RBI’s rate cut signals desire to bolster growth momentum
But MPC fails to flag fiscal slippages, which can hurt private investment
Barely four months after the Reserve Bank of India switched its monetary policy stance to one of “calibrated tightening”, signalling interest rates were set to trend higher, it has reversed direction. Not only did the RBI’s monetary policy committee unanimously opt to revert to a “neutral” posture, but the rate-setting panel unexpectedly decided, by a 4-2 majority, to cut the benchmark repo rate by 25 basis points, to 6.25 per cent. The MPC’s reasoning has been fairly straightforward. With Consumer Price Index-based inflation having continued to slow and projected to stay well below the medium-term target of four per cent till at least the October-December quarter, the MPC saw an opportune moment to pivot to a growth-supportive stance. That there is a need to bolster economic momentum is evident from the RBI’s downward revision of the forecast for growth in the first half of the next fiscal year. The projection has been lowered to a range of 7.2-7.4 per cent, from 7.5 per cent posited in the RBI’s December statement, as moderating global growth and slowing overseas demand add uncertainties to the prevailing domestic imbalances.
Inexplicably, however, the RBI’s policy statement fails to make any mention of its hitherto abiding concern about fiscal prudence. With the Interim Budget showing some slippage from the fiscal roadmap and projecting a budget deficit of 3.4 per cent for both the current financial year and the next, the risk of government borrowing crowding out private investment demand remains tangibly real.
The Hindu, February 8