It’s now official: US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will decide on the trajectory of monetary policy in India. In fiscal 2013, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut its policy rate by 100 basis points (bps), reduced banks’ cash reserve ratio (CRR), or the portion of deposits that commercial banks need to keep with the central bank, by 75 bps and also pruned banks’ compulsory bond holding by 100 bps to lift a sagging economy as the inflation threat gradually receded. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.
It is fairly certain that Tuesday’s monetary policy review, the last before the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D. Subbarao steps down in September, is unlikely to have any action. The Indian central bank has reviewed its policy twice this month through measures to stamp out liquidity from the system and make money more expensive to protect a fast-depreciating local currency.
State Bank of India(SBI) chairman Pratip Chaudhuri’s outburst in Kolkata on Wednesday against the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) latest liquidity tightening measures is unprecedented. I can’t recall a commercial banker taking on the banking regulator in such a way, openly saying RBI is non-transparent in its policy measures. The corner room in SBI’s headquarters on Madame Cama Road in Mumbai has a history of minor skirmishes with the RBI boss, whose office is just about a kilometre away on Mint Road.
Has the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) tightened norms for gold imports to ease the pressure on the widening current account deficit? Or, has it actually eased them? Media reports unanimously suggest that the Indian central bank has tightened the norms for import of gold. But take a close look at RBI’s 22 July release and you’ll see the norms have actually been eased. Indeed, banks and other entities that import gold will now have to ensure that at least one-fifth of the metal they bring in is used for exports and importers will be required to retain 20% of the imported quantity in customs bonded warehouses and will be allowed to go for fresh imports of gold only after 75% of the metal stock is exported.
India’s capital market regulator is now one of the most powerful such watchdogs in the world. The government’s silver jubilee gift to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), which has just completed 25 years, came in the form of an ordinance last week. The focus of most media reports has been Sebi’s newly acquired powers to oversee all deposit-taking companies that are collecting Rs.
The Monday late evening Reserve Bank of India (RBI) action is nothing but a rate hike by stealth, that too by a whopping 3 percentage points, ostensibly to iron out volatility in the currency market. The rupee hit its lifetime low of 61.21 per dollar on 8 July.
In June, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) penalized three Indian private banks— Axis Bank Ltd , HDFC Bank Ltd and ICICI Bank Ltd —for their failure in following transactional banking norms. More banks are likely to be penalized in the next few months even as the central bank is sending show-cause notices to them after conducting a scrutiny of millions of transactions. This followed allegations by Cobrapost , an online magazine, on these banks being involved in money laundering.
What Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D. Subbarao could not do through a series of rate cuts, India’s finance minister P. Chidambaram now wants to achieve through a gentle nudge.