As the results of the growth accounting exercise in Section II indicate, capital accumulation has been the main impetus to growth in India over the past thirty years. Gross domestic capital formation nearly tripled as a share of GDP from 1950/51 to 1990/91 (Chart 4.1). The increase in domestic capital formation can be attributed in part to public sector investment, which rose from 3 percent of GDP in the mid-1950s to over 10 percent by the mid-1980s. However, about two thirds of gross capital formation has been undertaken by the private sector, and the latter’s contribution is likely to increase over the next decade. To understand India’s growth record and prospects, it is therefore important to understand the factors that underlie private investment behavior.
Gross Domestic Capital Formation
(In percent of GDP at current prices)
This section analyzes the determinants of private investment in India, focusing in particular on its behavior since the reform program was launched in 1991. The econometric results suggest that macroeconomic policies have played an important role—both direct and indirect—in determining the behavior of private investment over the past twenty years. Both the cost and availability of credit to the private sector, as well as public sector investment, have had a significant impact on private capital formation. Private investment has also been influenced by the behavior of industrial production and by the presence of price uncertainty.
Private capital formation relative to GDP fell sharply during 1991/92–1993/94 (Table 4.1). Much of the decline resulted from lower household investment in machinery and equipment; household and corporate inventories also fell relative to GDP during this period.1 In contrast, corporate fixed investment is estimated to have risen by 4 percentage points of GDP from 1990/91 to 1993/94. The model suggests that a tightening of financial conditions and heightened uncertainty led to the initial sharp decline in investment. Despite the easing of credit conditions in 1992/93–1993/94, gross capital formation continued to decline as a result of weak domestic demand and persistent uncertainty.
Private Capital Formation
(In percent of GDP at constant prices)
While severe, India’s “investment pause” appears to have been relatively brief. The upturn in production in the capital goods sector and the surge in capital goods imports point to a robust recovery of investment in 1994/95. Based on the econometric results, private capital formation is projected to have recovered to 13½ percent of GDP in 1994/95 and to rise further to almost 16 percent of GDP by 1995/96. Underlying the investment recovery is an acceleration of industrial growth, improved corporate profitability resulting from business and financial restructuring, and diminished uncertainty.
This study uses a general-to-specific modeling approach to identify the principal determinants of private capital formation in India.2 A large set of explanatory variables was narrowed to seven through the successive elimination of statistically insignificant terms. All variables were expressed in scaled form or as rates of change to avoid potentially spurious correlation among nonstationary series.3 Regressions on annual data were estimated using ordinary least squares, and heteroskedasticity-consistent standard errors were computed.
The choice of the set of potential explanatory variables reflects recent developments in the literature on investment (for a survey of recent empirical work, see Rama (1993) and Greene and Villanueva (1991)). Neoclassical accelerator and “Tobin’s Q” models have been augmented to allow for the effects of credit rationing, external financing constraints, and uncertainty. The initial set of variables for India included the growth of real GDP and of industrial production (lagged one and two periods to avoid simultaneity bias); the real weighted average lending rate; the growth of real credit to the private sector from banks and term lending institutions; the share of public investment in GDP; the level of foreign exchange reserves (in months of imports); external debt service (in months of exports); and the variance of monthly inflation, the real exchange rate, and the index of industrial production (as proxies for uncertainty). A description of the initial set of variables is given in the Appendix.
Table 4.2 presents the final estimation results, while Table 4.3 indicates the contribution of each of the explanatory variables. The real lending rate was found to be a significant determinant of private investment in India, with the expected sign. The real growth of credit was also significant and had the correct sign.4 Both the price and quantity of credit have a bearing on investment, which suggests that the Indian credit markets were segmented during the period under study; some borrowers may have experienced credit rationing in the repressed segments of the market. Over the next several years, deregulation and heightened competition would be expected to increase the influence of interest rates—and decrease that of credit—as determinants of private investment.
Private Investment Equation1
1Estimated using annual data and ordinary least squares, with heteroskedasticity-consistent standard errors. Estimation period: 1973/74–1993/94. T-statistics are given in parentheses. A description of the variables is given in the Appendix.
Investment Equation—Decomposition of Estimated Change
(Dependent variable: Gross private investment/GDP, constant prices, in logs; OLS estimates, 1973/74–1993/94)
The growth of industrial production lagged one and two periods (a proxy for aggregate demand) was positively correlated with private capital formation, consistent with conventional “flexible-accelerator” models of investment behavior. What is striking is the long lag with which industrial performance influences investment. This may reflect the rigidities associated with industrial licensing, trade, and exchange controls in the pre-reform period.
