Summary: In the 1960's and 1970's, India's policy of encouraging self-sufficiency by restricting imports was complemented by regulation of all facets of the industrial environment. Still, India developed a large, diversified manufacturing sector. In 1977-78, the policy environment began to change - with a relaxing of import controls and restrictions that has continued until now. With reform of industrial policies and a more expansionary macroeconomic policy, the value added in manufacturing grew from 4.5 percent a year in the 1970's to 7.9 percent a year in the 1980's. Meanwhile, gradual depreciation of the currency since 1985 has encouraged exports and brought prices in India closer to world levels. The faster growth of output and productivity in the 1980's is a welcome change from India's earlier stagnation. But deteriorating macroeconomic balances have brought India to a balance of payments crisis. Changes in tariffs and other instruments have more than compensated for relaxation of the import regime. Foreign trade has contracted relative to domestic output, despite some relaxation of quantity restrictions and attempts to increase exports. The main reason for this decline has been the increase in import prices relative to domestic output because of increasing tariffs, large real devaluations (especially after 1986), and rapidly expnanding domestic demand, which have made the domestic market more attractive than exports. Policy reform has led to faster growth of manufacturing output and productivity, but the main force behind faster growth has been increased public spending fueled by growing fiscal deficits. Another important variable has been a more accommodating import policy sustained by large external borrowings. This pattern of growth is not sustainable because of significant internal and external debt stocks that have accumulated over the last decade. Macroeconomic and trade policy must change significantly to shift the economy to a more export-oriented path - both to overcome the foreign exchange shortages and to rely more on external demand for industrial output. The authors argue that the manufacturing sector is highly responsive to relative price changes. Pessimism about elasticity has pervaded Indian policy making but they show high elasticities, indicating that the economy would respond favorably to changes in incentives.
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