The key implication of this new CPI-based inflation targeting framework is that interest rates in India will remain higher for longer, says Nomura
The Urjit Patel Committee appointed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recommended that headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation should be the nominal anchor for monetary policy. The Committee says this is to revise and strengthen the monetary policy framework in India. Instead of the current multiple indicator approach, inflation should be the nominal anchor and this should be communicated without ambiguity, the Committee has said.
“The key implication of this new CPI-based inflation targeting framework is that interest rates in India will remain higher for longer,” says Nomura in a research report. "When inflation is above the nominal anchor, the real policy rate is expected, on average, to be positive," it said.
Nomura said, “Real policy rates in India are very negative and unless CPI inflation moderates, policy rates will move higher. While CPI inflation should moderate as vegetable prices ease, we expect headline CPI inflation to remain elevated at above 9% in 2014 as a result of the upswing in rural wages and elevated inflation expectations.”
Against this backdrop, Nomura sticks to its call of a cumulative 50bp hike in the repo rate in first half of 2014 including a 25bp hike at the 28th January monetary policy meeting.
The recommendations of the Urjit Patel Committee includes setting up of a five-member monetary policy committee (MPC) consisting of the RBI governor, deputy governor and executive director in charge of monetary policy and two external members chosen by the central bank. Each member will have one vote and the monetary policy outcome will be decided by majority vote. Further, the MPC will be accountable for any failure to establish and achieve the nominal anchor. Minutes of the proceedings of the MPC are to be released with a lag of two weeks. The RBI will also publish a bi-annual inflation report.
On inflation targets, the Urjit Patel Committee report has recommended that the ultimate target for CPI inflation should be set at 4% with a band of plus/ minus 2%. However, given the currently elevated inflation levels the committee recommends a transitional phase to the ultimate target zone, from the current level of 10% to 8% over a period not exceeding the next 12 months. Further, CPI inflation should reach 6% over a period not exceeding the next 24-month period before formally adopting the recommended target.
RBI needs to widen the scope of the Depositor Education and Awareness Fund Scheme to borrowers as well as they probably need more education than depositors to make banking systems stronger
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is planning to mobilise funding under its ‘Depositor Education and Awareness Fund Scheme’ (Fund). The crux of the scheme is to educate depositors by utilising money in inoperative deposit accounts of bank depositors. The RBI press release says, ”The Fund will be created by taking over inoperative deposit accounts which have not been claimed or operated for a period of 10 years or more or any deposit or any amount remaining unclaimed for more than 10 years within a period of three months from the expiry of the period of 10 years. The Fund shall be utilised for promotion of depositors’ interest and for such other purposes which may be necessary for the promotion of depositors’ interests as specified by the Reserve Bank from time to time.”
It is important to note that the depositor will have the right to claim from her bank the deposit or operate her account after the expiry of 10 years, even after the unclaimed deposit funds have been transferred to the Fund. Bank would be liable to pay the deposit amount to the depositor and claim refund of such amount from the Fund.
There is no doubt that attempts should be made by the regulator to educate depositors but only educating depositors in not enough. There are other entities availing banking facilities, which needs to be brought under the scheme to make banking system stronger. RBI has mentioned that members of the public, banks, academia, industry and other stakeholders may send their comments on the scheme by email by 5 February 2014.
I wish to suggest the following to the RBI with respect to this fund:
1) Widen the scope of the fund and don’t just keep it confined to the depositors even if it is created with unused money of depositors in the bank account. The borrowers also need education and probably need education more than depositors to make banking systems stronger.
2) It would be a great idea to use these funds to provide more resources to Banking Ombudsman both in term of human resource and other supporting resources to ensure that depositors’ grievances are heard and managed in a better way. There is a need to increase the scope of coverage of banking ombudsman scheme.
3) As proposed by RBI, there will be a committee to monitor funds mobilised under the scheme. In the process of management of money mobilised under the scheme, the committee will register institutions, which in turn will be responsible for depositor’s education. The draft document says, “For the promotion of depositors’ interests, the Committee may register/recognise from time to time various institutions, organizations or associations, engaged in activities relating to depositor awareness and education, including those proposing to conduct programmes for depositors of banks, organizing seminars and symposia for depositors and undertaking projects and research activities relating to these areas”. While it is fair to do this, the RBI should ensure that there should be a banking partner for all such programmes and representatives of the banks should directly interact with the depositors.
