for coming year 2020 by kushal kumar” – published last year 2019 on 10 October , at , this writer had said like this :-
    “ Now something encouraging. The second half of the year from July to November 2020 looks to be addressing the setbacks or delay of the past , particularly those of the first half. Some trends of success or forward movement in economic sector , political issues are likely. Cooperation or support of global powers may be seen coming……”.
    It may be observed here that whatever endeavors or announcements have been made in May and onwards would obviously take some reasonable time to shape up on the ground to give effect. Hence July to October or November 2020 can be vital.

  3. Every disaster that happens , whether medical or others , are all going to highlight India’s wretched poverty . Like a deer caught , by the headlight of a speeding automobile , a lot of us are going to experience India’s health infrastructure first hand . How this virus turns out is going to be wild guess for almost every one .But my own guess is , it will turn out mostly all right for the vast majority of us , as far as health is concerned . We put up with so much , the Virus will loose its fatal effects sooner than Ninan or other pessimists think . We Indians are a asymptomatic lot , unless we go to jail , none of us is corrupt .So it will be with this Virus , a few will go , but most of us will think , we are pure . In one or two years time at the most , this pandemic and covid will be like the cold and corruption , it will be everywhere , most of us will be afflicted , but we will live with it .

  4. Please wait for year 2025 , when most of Ivy league universities in USA and many in western world will be asking their students with best minds to do research and Ph.D s on the subjects –How India defeated Corona ? How India during down time of Corona pandemic put nation on development trajectory never witnessed in seven decades prior to 2020 ? Most of the journalists of Nehruvian and Indira era are not trained to see the present days happening in FUTURE PERSPECTIVE . They look at the things with Golden glasses purchased and worn since sweet seventies . {1970s} Alas last six years has not convinced many of them that India can be better administered, better run politically, economically by a better political party , other than one started by a Britisher at the fag end of 1800 to 1900 . Remember years starting from 2020 are going to be what 1980s were to Deng s China.

  5. The article rightly points out that the daily rate of infections does not seem to indicate the virus is on a downward trend. The economic impact has been severely mis-assessed and as usual victory declared based on estimates. Six months down the line, the economic depression will be strangling.

  6. There is no shortage of experts seeking management without prior measurement.
    The same lot that blocked mandatory use of AADHAR across the board sighting PRIVACY to hide their own ills, nothing to do with the average common man.
    Nobody knows the the number of migrants on the move today.
    Just as a State A does not know how many migrants are there from state B or C or D, the States B,Cor D has no idea as to how many of its own are in which state.
    In preventing the free and compulsory use of AADHAR the SC fell short to imagine a war like situation could force the country of such use.
    We are paying for the greed greed and greed of few.

  7. I have great respect for the author. However, his fears appear to be exaggerated so far as spread of coronavirus is concerned. Firstly, the cumulative numbers of infections that the author is citing is not very relevant. It has historical value. But so far as the position obtaining currently is concerned it is the number of active cases that matters the most, i.e. cumulative cases less deaths and recoveries. This status concerns us the most as it represents the current load on our healthcare system. So, the trend in active cases is to be considered. This number as of now is around 50000 with per day growth rate in the preceding week at 4.5%. The growth rate reflects a declining trend. Assuming that the declining trend continues , the peak may come after four weeks from now. If we consider average growth rate of 2 per cent per day, the peak level active cases may be around say one lakh cases. Many amongst these would be asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms – 80 to 85% according to medical experts. Critical patients would be around 3 to 4 %. This is a manageable scenario. However, there is one big qualification. The declining trend in growth rates should continue. If not, the situation gets aggravated. The author is a well known expert in economic matters. His views on these should be respected.

  8. Always easy to blame government when you and others don’t get off your ass and make a change.Government can only guide in right direction and we the people follow well thought rads.

  9. Oh Ninan lost your Mental Balance believing China figures as most of us know it is not a reliable one like our West Bengal figures. As you know that being a communist & Authoritarian govt. it controls everything including Media, Medical, Public Health. Plz go through the Shekhar’s article on this which will throw more light on that.
    Plz, stop this nonsense of spreading negatives with falls assumptions. Give courage & hope to the people. None of you media guys or even ruling & opposition parties has even in your dream was not thought about or sensed about the Migrant Labourers part. All of you thought just providing food & shelter they will stay back here but not so, it is their roots to their village, the home town attracted them emotionally. They openly declared that they are ready to die at their own village/home town rather than in these metropolia. Such is an emotional bonding they have.
    It appears all the Media wants Caronoa should be continued & play havoc so that they can money catching the eyeballs & other commercial interest. Plz stop this nonsense. Until now, the Govt. is doing at its Best. Let the states handle the situation at their level.

    At the end of the day, the time will tell. Let’s be hopeful things will settle down slowly & steadily, Let’s be optimistic.
    Give positives not negative & stop to scare the people. This is how Media lose its value & respect.
    Best Regards
    Nagesh Rao

  10. Mayeb ThePrint’s writers too should start watching CutTheClutter of SG…. I men how Russia with death rate less than even India is not a model to emulate?

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