Current account deficit surges 77% to $17 billion

India recorded a deficit of Rs 104 core in its current (January-March) account in the country’s balance of payments during the fourth quarter of a fiscal due to the rise in oil prices. India's current account deficit in 2007-08 rose by 77% to touch $17.4 billion, accounting for 1.5% of GDP in 2007-08. The oil import bill increased by 34.6% to $76.9 billion in 2007-08 due to surge in crude price. However, non-oil imports recorded a growth of 30.6% only.

The country's external debt rose to $ 221.2 billion on March 31, 2008, due to rise in external commercial borrowings and short term credit. ECB, including foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCB), increased by $ 20.4 billion in 2007-08 to $ 62 billion. Short term debt also recorded an increase of $ 17.9 billion in 2007-08.

According to RBI, the country's balance from services trade and net money transfer (invisibles) by overseas Indians rose to $ 72.65 billion in 2007-08 "Steady expansion in invisibles surplus reflected mainly the growth in exports of software services and travel receipts.

A release by RBI reported that even with an abnormal spurt in imports in the last quarter, the current account deficit amounted to $17.4 billion or 1.5% of GDP. At this level, the deficit is modest and entirely sustainable and desirable.

Economists feel thankful to the rising crude prices as the trouble would be if the deficit balloons out of hand in the coming months.

Government managers reckon that it is too early to set-off the alarm bells.

According to Aditya Birla group chief economist Ajit Ranade, despite high crude prices, the current account deficit at 1.5% of GDP is still within accepted levels. However, he felt the need to be alert in the next quarter about the slackening of inflows through services exports if there is a slowdown in the global economy.

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