Column : Is self-flagellation a national trait?
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Is it something to do with the Indian psyche that we invariably feel much worse than we actually are? For instance, foreigners are showing far greater confidence in our economy even as domestic constituents indulge in endless self-flagellation. How else do you explain the Sensex crossing the 18,000 mark on Thursday amid so much gloom generated by the scam-ridden political and business elite. The persistent gloom is particularly fuelled by the utterly unhappy middle class, which has a tendency to imagine the worst. Since foreigners dominate the stock market investments, it can be said that they are seeing an opportunity where domestic players don't. India's stock market has been the best performing among all the emerging economies this year, having grown about 16% since January. The Shanghai Composite Index, a benchmark for Chinese stocks, has shown negative growth so far this year. However, the Pew Global Attitudes Survey says the Chinese people overwhelmingly think positively about the prospects of their economy. Why do Indians think otherwise?
If the stock market is seen as the most reliable indicator of things to come, the India story doesn't seem all that bad, with all the known problems that we face today on the political and fiscal front. But, for some reason, a general mood of pessimism has gripped the people. Even incorrigible optimists, like ICICI chairman KV Kamath, appear a bit hesitant to speak with the same conviction about the India story as they would have done earlier. So, what is going on?
The Pew Global Attitudes survey has this to say about India: "The economic euphoria in India over the last few years, inspired by the country's seemingly inevitable march towards double-digit growth, has suddenly soured. Although still relatively upbeat compared with many other countries, the Indian public's confidence in their country's direction and future economic growth has declined significantly compared with just a year ago. In a world where the Americans, the Europeans and even the Chinese have reason to worry about their economies, it is the Indians who have lost the greatest faith in their economic fortunes."
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