What’s the one economic data point in India that’s returning to pre-Independence levels? The ratio of wealth to income. What this ratio indicates is whether, over time, those who hold assets and/or have substantial savings are getting richer at a faster or slower rate than the rest of the population. The higher the ratio, the bigger the gap. And interestingly, in the nearly three decades since India liberalised, incomes have grown substantially but the wealthy have got wealthier at a faster rate, too. In fact, the national wealth-income ratio is returning to pre-Independence levels of 600-700%. The time series data is from a working paper by Rishabh Kumar of California State University. Sourabh Gupta breaks down the numbers.

Fall & Rise

*In the last 20 years, there has been a sharp increase in the value of national wealth relative to national income.

*By 2012, wealth was worth 550-600%(or six years) of income as opposed to 350-400% at the end of the 19th century.

*Not just India, wealth seems to be accumulating faster than economic growth everywhere — China, US, Europe, Japan and Russia — irrespective of their stages of development.

Wealth-1A

WEALTH ACCUMULATION HAS THREE DRIVERS…

*Savings, asset prices and initial wealth. Part of this increase in the ratio seems to be driven by asset price inflation, especially jump in land prices.

*This means those who already own wealth are getting wealthier at a rate faster than the rest.

*In the late colonial period, wealth became as large as 6-7 years of national income (ratio of 600-700%). Between 1950 and 1980, wealth fell to3-4 years of income. It is returning to nearly 6 years of income.

NATIONAL WEALTH: Public + private wealth (land, machinery, buildings and dwellings, net foreign assets, gold & silver)

NATIONAL INCOME: Net domestic product + net factor income from abroad

NATIONAL SAVINGS: Net capital formation + net foreign investment + capital transfers from abroad

Graph-2A

Barring a brief departure in the 1950-80 “planned” phase, the national wealth-income ratio closely tracked the private wealth-national income ratio.

Between 1950-2012, the rising national savings rate was driven by private savings rate. The public savings rate turned almost persistently negative starting in 1990s due to rising public debt since 1985.

Unsurprisingly, the private sector accounted for the increasing share of non-financial assets at the national level since 1990.





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