GST More Potent Than Demonetisation In Curbing Black Money: Ridham Desai

The impact is negative in the short run but not as large as is being made out by people. Yes, India is a cash rich economy, bulk of it is not black money but transactional cash. All of us transact in cash. That’s the anchoring of people in the country. They like to deal in cash. They don’t want electronic (banking). That is why we have only 40 million debit cards in a country of 1.25 billion.

Ridham Desai, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley India

Demonetisation: Long-Term Gain

To be sure, the government’s move has provided a shock to the system which now has to accelerate its move towards electronic transactions, and as and when that fructifies, he says, India stands to benefit.

What will be interesting to observe, he points out, is where the currency in circulation settles at, six months from now.

It’s not a net 13 percent of GDP that banks are receiving in cash. What we will have to see is in six months from now where does currency in circulation settle. It was 13 percent before demonetisation, does it settle at 11 percent, 9 percent or 13 percent. That difference is the net increase in banking penetration.

Ridham Desai, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley India

‘GST A Bigger Step’

For him, the bigger trigger for the Indian economy and the fight against unaccounted wealth will be the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The indirect tax regime, once it comes into effect, will be 10 times more potent than demonetisation in its ability to reduce unaccounted wealth.

Under GST, if you are a producer of a good and you don’t pay tax, so you are saving 25 percent tax (that’s the average rate of tax on an indirect basis). Suppose your margin is 10 percent which puts you outside the tax rate and so you save 3.5 percent in income tax. That’s a big difference. That’s the magnitude of the impact.

Ridham Desai, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley India

While on the subject of GST, he says the multi-rate structure is the best way to go. It would not have been possible for the government to shift to a single or dual rate structure without significant damage to the economy. He expects that transition to happen only 5-7 years from now.

‘Fund Flows Will Return’

Desai is not worried about the foreign portfolio outflows India has seen over the last few months, and says it is a phenomenon seen across emerging markets right now and not an India-centric issue. He expects flows to return over the next 1-2 years, especially since foreign investors remain bullish on India.

Desai is bullish on financials, technology, consumer discretionary and to an extent industrial sector right now and would avoid discretionary stocks like staples and healthcare. Technology for him is a pure valuation call.

It is logical and sensible for the U.S. to continue to support outsourcing to India because India reduces cost for American corporations and drives profits higher. Stocks look cheap. They are pricing in single-digit earnings growth over the next 5 years. That looks like an attractive entry point. Tech stocks also correlate very positively with U.S. bond yields.

Ridham Desai, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley India