Moolah and Millionaires Leaving India: Why Now & What’s Wrong
With the headline number of the 5 percent GDP growth in the first quarter looming large in the backdrop, various economic indicators have now started to underline the different facets of the fine print.
Recent data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on outward remittances by resident Indians under the central bank's liberalised remittance scheme (LRS) highlights the tepid sentiment around viewing India as an investment option.
If that comes across as just another number, consider a more staggering comparison.
The outflow has seen a steady rise since 2014 and in this financial year, it looks on course to topple the FY19 numbers.
What is Remittance Under LRS?
Under the RBI’s LRS, resident Indians can remit up to $250,000 per year under various heads. Now these remittances may either be:
- Current account transactions like going overseas for employment or studies, maintenance of close relatives, medical treatment etc.
- Capital account transactions such as opening a foreign currency account overseas, purchase of property, investing in mutual funds abroad etc.
Where are Indians Investing Their Outward Remittances?
According to RBI data, in the last five years, as far as remittances are concerned, ‘travel’ amounts to over $14 billion, while over $10 billion was spent for the ‘maintenance of close relatives’. Another $10 billion has been sent for ‘education’, while $4.8 billion has been remitted for ‘gifts’.
Smaller remittance categories include ‘purchase of immovable property’ (over $400 million) and ‘overseas investment in equity and debt’ ($1.9 billion).
In the financial year 2018-19, $455.9 million was remitted under 'Deposits,' which works out to a monthly average of $38 million. However, in the first three months of this financial year, the average has shot up to $45.73 million – a jump of over 20 percent.
Not Just Moolah, Even Millionaires Are Leaving the Country
Compounding the problem of outflows from India is the fact that millionaires are migrating from the country by the hordes, and especially so, since 2014.
According to data compiled by a team headed by Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets and chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management in 2018, as many as 23,000 dollar-millionaires have left the country since 2014. The number amounts to 2.1 percent of India's ultra-rich, as compared with 1.3 percent for France and 1.1 percent for China.
Only China and Russia are ahead of India on the list.
...And Then There are FPIs
Besides Indians and their money taking the flight, now foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) have also turned their back on the Indian markets.
As recently as in July this year, overseas investors pulled out a net Rs 3,758 crore from India – the highest among emerging markets of the world. The outflow was spurred by the increased surcharge on FPIs that was announced in the Budget and has now been rolled back.
The trend, however, continued in August too.
Concerns and Questions
There are more than one facets of the downside of money flowing out of India. Here is a look at some of them:
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