New Delhi , Apr 6:
The Indian macroeconomic situation is bleak and all set to get worse if local or national lockdowns continue for some more time, renowned economist Jean Dreze said.
Dreze further said that due to the country-wide lockdown, social unrest in many parts of India has already started.
The country is under a 21-day lockdown as part of larger efforts to curb spreading of coronavirus infections.
“The situation is bleak and all set to get worse, if local or national lockdowns of varying intensity continue for some time, as is likely to happen.
“Even otherwise, the world-wide recession is likely to have adverse affects on the Indian economy,” the Belgian-born Indian economist told PTI in an interview.
“… It’s like, if a bicycle has a puncture, you cannot expect it to move forward on one wheel. In short, if the crisis lasts, it will spread to most parts of the economy, including the banking system,” he emphasised.
Observing that as soon as the lockdown is relaxed, migrant workers who are marooned in different parts will try to return home, Dreze pointed out that they will probably hesitate to migrate again for a while.
“But there is hardly any work for them at home, except for some farming if they have land,” he said, adding that because of reduced migration, sectors that rely heavily on migrant labour may face a shortage of manpower.
“The unrest has already started. For instance, many communities have started barricading themselves against outsiders,” Dreze said.
“Even here in Ranchi, it is happening in some areas. Outsiders, including health workers, have been harassed in various places.
“In Bihar, according to media reports, one person was killed for alerting local authorities to the return of migrant workers. In Rajasthan, a flour truck was looted. All this is just a trailer,” he added. Pointing out that already there are reports of shortage of labour for wheat harvest in parts of north India, Dreze said, “This is the paradox of this situation, that shortages and surpluses may coexist, because the circulation channels have been severely disrupted.” Asked whether it is the right time to go for Universal Basic Income (UBI), he said this is not the time to reinvent the wheel.
Several international credit rating agencies have cut growth estimates for India in recent days on concerns about the fallout of the Covid-19 outbreak.