MUMBAI : Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan defended the central bank’s call for greater autonomy from the government, saying ultimately the nation stands to benefit from an independent and robust RBI.
In an interview on CNBC-TV 18 telecast on Tuesday Rajan said current rift between the central bank and the government can be resolved if both sides respect each other’s intent and autonomy.
“As far as possible, it is in the interest of the country that we respect the institutional autonomy of the Reserve Bank, as well as the traditions,” Rajan, who was succeeded by current governor Urjit Patel in September 2016, said.
Tensions between the two sides came to the fore last month after a scathing speech by a top RBI official blew the lid off a fractious dispute between the bank and the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on issues ranging from lending curbs, more cash availability to the non banking finance companies (NBFCs) to who controls the institution’s reserves.
That speech by RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya roiled markets and prompted the government to issue a statement in support of the central bank’s autonomy. Many viewed Acharya’s comments as a sign that the RBI was pushing back hard against government pressure to relax its policies and reduce its powers ahead of a general election due by May.
Rajan, who is a finance professor at the Chicago Booth School of Business in the U.S., commended Acharya for warning of risks stemming from government meddling of central bank affairs. But he also said the RBI could inject liquidity to ease any cash crunch at financial institutions, indirectly supporting the government’s call for a liquidity window for NBFCs.
“If it’s a liquidity problem, the central bank can flood the market with liquidity or give the liquidity to specific private entities that are healthy, and are willing to lend to these other entities that are in trouble,” Rajan, a former chief economist at International Monetary Fund said in the interview.
India’s NBFCs, loosely known as shadow banks, are seeing a massive cash crunch after a major infrastructure funding company defaulted on a series of debt obligations in September triggering a sell-off in other financial institutions in the sector on worries over contagion risks.
Showdown averted, RBI agrees to ease liquidity at board meet
Mumbai: A nine-hour marathon meeting of the Reserve Bank of India’s central board ended on a ‘cordial note’ as a mutual agreement was reached on several contentious issues, ending speculation about a major showdown between the government and the central bank. It also meant that governor Urjit Patel and deputy governor Viral Acharya — the latter had been criticised by the government for bringing the differences between the two sides to the public domain — survived and the bank sidestepped a confrontation.
According to a post-meeting release by the RBI, the board discussed the Basel regulatory capital framework, a restructuring scheme for stressed MSMEs, bank health under Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework and the Economic Capital Framework (ECF) of RBI.
The RBI board decided to set up a high-powered committee to examine issues related to surplus capital of Rs 9.69 lakh crore with the central bank and advised it to consider a scheme for restructuring stressed assets in the MSME sector.
The expert committee will examine the ECF, the membership and terms of reference of which will be jointly determined by the government and the RBI. It also advised that the RBI should consider a scheme for the restructuring of stressed standard assets of MSME borrowers with aggregate credit facilities of up to Rs 25 crore, subject to conditions of ensuring financial stability.
While deciding to retain the capital to risk-weighted assets ratio (CRAR), also called the capital adequacy ratio (CAR), at 9 per cent, the RBI board agreed to extend the transition period for implementing the last tranche of 0.625 percent under the Capital Conservation Buffer (CCB), by one year, i.e., up to March 31, 2020.
With regard to banks under PCA, it was decided the matter will be examined by the Board for Financial Supervision (BFS) of RBI. Governor Urjit Patel is believed to have said the bank should not send the wrong message by watering down rules.
Soon after the board meeting, the RBI announced Rs 8,000 crore worth of open market operations to buy government security from the market to ease liquidity. While it was speculated that a face-off with the government was on the cards, a series of closed door meetings — including one between the prime minister and Patel — ensured that such a situation was avoided.
RBI’s next meeting will be held on December 14, according to various media reports. The next meeting is likely to focus on liquidity and governance issues.
The 18-member board meet was attended by Patel, four deputy governors, government nominees — Department of Economic Affairs secretary Subhash Chandra Garg and Financial Services secretary Rajiv Kumar, besides non-official directors, including S Gurumurthy and Satish Marathe. Other directors on the board include Tata Sons’ N Chandrasekaran and Sun Pharma chief Dilip Shanghvi.
It was decided that the Board for Financial Supervision (BFS) of the RBI would examine the issues concerning the banks that are under the Prompt Corrective Action framework. “The Board decided to constitute an expert committee to examine the Economic Capital Framework, the membership and terms of reference of which will be jointly determined by the Government of India and the RBI,” the central bank said.
The Modi government has been putting pressure on RBI to release part of RBI reserves to meet budget goals. The government also wanted norms for some banks to be relaxed so that they can lend easily and keep the economy rolling ahead of state and Lok Sabha polls.
Meanwhile, the rupee advanced and bonds rallied on Monday before the RBI board meeting concluded, and amid optimism a common ground would be reached. The currency gained 0.4 per cent to 71.6575 against the dollar, while the benchmark 10-year bond yield fell 3 basis points to 7.79 per cent.
Plan to buy beleaguered Jet Airways flies into rough winds with Tata bosses
New Delhi : Top representatives of the Tata group — the salt-to-software conglomerate — have red-flagged “reputational issues” of Naresh Goyal-led Jet Airways, from the time of inception of the airline, including sources of its funding. This could adversely affect the progress of a deal between the two.
