The fourth anniversary of the Narendra Modi government has led to much discussion about its track record on the Indian economy. Predictably, the pros and cons have divided among ideological lines, making it difficult to have an impartial view. Thankfully, we now have the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) consumer confidence survey, which should be free of bias.
The survey is conducted in the six cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad and therefore reflects opinions among the citizens of metropolitan India.
The RBI survey says that 48% of those surveyed in May 2018 felt that the general economic situation has worsened from a year ago, while 31.9% said their economic situation had improved. That gives a net response of -16.1 percentage points (31.9 less 48). Four years earlier, in June 2014, the net response was -14.4, better than it is now. Chart 1 has the data.
The consumer confidence survey also has data on people’s expectations—whether they expect economic conditions to get better a year from the date of the survey. In May 2018, the percentage of respondents who thought the economic situation would get better was 49.5%, while 27.8% thought it would worsen. That sounds good, until we consider that the June 2014 survey had 56.7% who thought the economy would get better in a year’s time and only 17.6% who thought it would get worse.
Expectations about the economy have come down sharply.
Chart 2 has similar data for perceptions and expectations about employment. It shows that people’s perceptions about the availability of jobs have worsened considerably, as have expectations about job prospects.
Chart 3 shows whether people think their incomes have increased or decreased in the last one year and whether they expect improvement in the next year. The survey numbers show a similar trend of fading expectations. Slightly more than half—50.8%—of those surveyed in May 2018 expect their income to increase in the next year. This measure was as high as 63.9% in June 2014.
There is, however, one silver lining. Chart 4 shows that people’s perceptions about inflation have improved, although the vast majority still think inflation is going to increase.
In short, the National Democratic Alliance government has a tough task on its hands in the one year before the elections to change the mood of disillusionment.