Public sector investment is estimated to have had a negative impact on private capital formation in India. When public investment was separated into its infrastructure and noninfrastructure components, both terms bore negative signs, although the infrastructure variable was not statistically significant.5 These results are robust to alternative lag structures. The fact that the public investment variable is significant in a regression that includes both real interest rates and credit suggests that there has been competition between the public and private sectors for physical as well as financial resources. These results are consistent with earlier research that finds more evidence of crowding out than complementarity in public and private investment in India (see Sundararajan and Thakur (1980) and Pradhan, Ratha, and Sarma (1990)).6
Unlike some other developing countries in the 1980s, external financing constraints (proxied by the level of foreign exchange reserves and the debt-service ratio) do not appear to have had much impact on private investment in India. This is not surprising, since the economy was largely closed to international trade and capital flows until 1991. Indian investment has not been heavily import intensive. Moreover, although public sector debt is high relative to GDP, it comprises mostly domestic obligations.7 India’s external debt, at about 30 percent of GDP, has a large concessional element.
Both the variance of inflation and of the real exchange rate were negatively related to private investment, consistent with theories that emphasize the detrimental effects of price uncertainty on private Capital formation.8 Uncertainty may also explain the long lags through which developments in the industrial sector influence investment. The variance of industrial production was not statistically significant.9
Gross Private Capital Formation
The explanatory power of the regression is reasonably high; actual and fitted values of the dependent variable are plotted in Chart 4.2 (upper panel). The equation passed a battery of tests for residual serial correlation, heteroskedasticity, and parameter instability. The model performs less well out of sample (Chart 4.2, lower panel), which is not surprising in light of the extensive changes in the structure of the economy over the past five years.10 For example, the parameter on the real interest rate variable was higher when estimated using the full sample period than when the data were truncated at 1988.11 The parameter on industrial production was also higher, while those for public investment, lagged private investment, and the proxies for uncertainty were lower.
These results should be interpreted with caution, given the limited degrees of freedom afforded by the brief sample period. Moreover, this period witnessed important changes in the economy—particularly since the late 1980s—which make it difficult to assess the responsiveness of investment to changing economic conditions. Finally, the national accounts data may not be fully reliable.
The behavior of investment in the post-reform period can be divided into three distinct phases: the crisis of 1991/92, when private capital formation contracted sharply; the period 1992/93–1993/94, in which investment remained sluggish despite an easing of financial conditions and an improved economic outlook; and the period 1994/95–1995/96, for which there is evidence of a robust and broad-based investment recovery.
The initial decline in private capital formation can be attributed in large part to a sharp tightening of credit conditions beginning in 1990/91 (Table 4.4 and Chart 4.3, upper panel). Administered interest rates were increased, while the growth of base money was sharply curtailed; real Reserve Bank credit to the financial system declined by one third from 1989/90 to 1992/93.
Private Investment Forecast1
1Predicted values based on parameter estimates for full sample period.
Credit to the Private Sector
(In billions of 1990 rupees)
As a result, real banking system credit to the private sector fell by 6 percent in 1990/91–1991/92. Even with higher lending from the term financing institutions, total credit remained flat during this period. Foreign sources of financing (especially nonresident deposits) also contracted as a result of the balance of payments crisis (Table 4.5). Total financing for private investment is estimated to have shrunk by a quarter in dollar terms between 1989/90 and 1991/92. Tighter financial conditions were exacerbated by the sizable currency depreciation and imposition of import controls, which raised the cost of imported inputs.
Sources of Financing for Private Investment
(In millions of U.S. dollars)
1Computed as the net flow of credit in rupee terms, divided by the period average exchange rate. There were large valuation adjustments during 1988/89–1992/93.
Medium-sized and large industrial borrowers bore the brunt of the credit squeeze (Chart 4.3, lower panels). Lending to the engineering sector—which had grown rapidly from the mid-1970s onward—was especially affected, as was credit to the textile industry. Lending to small-scale agriculture, agro-based industry, chemicals, and metals was less affected. Real interest rates responded with a lag to the tightening of financial conditions, rising to 10 percent in 1992/93 (Chart 4.4).
Real Interest Rates and Investment
The initial contraction of private investment would have been greater were it not for the reduction in the public sector’s borrowing requirement, which alleviated some of the crowding-out effects discussed earlier. Cuts in capital expenditure reduced public sector investment by about ½ of 1 percent of GDP, continuing a trend decline that began in 1987/88 (Chart 4.5, upper panel).
Factors Underlying Private Investment Behavior
Heightened uncertainty may also have played a role in the initial slowdown of investment. The variance of both inflation and the real exchange rate rose in 1990/91–1991/92, partly as a result of the sharp currency realignment that occurred during this period.
