Thursday, November 06, 2008

Government versus RBI?

Today's Business Standard has a strong edit on how some recent moves by the government of India have the effect of devaluing the RBI:

First, a new governor of Reserve Bank of India was appointed and, in a symbolic departure from past practice, the new incumbent went across directly from the finance ministry. Then, a new ‘liquidity committee’ was set up, chaired by the finance secretary. Now, a new economic advisor with a strong background in finance has been appointed in the Prime Minister’s office. A day later, the finance minister calls the heads of the state-owned banks with the intention announced in advance that he wants bank lending rates to drop. On cue, immediately after the meeting, one bank chief after the other announces interest rate cuts.

If you thought the country’s monetary authority was RBI, may be it is time to think again. The pattern is too obvious not to be noticed—the real decision-makers are now in the central secretariat in New Delhi. RBI remains the statutory authority, but it is an open secret that the man in charge is P Chidambaram. A peskily independent RBI governor has retired, and a strong-willed finance minister has made sure that he will not be faced with another situation where his views are either ignored or not acted upon....

<>...... With Dr Reddy not on the scene, with Mr Chidambaram having wrested the freedom to impose his writ, and with economists in place who belong to the integration-convertibility school of thought, it remains to be seen how much short-term currency management will swing around, and to what degree longer-term policy will change in the six months that the government has before elections become due. Whatever the answers to these questions, and irrespective of which ideological position anyone may hold, RBI’s autonomy is the casualty of the new constellation of forces and the new institutional arrangements.

BS is right. The government's moves do appear to be intended to cut the RBI to size. This is sad given that the RBI has received so much credit for its success in insulating the economy from the international turbulence- and various people in government too have expressed this view. It cannot be that you give the RBI credit for this and then behave as though the RBI does not know how best to handle the impact on the Indian economy of the present liquidity size.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very true! What can be expected from a government whose sole concern is how to convert great Indian Institutions into government run schools ... problems can be tackled by subsidies and the next government.