Foreign exchange reserves continue to be comfortably placed in excess of 400 billion dollars and the current account deficit (CAD) is within manageable levels, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday while tabling the Economic Survey 2018-19 in Parliament.
Although the CAD increased to 2.1 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 due to a rise in crude oil prices, up from 1.8 per cent in 2017-18, it is within manageable levels, she said.
The widening of the CAD has been driven by a deterioration in the trade deficit from 6 per cent of GDP in 2017-18 to 6.7 per cent in 2018-19. Acceleration in the growth of remittances has, however, prevented a larger deterioration of CAD, said the survey.
In funding the CAD, the total liabilities-to-GDP ratio, inclusive of both debt and non-debt components, declined from 43 per cent in 2015 to about 38 per cent at end of 2018.
Besides, the share of foreign direct investment has risen and that of net portfolio investment fallen in total liabilities, thereby reflecting a transition to more stable sources of funding CAD.
In sum, although the CAD to GDP ratio has increased in 2018-19, the external indebtedness continues to be on a declining path.
The survey said foreign exchange reserves continue to be comfortably placed in excess of 400 billion dollars. The rupee traded in the range of 65 to 68 per dollar in 2017-18 but depreciated to 70 to 74 in 2018-19.
The exchange rate in 2018-19 has been more volatile than in the previous year, mainly due to volatility in crude prices, but not much due to net portfolio flows. The real effective exchange rate also depreciated in 2018-19, making India's exports potentially more competitive.
The income terms of trade, a metric that measures the purchasing power to import, has been on a rising trend, possibly because the growth of crude prices has still not exceeded the growth of India's export prices.
External debt was 521.1 billion dollars at end-December 2018, 1.6 per cent billion lower than its level at end-March 2018. The long-term debt declined by 2.4 per cent to 417.3 billion dollars at end-December 2018 over end-March 2018, though its share was mostly same at 80.1 per cent of total external debt compared to 80.7 per cent during the same period.
The composition of exports and import basket has, by and large, remained unchanged in 2018-19 over 2017-18. Merchandise exports stood at 330.07 billion dollars in the year 2018-19. Petroleum products, precious stones, drug formulations, gold, and other precious metals continue to be top export items.
Imports totalled 514.03 billion dollars during the year 2018-19 and crude petroleum, pearl, precious, semi-precious stones, and gold remained as top import items. The trade deficit was 183.96 billion dollars during the period. Country's main trading partners continue to be the United States, China, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
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