Credit conditions eased considerably in 1992/93 and 1993/94. Reductions in banks’ cash and statutory liquidity requirements (facilitated by further fiscal adjustment in 1992/93) released resources for private investment. Bank credit to the commercial sector recovered to precrisis levels, and term lending by Indian financial institutions expanded vigorously. The increase in the public sector borrowing requirement in 1993/94 was more than offset by a surge in private capital flows. Domestic and foreign equity investment increased dramatically, buoyed by recovery in the Indian capital markets and reform of the trade and investment regime. Real interest rates fell sharply.
Many firms used the opportunity created by India’s increased access to foreign financing to restructure their balance sheets away from high-cost domestic debt in favor of domestic and foreign equity financing. In real terms, bank credit to the private sector contracted in 1993/94, even as overall financing for private investment continued to rise.
Nevertheless, the decline in gross capital formation persisted. Adjusted for errors and omissions, private investment fell by an additional 2½ percentage points of GDP in 1992/93–1993/94. Part of the sluggishness of investment can be traced to the lagged effects of the initial contraction in aggregate demand (see Table 4.4 and Chart 4.5, lower panel). Following steady annual growth of 8 percent from the mid-1980s onward, industrial production ground to a halt in 1991/92. The slowdown has been attributed to cutbacks in government orders and the process of industrial restructuring. The collapse of key export markets and the global recession of the early 1990s also played a role.
Price uncertainty—as proxied by the variance of inflation and of the real exchange rate—declined in 1992/93–1993/94. However, other sources of uncertainty may have contributed to the investment pause; the econometric results presented above predict a smaller decline in investment during this period than actually occurred. There may have been doubts about the sustainability of fiscal policy, which would affect not only macroeconomic variables such as inflation and interest rates but also the course of structural reform, especially public enterprise restructuring or divestment, financial sector reform, and trade liberalization. Increased social and political tensions may also have contributed to heightened uncertainty.
The impact on private capital formation of the 1991 crisis—and the consequent stabilization and reform measures—was striking but brief. The evolution of key macroeconomic indicators in 1994/95 and early 1995/96 points to a strong export- and investment-led recovery. Most notable has been the rapid expansion of output in the capital goods sector, which was most adversely affected by the crisis. Capital goods production increased by more than 20 percent in 1994/95, notwithstanding a 60 percent decline in the average import-weighted tariff since 1990/91. Domestic borrowing also rose in 1994/95. The 10 percent increase in real credit to the private sector reflected a sharp rise in commercial bank borrowing and increased disbursements by the term lending institutions. The marked rise in capital goods imports and the steady increase in foreign direct investment are also indicative of a recovery in private capital formation.
The model forecasts a recovery of private capital formation to about 13½ percent of GDP in 1994/95 from 11 percent in 1993/94, as a result of industrial recovery and easing of financial conditions. Investment is projected to rise further to almost 16 percent of GDP (the precrisis level) by 1995/96.
Household Investment includes capital formation in the informal sector, that is, firms employing fewer than ten persons. However, large errors and omissions in the national accounts statistics make it difficult to interpret sectoral patterns of investment. Joshi and Little (1994) raise doubts about the split between corporate and household investment in India.
The methodology used is similar to that in Goldsbrough and others (forthcoming).
Augmented Dickey-Fuller tests did not support the hypothesis of a unit root in any series except public and private investment. However, these tests are known to have low power in small samples. An analysis of the sample autocorrelation functions for all of the series revealed low or rapidly decaying values.
The real interest rate and the real growth of credit are highly correlated, due to the influence of their common deflator, the wholesale price index.
Infrastructure investment includes investment in agriculture; electricity, gas, and water supply; and transportation, communication, and storage facilities.
Using a pooled time-series, cross-section approach for a sample of 23 countries (including India), however, Greene and Villanueva (1991) found some evidence that public sector investment has been complementary to private investment.
Of course, a large domestic debt burden can inhibit investment through crowding out, as discussed above.
Dixit and Pindyck (1994) and others have persuasively shown why firms postpone irreversible investments when they are uncertain about changing economic conditions or the scope and duration of key policy reforms.
Monthly interest rate data are not available to compute the variance of interest rates. In any event, such a term is unlikely to have been significant, given the stability of administered lending rates.
To test the model’s out-of-sample properties, the series were truncated at 1988 and the equation was re-estimated. The resulting parameter values were used to compute a dynamic private investment forecast.
This is as one would expect, given the increased role of market forces in the allocation of credit. The parameter and t–statistic on the credit variable were correspondingly lower for the full sample period.
Includes private inventories and the errors and omissions term.
Includes public inventories.
“Bcredit” is the change in net banking system credit to the private sector. “Termfin” is the change in net credit from the term financing institutions to the private sector.
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