Sunday, October 25, 2009

CBDT, learn from IRCTC

While some of us may wail over poor internet penetration extending the longevity of high cost off-line systems, IRCTC is proving otherwise. To the uninitiated, IRCTC is India’s online railway reservation facilitator. One look at this report over its results is an eye opener. With the increasing penetration and use of the internet, IRCTC’s ticketing revenue has seen a remarkable increase over the past 3 years ( From Rs 7.04 billion (2006-07) to Rs 17.44 billion (2007-08) and to Rs 39.66 billion last year.

Just wondering. What if CBDT allows Income Tax assesses (and not-yet assesses) to pay a presumptive tax (say a base rate of 10% of total income) online and ask no further questions unless they have incontrovertible proof of evasion? I am sure people will have lesser incentive to evade taxes and that will widen the tax base and reduce the total cost of tax collection which currently is steep and getting steeper.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hardening interest rates...? The US will go belly up.

I am a bit flummoxed by C.Rengarajan’s theory that interest rates may harden.

I think we have to distinguish between short-term interest rates and long-term interest rates. In the US, the Federal Reserve does not really control long term interest rates. They can tweak it occasionally through quantitative easing and through the purchases of 7 / 10 / 30 year bonds but what they control is the short-term interest rates (the Fed fund rates). Hear out Ben Bernanke, and you feel the short-term interest rates will stay low for a very long time. In America the fiscal deficit this year will be around USD 2 trillion and I do not think they can cut the fiscal deficit next year because if they cut it, it will have a negative impact on the economy. So I rather think that the fiscal deficit will stay at this level or in my opinion actually even increase. That will lead the Fed to keep interest rates artificially low because should they increase short-term rates meaningfully then the cost of servicing the government debt in the US will escalate substantially. So I think as far as the eye can see, monetary policies in the US will stay expansionary.
That means US dollar shall remain weak for a very long time and that means most $ funds will find its way to other currencies / asset classes. Liquidity is therefore assured and no bank will have the guts to jack up lending rates because money flow is not going to be tight for quite some time. Then where is the question of rates hardening...?
The bond dealers are in for some rough times. But then they can't do much else except to squeal and crow for hard rates !!!!