Sunday, October 28, 2007

Do away with P Notes - Give us infrastructure

Has the recent crackdown by SEBI on P Notes issued by FIIs been effective? Will it yield the desired fruit – that of controlling copious flows of capital from unidentified or least regulated entities? Well, time will tell.

But RBI still has to deal with its daunting problem. The surging capital inflows continue to pose a policy challenge for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), as it undertakes its mid-term policy review tomorrow, despite some measures taken to contain unregulated inflows. The central bank is unlikely to signal any easing of monetary policy with surplus liquidity in the system, as any lowering of interest rates at this point, could hold upside risks to inflation.

The Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council had estimated that an increase in the forex reserves of the RBI of $26 billion in 2007-08 could be consistent with the current real growth of the economy, moderate monetary expansion ( 17.5 per cent) and a tolerable inflation rate (4 per cent). "In the current financial year up to early October 2007 itself, forex reserves have increased by over $50 billion and tackling this problem is the most crucial policy dilemma," S S Tarapore, former deputy governor, RBI has said.

I often wonder – why not RBI absorb the excess liquidity thro infrastructure bonds and divert the entire corpus exclusively to address India’s appalling infrastructure needs – better Airports, Ports, Dams, Roads and the like… Given the pathetic state of our infrastructure, no sum of money would be found to be `excessive.’ We pay humungous sums anyway by way of Airport tax, fuel surcharge, toll etc. Is it not time we expect something in return…?

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