ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reflections on Analytical Issues in Monetary Policy

Analytical issues have arisen in the conduct of flexible inflation targeting as the framework of monetary policy, adopted formally by India in 2016, despite the noticeable downward drift in the inflation rate and concerns of many economists about its relevance in the light of the global financial crisis. Issues such as the framework’s rationale, the medium-term inflation target, the meaning of real interest rate in the Indian context, the realism in respect of inflation expectations and of the inferred logic of the yield curve, and the implications for economic inequalities have been pointed out.

How Efficient Are India’s Cooperative Banks?

In spite of their distinct organisational structure and banking philosophy based on mutuality, there is scant evidence on efficiency of cooperative banks. The efficiency of district central cooperative banks in India is investigated by constructing a panel of 297 cooperative banks over the period 2002–14. Using parametric and non-parametric frontier analysis, it is found that efficiency estimates vary depending upon whether advances or investments of DCCBs are used as output. The efficiency of cooperative banking is mapped, and shows considerable variation in efficiency of DCCBs across states. The findings suggest the need for innovative strategies to improve cooperative banking efficiency in the country.

Role of ‘Fintech’ in Financial Inclusion and New Business Models

The convergence of finance and technology to provide financial services by non-financial institutions, popularly known as “fintech,” has come to dominate the financial landscape. Taking stock of this development, its impact and implications for new products, processes and services, including for financial inclusion are examined. The Jan Dhan–Aadhaar–mobile phones trinity provides fertile ground for fintech to permeate to the “last mile.” Notwithstanding its manifold benefits, there is a need to exercise caution in areas such as privacy and ownership of data. In a fast-paced world of rapidly evolving technology and related financial services, regulators have new paradigms to grapple with and therefore, need to be proactive so as to not stifle the growth of this nascent sector.

Money and ‘Demonetisation’

Like in the rest of contemporary capitalism, the Indian monetary system is based on state-backed credit money. Yet this hierarchical system of credit/social relations appears to us as a system of fiat money. This fetish of fiat money, analogous to Marx’s commodity fetish, is produced in the operation of credit system. The institutional and political arrangements of the Indian state amplify this inherent fetish. This conjuncture of elements produces a particularly robust fetish of fiat money in India, giving the Indian state more degrees of freedom over money than other states enjoy, a margin that the current government is now exploiting.

 

Strange and Worrying International Market Liquidity

There seems to be a rise in illusory liquidity in international markets, which appears to be plentiful in quiet times, but vanishes at other times. “Flash crashes” are more frequent. Reforms that have made banks safer have contributed to this, leading to a withdrawal of short-term market participants, and causing long-term investors to act short term. There seems to be a trade-off between day-to-day liquidity and what I call “systemic liquidity.”

Converting Urban Cooperative Banks into Commercial Banks

The debate around the conversion of Scheduled Urban Cooperative Banks into commercial banks warrants an investigation into their performance. The larger objective is to examine whether SUCBs are able to compete with their peer group and remain viable when subjected to stringent regulatory requirements, in the event of their conversion. The performance of SUCBs as a group is comparable with that of their peer group, that is, old private sector banks, with the exception of non-performing assets. Performance rankings reveal that the smaller SUCBs are better performers than larger ones, calling for a relook at the threshold for conversion. In the event of conversion of SUCBs into commercial banks, some of the converted entities will be as good as some of the existing OPSBs, or may even be a shade better.

Public Sector Banks Are Adrift

With credit and deposit growth slowing in key sectors and only retail credit growing, low capital adequacy ratios of banks, senior management changes in the offi ng, and bank mergers, the National Democratic Alliance government needs to ask itself what it envisages for public sector banks, and indeed for the Indian economy.

Regional Divide in Banking Development in Maharashtra

An enquiry into the regional distribution of banking in Maharashtra comparing the rural and urban areas of the state and various divisions and districts dispels the commonly held notion that the state is a well-banked one. The aggregated indicators of banking development conceal the reality of an extremely wide divide in the distribution of banking between the urban and rural areas. This is essentially a reflection of the district-wise divide between Mumbai and the other districts, particularly those from central and eastern Maharashtra or Amravati, Nagpur and Aurangabad divisions, which have been identified in the literature as economically backward districts and have also been associated with a high incidence of agrarian distress in recent times. With a thrust on the policy of financial inclusion since 2005, there has been an increase in the number of bank branches in underbanked districts of the state. However, this increase has not helped in correcting the regional divide in bank credit and hence, most districts other than Mumbai continue to be significantly credit-deprived.

Concentration, Collusion and Corruption in India’s Banks

Why would companies, for whom costs rise with higher interest rates, choose to amass credit as interest rates rise? Were more and more loans taken with the understanding that default would be inevitable? Only a commission of inquiry with a specifi c mandate to understand the years of loose lending by banks in India can answer these and other uncomfortable questions. These answers are needed in the interest of securing our economy, and indeed our democracy.

Not in People's Interest

The politics and economics of interest rate formation in this country must be studied carefully. Lowering the interest rate raises stock prices in an environment where they themselves cannot move up thanks to the fundamentals of the economy that are not conducive.

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