India in 2023: Heads or Tails?

2022 just got over and as I sit to pen this blog on the 1st day of 2023, I am trying to recall the mood that was prevailing at the same time last year.  For all practical purposes, the stand-out sentiment at the beginning of 2022 was that of “Relief and Hope”.  Covid was just receding. Right through the last quarter of 2021, lockdowns were relaxed in the country, festivals were celebrated with gusto and normalcy was returning by and large. Almost the entire country was covered by the vaccination program by December.  There was relief and hope that things in the new year could only get better.

At that time, nobody thought that a war would actually break out and pour water on the collective hopes of the entire world. Russia invaded Ukraine and as we speak, the war is still on.  What was expected as a swift and big recovery of the global economy post-Covid didn’t happen. In today’s situation, a war between two nations doesn’t affect only those two nations. It pilfers to other nations as well, with a result we had the after-effects of the war being felt by nations across the globe.  Inflation has hit never seen high and with the US exporting inflation, the dollar has strengthened against most of the currencies worldwide.  The result was there to be seen in the last three months.  Economic growth has substantially slowed down and the expected post-Covid Uptick has evaporated into thin air. In summary, what was touted to be a year of recovery and swift growth, ended up being one of the worst years for the world. “Permacrisis” – meaning an extended period of instability and insecurity is the term being conferred upon the year 2022. Who would have expected this back then in January 2022?

I am now trying to recall what the mood was at the beginning of the year 2021. Coming at the back of a full year ravaged by Covid and lockdowns, it was expected that with the rollout of vaccination, the ebbing of the virus and countries attaining herd immunity we will soon see the back of the Corona Virus and get back to an Off line living from a completely Online living. However, that was not to be. We soon started facing the virus in its different variants, the effect of which was more lethal. 2021 also continued to be a year of woes except for some improvement in the last quarter of the year. Again, what started as a year where the dark clouds were seen to be disappearing ended up being an extremely challenging year for the world.

With these beginning-of-the-year scenarios of 2021 and 2022 in perspective, I am trying to look around what’s the mood like as we start 2023. The Economist in its 2023 outlook article says that a recession in 2023 is inevitable with the world reeling from shocks in geopolitics, energy and economy. There seems to be no end to the Russia – Ukraine war at this point in time. While other countries have seemingly shrugged off Covid, China is going through one of its biggest Covid waves now. This has once again put global supply chains in a dizzy which is expected to have a telling impact on Manufacturing worldwide. Now, will this wave from China trigger a similar wave in other countries that have all opened up, is the big elephant in the 2023 room! The lingering war and the lingering Covid with their aftereffects are what are keeping global leaders and policymakers anxious and awake as we ring in 2023.

GDP growth projections for most countries, in particular, the developed ones are muted for this year. Among all this bad news, there are bright spots on the horizon. India is expected to be one such. Even in 2022, though we didn’t do as projected at the beginning of the year thanks to the war-induced uncertainties, India came off much better than most other countries. As per World Bank, the Indian economy has shown higher resilience to global shocks of late. Therefore, for India, as per experts, the outlook for 2023 is a mixed bag. It is expected to grow faster than most countries of significance, yet slower than what is expected of it if there are no external headwinds.

2023, therefore, is being ushered in with cautious pessimism, unlike the previous few years. If the previous years proved the pundits wrong about their positive outlooks, can we have the pundits wrong again in 2023? Can the headwinds as we see now, become tailwinds when we close the year?  If the reality tends to be different than what the pundits have forecasted at the beginning of the year, there are reasons for us to be hopeful as far as 2023 is concerned.

For India though, we seem to be in an interesting place. If the trend of pundits getting wrong continues i.e., the global economy gets over its problems and does well, we in India too stand to gain. If the pundits actually get it right, India is expected to be a lone bright star anyway.

We seem to be in a “Heads we win, Tails we win” situation.  On that positive note, here’s wishing all my readers a new year filled with happiness and peace.

Postscript: If you are looking at forecast for investing in the stock market, here’s one from Mark Twain.

“October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February.”

Pic courtesy: avepoint.com

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