4) The focus of these programmes should be in remote areas where depositors and other bank clients very rarely get an opportunity to get information and education on banking services.
5) As per the proposed Fund (scheme), Banks shall repay the customer/ depositor, along with interest if applicable whenever the depositor makes a claim of her money. There should be a time frame defined for this and it should not be more than a week.
6) Any deposit account opened and operated by senior citizens should be monitored separately for this scheme. Since senior citizens may get inconvenienced by transfer of money from their account even after 10 years, it is required that they should be served sufficient notice for cases where money is going to get moved out of their account.
7) The investor education program should not be mere pep-talk but should give depositors an opportunity to understand how to handle the issues that they may face in the process of using banking services.
8) Create a central repository of updated information on depositor’s right. The free online access should be available to the depositor including the bank where he holds account. This repository should also provide escalation matrix in a bank.
(Vivek Sharma has worked for 17 years in the stock market, debt market and banking. He is a post graduate in Economics and MBA in Finance. He writes on personal finance and economics and is invited as an expert on personal finance shows.)
Even the so-called middle-class regularly depends upon street corner kirana shops, as much as they trust and buy from push-cart vendors who make door-to-door sales
According to the recent government estimates, blocking of retail foreign direct investment (FDI) in India will actually rob the country of more than 10 million jobs. This has been the response of the central government when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took a stand to write to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) of their opposition to the setting up of multi-brand retail stores in the state.
Delhi is the first state to withdraw its approval for retail store entry by FDI, as they feel that such a move hurt small shop keepers of their livelihood. The previous government of Sheila Dikshit had given approvals to global giants like Tesco and Walmart. AAP government says it will not allow them to set shop in the city, even if they manage to get clearance from the Centre to do so.
In a lightening response, Anand Sharma, commerce and industry minister, made it clear that the Centre was not ready to accept any state jeopardising the decision, as this will be reflecting badly on the government, and foreign investors will lose confidence. In any case, the federal states have the option of having FDI retails in their State, and those who had committed to have retail FDI in their State cannot back out now.
It may be pointed out that the FDI in multi-brand retail was actually notified some 18 months ago in September 2012, and Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Rajasthan, besides Delhi had agreed to allow retailers to open their stores. International operators, like Walmart and Tesco have been planning their entry accordingly. It is, therefore, unlike Indian culture to renege a commitment already made.
Moneylife, in the past, has carried detailed story on FDI and it has been pointed out that, in fact, multibrand retail will help to check rising food prices, because they will be establishing supply chains throughout the country; establish well constructed warehouses, cold storages and efficient transport system to ensure that goods are available at competitive prices. The farmer will get his dues on time while the blood-sucking legion of moneylenders will be eliminated, if not reduced.
Most of them will also help in giving farmers advice on various matters and may also eventually assist in supplying seeds, fertilisers and farm equipment and other services. They will also assist in quality control, packaging and undamaged delivery.
The general fear is that FDI retailers, will, in the long run, totally replace the corner Kirana shops that most people are accustomed to depend upon urgent day-to-day supplies. FDI retail generally tends to market those of the products in which they have "interest" while Kirana shop keepers will keep all sorts of products that a household needs on a day-to-day basis, on "urgent" demands, and are generally, located in street corners at a short walking distance from the consumer's home. FDI retailers tend to have their own large outlets, mostly located at motorable distances and are actually designed to attract the middle class and rich. In any case, even this so-called middle-class regularly depend upon street corner kirana shops, as much as they trust and buy from push-cart vendors who make door-to-door sale.
Lastly, most FDI retailers, not owning their own sprawling sales complexes, tend to take selling space in Malls. But this mall culture, which is predominantly a process of ‘Westernising’, is slowing down in many parts of the country and in many cities, a great number of them have shut down for lack of profits and footfalls.
FDI in retail has come to stay in India, and there is no fear that such a move will hurt small shop keepers or take away employment of 10 million or more. In fact, such trained workers from kirana shops will find employment in FDI retail at more beneficial returns in terms of wages, work-timing, medical insurance and other related facilities.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)