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Greece issue not greasy for India: RBI governor

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Chennai: India’s exposure to cash-strapped Greece was very limited and the central government was in talks with the central bank on providing additional capital to public sector banks, a top Reserve Bank of India (RBI) official said on Thursday.

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said capital investments in the Indian economy were picking up while reforms were needed for stronger growth.

Speaking to reporters after attending RBI’s board meeting here, Rajan said the country has very limited exposure to Greece that was facing a crisis after defaulting on payments to the International Monetary Fund and would not be impacted much directly. However, the develop ments may have a slight indirect effect, he conceded.

He said the Greece issue may impact the exchange rates. Untoward developments in that country could also place at risk global investments, he warned.

Rajan said global investors after analysis would find the India story to be very good. India’s macro policies were good while the growth prospects and foreign exchange reserves were healthy, he pointed out.

Rajan said India was attractive for foreign investors given the opportunities while the global economy is on the road to recovery.

According to Rajan, the Indian economy was picking up as there were signs of capital investment picking up while the government has to address some issues to put on track the stalled infrastructure projects.

However, he cautioned against relying on foreign investors to fund government or corporate banks market.

Queried about inflation, the RBI governor said it was being watched as well as the progress of the monsoon.

On the issue of non-performing assets of banks, Rajan said RBI was working with the banks so that they recognise the issue early.

He said additional capital infusion by the government into public sector banks will also provide the necessary buffer for the latter.

Rajan said the process of appointing new heads for public sector banks will be completed soon.

According to him, exports was an area of relative weakness which was true across different Asian economies.

Rajan also announced that RBI will put in place a regulatory framework to allow a new kind of Non-Banking Finance Company (NBFC), which could act as an account aggregator to enable the common man to see all his accounts across financial institutions in a common format.

The idea of such an NBFC had emanated from the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC).

RBI deputy governor S.S. Mundra said the central bank proposes to recommence the Financial Inclusion Advisory Committee (FIAC) to take the financial inclusion agenda forward.

Mundra said the work on financial inclusion was far from complete and a road map needed to be laid out to take the agenda forward, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated at RBI’s 80th Anniversary celebrations.

This has also assumed critical importance following the massive efforts made for opening of bank accounts under the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana with focus on Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhar identity and Mobile phones.

According to Mundra, RBI would request all financial sector regulators as also the government, self-regulatory organisations, research organisations, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and such other stake holders for nomination to FIAC.

He said that as an input to the FIAC, RBI will set up an internal group with the concerned departments to prepare a blue print for financial inclusion for the next five to 10 years identifying ways to integrate resources available with all financial institutions in achieving the goals for financial inclusion.

Harun R. Khan, another RBI deputy governor, highlighted the measures being taken to move towards less-cash less-paper-based payment system, with focus on creating more acceptance infrastructure for the huge number of plastic cards issued by banks and upscaling mobile banking.

The RBI’s board meeting also discussed the draft Annual Report for 2014-15.

The Annual Report of RBI gives an account of what was planned in the past year, what was achieved and what was not, as also what the central bank proposed to do in the coming year.

(IANS)

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RBI’s Governor Quits After Months of Pressure From The Central Government

The timing just before this week's board meeting suggests that there's still a huge gap between the government and RBI positions on key issues

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Urjit Patel, Bank
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel attends a news conference in Mumbai, India. VOA

The Governor of India’s central bank, Urjit Patel, resigned abruptly Monday after a months-long tussle over policy with the government that has raised concerns about the bank’s independence as a national election nears.

Government officials have been pressuring the Reserve Bank of India to allow some bad-debt-laden public sector banks to lend more easily, and pushed for it to hand over some of its surplus reserves to help fund the fiscal deficit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which must call national polls by May, faces anger in rural communities because of slumping farm incomes, and broader concerns about a lack of jobs growth in small businesses that are finding it hard to get banks to lend them money.

Getting control of the reserves would give the government more flexibility in spending on welfare policies and farm support schemes.

Patel cited “personal reasons” for his decision to immediately step down.

His resignation came four days before an RBI board meeting, and at a sensitive time for the government.

Bank
Reserve Bank of India. VOA

 

On Tuesday, votes in key state elections are due to be counted, with exit polls suggesting the BJP could suffer some major defeats at the hands of the opposition Congress party.

That scenario, and Patel’s resignation, are expected to roil Indian markets. On Monday, forward contracts tracking the rupee against the dollar outside of market hours posted their biggest fall in more than five years.

That added to earlier losses caused largely by concerns — triggered by the state exit polls — that next year’s election might end with a defeat for the pro-business Modi and a weak coalition government, leading to policy uncertainty.

Investors will want to know quickly who Patel’s replacement will be, and how that will affect the direction of financial and monetary policy, analysts said. There was no clear front-runner, but one name being mentioned was former Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia who retired at the end of November.

While not commenting directly on Patel’s exit, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday any signs the government was attempting to curtail the RBI’s independence would be a credit negative.

“We currently assume that the RBI will continue to pursue price and financial stability and implement policies towards these goals,” the agency said in an emailed statement.

Modi, Bank
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses a gathering in New Delhi, India. VOA

 

Patel announced his departure in a short statement on the RBI’s website in which he said that “on account of personal reasons, I have decided to step down from my current position effective immediately.”

Modi suggested he had not wanted Patel to leave. On Twitter, the Indian leader praised Patel as a “thorough professional with impeccable integrity.”

“He steered the banking system from chaos to order and ensured discipline. Under his leadership, the RBI brought financial stability,” Modi tweeted. “He leaves behind a great legacy. We will miss him immensely.”

Building for months

Even before Patel’s announcement, the 10-year benchmark Indian government bond yield rose the most since September, and stocks posted their worst close in four weeks, with the broad NSE index losing 1.9 percent.

The pressure on him had been building for some months.

The government has made clear it was not happy with the RBI’s policies and stacked its board with pro-BJP representatives.

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, who did not take an extension after his term ended in September 2016, said Indians should be concerned about what was happening.

farmers, Bank
Police try to stop farmers during a protest demanding a better price for their produce on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. VOA

 

“We should go into the details on why there was an impasse which forced (Patel) to take this ultimate decision,” Rajan told the ET NOW television channel. “The strength of our institution is really important.”

Within the RBI there was a combination of anxiety and relief at the announcement.

“It was very shocking. … Morale of employees is very down,” said one RBI official who has been with the central bank for more than a decade. “This is very sad moment.”

But another official said Patel was often inaccessible to key financial market players and had stifled discussion within the RBI, and that now it might be possible to open up more.

“Finally things will come to peace. I can talk more openly,” this official said.

The officials asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Urjit Patel, Bank
Urjit Patel’s resignation signals dangerous trend: AIBEA. VOA

 

Argentine warning

The rift between the government and the central bank became very public in late October when RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya warned in a speech that undermining a central bank’s autonomy could be “catastrophic.”

He referred to a meltdown in Argentina’s financial markets in 2010 after a struggle between the government and the central bank over who controlled the bank’s reserves.

Last week, Patel declined to answer reporters’ questions about the rift with the government, which former government officials and analysts said they were convinced was a major factor in his decision to quit.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal Accuses Modi Government of Betraying Farmers

There was speculation a month ago that Patel might quit over the government pressure, but the rumors eased after the two sides reached an uneasy truce ahead of last month’s RBI board meeting.

“The timing just before this week’s board meeting suggests that there’s still a huge gap between the government and RBI positions on key issues,” said A. Prasanna, head of research at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership in Mumbai. “Markets will now hope that the government has a plan of action ready so as to restore calm.” (VOA)