Internationalization of India: Of Trade and Connectivity

India Day Parade an event for PHD’s & Politici...

India Day Parade an event for PHD’s & Politicians? Open Letter to Editors of all Indian News Papers in USA (Photo credit: davemakkar)

India Gate

India Gate (Photo credit: aroris)

Why should low-level of connectedness to the world should be a concern to Indian policymakers? Let’s start with ,traditional computable general equilibrium models (CGE) which peg the benefits of complete merchandise trade liberalization at about 0.5% of GDP, more advanced models with a consideration to all policy levers would shoot the number by a high margin. Also accounting for benefits from economies of scale , product and service differentiation, increased competition , normalizing risk, and generating and diffusing knowledge should push the potential gains well past 1% of global GDP, to 2-3%, or maybe more. Also, foreign direct investment offers an avenue for internationalizing even the provision of some “nontradables” ,  and there are substantial gains available from increasing the cross-border mobility of capital, information and people as well.Two decades of reform aimed at opening up the economy have roughly tripled India’s indicators of trade exposure, compared to our past, there has been a significant progress in this regard. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that India still ranks quite poorly in terms of many measures of the intensity of cross-border integration. In terms of measures of inward FDI stock as a percentage of GDP, India still figures in the bottom 10% of the countries. On Information Technology connectivity front India does a bit better, all thanks to Internet but India does substantially worse in terms of trade in publications and print material, intensity of short-run tourist flows and medium-run university students.

India figures in bottom decile of the fifty countries in terms of the extent to which it encourages FDI, according to OECD‘s FDI Restrictiveness Index. So although India has opened much more in past , a lot need to be done. The big problem here is not Manufacturing as one might say , where many barriers have been eliminated, sector where foreign investment is still very much restricted is business services. Take for example the classic case of FDI in multi-brand retail. Opposition to liberalizing FDI in this sector raises concerns about employment losses, unfair competition resulting in large-scale exit of incumbent domestic retailers . Based on international evidence, we suggest that allowing entry by large international retailers into the Indian market may help tackle inflation especially in food prices. Moreover, technical know-how from foreign firms, such as warehousing technologies and distribution systems can improve supply chain efficiency in India, in particular for agricultural produce. Better linkages between demand and supply have the potential to improve the price signals that farmers receive and also serve to enhance agricultural and other exports. Similarly the foreign universities bill also turned out to be a car with square wheels. Indian tertiary education system needs  internationalisation of higher education and policy makers should put in place a policy framework to address the various concerns, if it wants to reap the benefits.

Policies explicitly aimed at boosting internationalization should be backed up with policies aimed at improving the domestic business environment. Another major challenge facing the investment flow is corruption, diverting long term commitments ( like FDI) to short term capital flows which makes it necessary for the government to tackle it. All of this should suggest that there is tremendous potential for further policy measures to increase the internationalization of the Indian economy and, more importantly, Indian welfare.


About Vaibhav Gupta

Strategy Consultant, Open Source Enthusiast, Cooking Hobbyist, Photography Enthusiast. View all posts by Vaibhav Gupta

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