After the sobering data on national income, India’s trade figures offer some relief. On Wednesday, the government reported a jump of over 67% in outbound shipments to $32.21 billion in May from the year-ago period. It’s true that much of this seemingly spectacular rise was courtesy the low statistical base of last May, when the country was under a lockdown. Nevertheless, that our exports have outdone the level of May 2019 by a respectable measure and have also topped the $30-billion mark for two consecutive months would suggest some buoyancy.
Together with a 50%-plus rise in non-oil imports, which is indicative of demand in the manufacturing sector, that success highlights what we have going for us in an otherwise bleak scenario: external trade. Our economy will take longer to recover from the covid pandemic than we had expected at the start of this fiscal year, given the shock of a second wave of infections and slow pace of vaccinations, but large markets in the West have begun to bounce back. Exporters must make the most of this global opportunity. If labour-intensive goods get a boost, it could help mitigate a domestic employment crisis.
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