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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.



‘We look forward to making India a USD 10 trillion economy’: PM Modi




New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday laid out his vision for making India a USD 10 trillion economy, and the third-largest in the world, saying he wants the nation to have countless startups, and be a global leader in electric vehicles.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his five-year tenure had laid a solid economic foundation in the country eradicating the complete policy paralysis that had set in during the last Congress-led UPA regime.

Addressing a business summit organised by a newspaper, PM Modi said, “Total policy paralysis was observed before during the previous Congress-led UPA government. Change is clearly visible today.”


He criticised the runaway inflation, rising Current Account Deficit (CAD) and complete policy paralysis in 2013-14.

BJP-led NDA rule witnessed the highest post-liberalisation growth rate of 7.4 per cent and the lowest inflation of less than 4.5 per cent, PM Modi said.

Reforms like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have laid a solid foundation for higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, he said.

He added: “We look forward to making India a $10 trillion economy and the world’s third-largest economy.”

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Niti Aayog calls for separate debt management agency




Mumbai/New Delhi: A separate Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) to manage the government’s market borrowings and public debt could soon be a reality. The government think-tank Niti Aayog’s Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar on Friday batted for setting up an independent debt management office outside the purview of Reserve Bank of India, saying it was “an idea whose time has come”.

“It is important for this particular office be separate, because then you can pay much more attention on public debt management. That will help the government bring down the cost of its debt,” Kumar said at an event in New Delhi.

According to economists, with a borrowing of Rs 6-7 lakh crore a year, the incremental saving to the government from the PDMA mechanism could be over Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 5,000 crore.


The idea of a public debt management agency, or PDMA, was proposed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his February 2015 Budget speech, though it has not yet been implemented.

At present, the government debt, including market borrowing, is totally managed by the central bank, for which the government has to decide how to segregate different functions in the RBI.

Kumar, however, said, “the government has been very courageous to give the central bank the statutory authority for the inflation targeting. Therefore, who then looks after growth, employment, debt and other legal things etc in the country? I think those are the things that need to be discussed.”

The main focus of the PDMA was to resolve issues relating to conflict of interest as the RBI decides on the key interest rates as well as undertakes buying and selling of government bonds.

According to G Ananth Narayan, Professor at SPJ Institute of Management and Research, “Liquidity management, regulations, intervention, monetary policy and acting as a merchant banker to the government are all different activities. While some people do make a case that there is a need for co-ordination among these activities, one could argue that a dedicated, independent merchant banker could manage the government borrowing programme to the better satisfaction of the government.”

Ajay Manglunia, Executive Vice-President and Head-Fixed Income Advisory at Edelweiss Financial Services, said, “PDMA is a very crucial function, looking at the current complexities with respect to timings, diversification of the investors and linkages the world over. It’s rather more important to have full attention and a dedicated resource for this activity. It is a further step to have a dedicated PDMA cell that would focus on merchant banking for the government.”

The idea of separating public debt management from the Reserve Bank of India was initiated in 1991, and since then, a plethora of reports culminating in the comprehensive Aziz Committee report in September 2008 had vouched for it.

Most OECD countries have already established dedicated debt management units. Several emerging economies like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and South Africa have also restructured and consolidated debt management.

There are three primary reasons commonly cited in economic literature as to why debt and monetary management cannot go together. One, the possibility of keeping interest rates low by the central bank goes against inflation targeting. Second, the issue of financial repression/mandated statutory liquidity ratio for government bonds. Third, the central bank being an owner as well as operator of government securities creates conflict of interest.

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US-China extend trade talks, deadline likely to be pushed back




Washington: US President Donald Trump said a trade summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping was likely to occur next month, and hailed two days of “very good talks” by negotiators.

The talks were extended through Sunday as officials race to reach a deal ahead of a deadline next week when US duty rates are due to rise sharply. But Trump again said he was considering pushing back the deadline for raising tariffs on more than USD 200 billion in Chinese exports. “We expect to have a meeting sometime in a not too distant future,” he said of the meeting with Xi.

“Probably fairly soon in the month of March.” Details remained scant about any concrete progress in the seven-month-old trade war, which has rattled the global markets and prompted stark warnings about the risks to the world economy.


“I think there is a very, very good chance that a deal can be made,” Trump told reporters at the White House on a second day of trade negotiations with Chinese officials.

“If we are doing well, I could see extending that” deadline for the end of the three month tariff truce. And Trump said an agreement on currency manipulation will be included in the trade pact. Officials from Beijing also expressed optimism about a positive outcome.

“From China, we believe that it is very likely that it will happen,” Chinese trade envoy Liu He said, speaking through an interpreter. Global stock markets were higher on expectations the two sides would avoid further deterioration in their trade relations.

Analysts say the two sides are likely to trumpet mutual agreements to resolve the easier parts of the trade dispute — increasing purchases of American goods, more open investment in China and tougher protections for intellectual property and proprietary technology.

The harder parts covering issues like scaling back China’s ambitious industrial strategy for global preeminence, are another question. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, again warned that the US-China trade tensions a “major risk” to world economic growth. Since July, the countries have hit out with tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade.

While the tariffs alone are having “minimal” effect on global trade, they are damaging business confidence and weighing on stock markets, Lagarde told the US radio program Marketplace on Thursday.

“I cross my fingers every morning and my toes every evening because I hope that it is going to end up with a way to fix the system, not break it,” she said.

The IMF has cut its forecast for global growth this year due to the combined impact of the trade war. Beijing reportedly has proposed an increase in its imports of US energy and agricultural exports significantly.

US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue tweeted that China has committed to buying “an additional” 10 million metric tons of soybeans as a “show of good faith,” but he did not give any details or specify the timeframe. Still, a broader deal could be difficult given the US demands for far-reaching structural changes.

Gary Clyde Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said China may have to remove its tariffs in order to increase purchases of US goods, but Trump may feel no pressure to roll back the duties he imposed last year.

“The big surprise would be a complete removal of tariffs by Trump but I’m expecting an asymmetrical removal of tariffs by China in order to get to some of these numbers,” he said.

China’s retaliation has hit US farm exports hard. The US Agriculture Department estimated this month that US soy exports would not turn to their pre-trade war levels for another six years.

William Reinsch, a former senior Treasury official for trade in the administration of President Bill Clinton, told AFP a risk for Trump is whether any agreement holds and the Chinese honor their commitments.

“If it unravels and we have a string of unmet commitments and then US retaliation right before the election, we’re kind of right back where we started,” he said.

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