A hawkish Reserve Bank of India (RBI), while staying away from hiking key rates like repo or reverse repo, hiked the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) to 25% from 24%. The cash reserve ratio (CRR), the minimum amount banks need to park with the RBI, was also left unchanged. Repo and reverse repo are rates at which the RBI lends to banks and vice versa while SLR is the minimum amount of cash, gold or bonds banks need to maintain with themselves.
By hiking the SLR, the RBI may be signalling its leaning towards tightening the accommodative monetary policy.
Late last year and during early 2009, the RBI and the government of India introduced various measures including cutting rates and releasing stimulus packages to boost lending and demand in the economy.
Inflation target upped
While the excess liquidity in the system may have succeeded in turning the economy back on the recovery track, it could be meet its first after-effect in the form of rising inflation soon. In fact, in the mid-term review, the RBI increased its March-end wholesale price index (WPI) inflation estimate to 6.5% with an upward bias, revised from its earlier target of 5%.
The estimate for FY10 gross domestic product (GDP) growth was left unchanged at 6.0% with an upward bias.
Also, the central bank cut its FY10 credit growth target to 18% from 20% that it had set in the July monetary policy review.
Realty loans tougher
Among one of the discernible decisions that the RBI took in its review, it increased the provisioning requirement for advances to the commercial real estate sector classified as ‘standard assets’ from the present level of 0.40% to 1%, a move that makes lending to the sector tougher. “In view of large increase in credit to the commercial real estate sector over the last one year and the extent of restructured advances in this sector, it would be prudent to build cushion against likely non-performing assets,” the RBI said.
“There has been a discernible improvement in the global economic outlook since the First Quarter Review in July 2009,” RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao said, in his review statement. “In India too, there are definitive indications of the economy reverting to the growth track. Accordingly, attention around the world, as also in India, has shifted from managing the crisis to managing the recovery.”
Subbarao admitted that India faced a unique dilemma that developed nations did not face — that of inflation: “First, most of these countries do not face an immediate risk of inflation. Indeed, in several advanced economies, the concerns were about a possible deflation, which are just about waning. On the other hand, India is actively confronted with an upturn in inflation.”
The governor said that, around the world, timing an exit from the stimulus packages was leading to an “active and animated” debate. “The ‘exit’ is a central issue in our policy matrix too. As the Reserve Bank has indicated in several public statements, our current monetary stance is not the steady state and we need to reverse the expansionary stance,” he noted as made cases for both beginning and deferring the reversing of monetary easing.
Reacting to the monetary policy, HDFC Bank’s Chief Economist Abheek Barua said the hike in SLR would support the large borrowing programme of the Centre and states. “I see the RBI hiking the CRR in December 2009 or January 2010,” he said.
The RBI upping the provision for lending to real estate will affect affordable housing, realty projects, HDIL said. “We will have to up prices to nullify the RBI hike,” a clearly distraught HDIL told CNBC-TV18.
— With inputs from CNBC-TV18 and agencies