While Tata Sons, after a board meeting on Friday, said it was in preliminary talks with Jet and that there was no proposal yet, an internal panel has been constituted within the Tata group to carry out due diligence on the financial aspects and funding of Jet. The findings of the committee will determine the direction of the talks for a possible acquisition of Jet Airways by the Tatas, sources indicated.
As things stand now, apart from a clean chit from the internal committee, the Tatas would need some more conditions to be fulfilled for the transaction with Jet to fructify.
The group is likely to insist on Goyal selling his entire 51 per cent stake in the airline and relinquishing the board positions held by him and his family. More than anything else, any decision on Jet is likely to hinge on what Tata Trusts Chairman Ratan Tata has to say on the matter, said a source.
Plan to buy beleaguered Jet Airways flies into rough winds with Tata bosses The recent board meeting of Tata Sons discussed whether the proposed acquisition would fit into the group’s overall strategy, especially in relation to aviation. The Tatas and Singapore Airlines have already invested Rs 20 billion in Vistara (the largest single equity infusion ever) to support its expansion plan. Scaling up business is a priority but a few board members are believed to have expressed doubts over the proposed acquisition of Jet. In pursuit of scaling up, when the Tatas did not go for Air India, what is the need to buy Jet.
A source said Jet’s high debt and regulatory issues such as inquiries by several ministries and government agencies over the years also weighed in.
Jet had a debt of Rs 84 billion as of end-September, including Rs 18 billion of aircraft-related debt. The airline was trying to sell and lease back its Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 planes to pare down debt, but large repayment is an area of concern.
In addition, there could be operational concerns as well.
For instance, Tata’s joint venture (JV) partner in Vistara, Singapore Airlines, would like to tread cautiously on the deal. If the deal were to mature, the Tatas would want to merge Jet with Vistara. Tatas run two joint airlines in India — Vistara in partnership with Singapore Airlines and AirAsia India with Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad. Fleet alignment could come in the way too. Vistara operates an all-Airbus A320 fleet, while Boeing 737 is the mainstay of Jet’s fleet.
Vistara is a 51:49 per cent JV between the Tatas and Singapore Airlines. According to the civil aviation ministry, Tata Singapore Airlines (Vistara) is an Indian controlled entity. However, the Federation of Indian Airlines, or FIA (of which Jet Airways is a part) has challenged the grant of permit to Vistara in the Delhi High Court. Among other things, the FIA has alleged that Vistara is controlled by Singapore Airlines and that litigation is still pending.
Simone Reis, co-head M&A practice at Nishith Desai Associates, said, “Foreign airlines investing in an Indian company cannot hold more than 49 per cent (under the government route) and control of such company must be with Indian residents. In the absence of specific restrictions, any downstream investment by such an Indian company (including in another airline company) should be considered Indian. Should the original government approval permitting the airline to invest have conditionalities (including how the Indian JV company will invest going further), those will have to be taken into consideration.”
Analysts believe the Tatas will not rush into an acquisition and will drive down the purchase price by prolonging the transaction.
Advance tax ruling casts shadow over IT firms on possible tax liability
Bengaluru : A recent advance ruling by tax authorities, making back-office services provided by a company to global firms taxable under the goods and services tax (GST), has sent shock waves through the information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing industry.
While the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) has come out strongly against the ruling demanding clarity, tax experts are of the opinion that it will open up a Pandora’s Box, leading to litigation in the coming days.
Though an advance ruling is only applicable to the applicant party and cannot be considered a precedent for future rulings, the IT/IT enabled services (ITeS) industry is worried the interpretation of the ruling may result in losing tax benefits that the sector is currently enjoying, as its services have been categorised as exports.
“The recent ruling by the Authority of Advance Rulings (AAR) – in the case of M/s Vservglobal – has taken the industry by surprise as it seeks to treat services provided on ‘own account’ basis as ‘intermediary’ services,” Nasscom said in a statement on Monday.
“This could lead to unwarranted disputes and uncertainty in case of exports as once a service is treated as ‘intermediary’ under the GST, these would not qualify as export even if they are rendered to overseas entities,” the industry body added.
According to the AAR ruling, back-office support services qualify as intermediary services and not exports. This means, all the IT services players and business process management firms, along with global in-house centres (GICs) of multinational firms, will now be liable to pay 18 per cent GST on their services.
Since India is a large hub for exports of an array of ITeS with exports of over $126 billion in 2017-18, the ruling can result in substantial tax demand against all the big players. Apart from IT and ITeS players, this will also have a direct impact on more than 500 GICs in the country, which cumulatively employ more than 350,000 people.
“If the implication of this ruling is not suitably clarified, it will make our companies non-competitive in the global market, potentially resulting in loss of revenue, jobs, and customers,” Nasscom said.
According to legal experts, though the verdict is an advance ruling, lack of clarity on the categorisation of services will create confusion in the IT industry.
“In case of an intermediary services contract, usually three parties are involved. Now, if the companies working in the IT services space are party to any such tripartite contract, that amount of service can be interpreted as intermediary services and will be liable to taxation,” said Gyanendra Tripathi, partner (tax & regulatory services) at global audit firm, EY.
He, however, added there are legal remedies available against the ruling, as they can be challenged before the appellate authority.
Other tax consultants working in the corporate tax domain said companies should not jump the gun fearing tax demand from retrospective period, as interpretation of tax law is very case specific.
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