The survey basically sought to find out how readers thought India would eventually emerge from the coronavirus crisis. The broad themes covered included a SWOT analysis for the economy, things like what is helping India or what is making things worse, and most importantly, what lies ahead.
At a time when the situation appears more and more untenable even as India finds itself caught in the third phase of a sustained self-imposed blockade, here is a general idea of what is running through the mind of a country under siege.
Takeaways from a lost year
The virus has brought the Indian economy to new low after new low over the past six weeks. But many still appeared to think that a rapid turnaround was not out of the question. Only about 4% of survey respondents said that a quick economic recovery after lifting the lockdown was “not possible at all”.
A majority of them — over 40% — said a quick recovery was “possible, but with riders”. A big chunk of them (more then 32%) thought that 2020 was as good as lost, and that the economy should prep for a comeback in 2021.
The responses on the possibility of a quick recovery appeared to be a broad-based endorsement of Modi government’s Covid-fighting strategy. According to as many as 53.8% survey participants, a ‘decisive leadership’ was the biggest factor on India’s side at this critical juncture. The rest of the responses were evenly spread across (a) a proactive RBI, (b) less political squabbling and (c) benign oil prices.
As to which factors could complicate the economy’s fight for survival, almost of third (32.4%) of respondents pointed to a possible second surge of the virus. Nearly 29% said they feared the consequences of a broken labour market. The rest were divided between non-recovery of global trade and deeply negative sentiment.
Sink or swim
According to 37% of the participants, the most likely scenario for India in the short term will be — ‘recovery, but very tepid’. As many as 19% foresaw a deep recession amid a persisting virus attack. Just under 12% respondents thought Covid won’t linger long and the economy would recover within the short term itself.
How the short, foreseeable term will pan out for India is going to depend on what steps are taken, well over 32% of our readers said. Among the steps that could be taken, the survey offered four — a tax break, a special budget, printing currency, and a special tax.
The matter of the need for a special Covid budget has divided economists. In our survey, more than half (53.6%) the total participants thought that such a budget would be the best possible way to speed up recovery. More than 24% backed tax breaks as the way to tide over the crisis. Over 15% thought printing money would be the best enabler for a turnaround.
What of the sops handed out by Modi government? Over 45% of respondents said the government did the best it could. 23.6% thought the sops were ‘not nearly enough’, while 21.6% saw this as a case of ‘good intention but flawed execution’.
Yet more lockdowns?
According to most respondents, India will not have too many choices in case the virus attack persists. An overwhelming number (58.7%) said some parts must reopen regardless of the situation. Almost 14% respondents thought the lockdown must go, no matter what.
The circumspect manner of reopening businesses, which has been the norm here so far, led over 30% survey participants to believe that graded/phased lockdowns could become a way of life in India from now on. About 8.5% said they did not want lockdown in any form.
More than half (50.4%) of the surveyed were fence-sitters in the lockdown debate — they said everything, including where India goes from here, would depend on the Covid situation.
Economy reset checklist
When Covid is gone and the economy reset begins, India should go big on Make in India first, 33.5% of the respondents said. Almost equal-sized chunks (16.3% and 17.2%) pushed for a ‘safety net for unorganised sector workers’ and a ‘healthcare revamp’. As many as 33% thought that once Covid is over, the first box India should tick is ‘replace China in the global supply chain’.
China drew an unhappy testimonial in another question as well — the one about whether or not India’s FDI move against its larger northern neighbour was an overreaction.
A combined 14.5% of survey-takers said that India did overreact on the matter, or that the move will only hurt India. Just over 16% thought it was a good move to make, despite its timing being possibly wrong. A massive 69.2% of respondents categorically said there was nothing wrong with India’s stance, and that trusting China is hard.