Business Standard

~17.2-trillion liquidity bazooka

- SOUMYA KANTI GHOSH

Since the pandemic began, the RBI has made an announced liquidity injection of ~17.2 trillion, or 8.7 per cent of GDP, into the banking system (MPR report, pp82). Of this, the unconventi­onal liquidity measures amount to approx. ~9.1 trillion, implying the residual ~8.1 trillion is mostly convention­al liquidity injection like OMO at ~3.7 trillion. Juxtapose this with nominal GDP loss at ~6.1 trillion for FY21 implying the liquidity injection should ideally be at ~6 trillion (velocity is assumed at one). This indicates the enormity of RBI liquidity management and the markets need to appreciate that the scale down of liquidity overhang from ~17.2 trillion to ~11 trillion is a journey that also must be attained with least disruption!

Interestin­gly, the liquidity management is also hamstrung by the RBI unwinding of forward premia by as much as $23 billion in the last couple of months. If the RBI wants to discourage liquidity injection in lieu of such unwinding, as the MPR notes, the “resultant rollover can trigger a vicious cycle of higher inflows and even further increase in the forward premia”. In fact, in the first half of FY22, the net forex purchases by the RBI were as much as ~3 trillion and the currency leakage contrary to historical trends was also minimal. Given all this, the RBI attempt to bring down the reverse repo to ~3-4 trillion in December from current ~8.8 trillion will be most challengin­g as a large part of such is determined by autonomous liquidity inflows. It must be noted that a large liquidity overhang is inconsiste­nt with a reverse repo rate hike as and when it happens!

We reiterate that the analytical underpinni­ngs of many of the issues discussed in the RBI’S policy statements emanate from RBI Monthly Bulletin and reports like MPR. Therefore, market participan­ts would be better advised to peruse these documents for an informed discussion and debate.

Meanwhile, global recovery has subsided with the rapid spread of the delta variant of Covid-19, including in some countries with high vaccinatio­n rates. Also, as the Federal Reserve calculates its tapering time frame, markets are expected on tenterhook­s. If we add the evolving situation in China, the coming months will only reinforce the volatile trends in the external sector.

On the domestic front, there is still some way to go before growth impulses attain the critical mass. On the inflation side, CPI inflation is projected at 5.3 per cent for FY22.

On the regulatory front, the RBI has continued its agenda of introducin­g technology in the financial system. The measure to introduce digital payment in offline mode enables retail digital payments even in situations where internet connectivi­ty is low. The enhancemen­t of limits under IMPS indicates ticket value under retail payment is rising, indicating wider acceptabil­ity.

In similar vein, setting up of Payments Infrastruc­ture Developmen­t Fund (PIDF) to encourage deployment of acceptance infrastruc­ture and create additional touch points and geo-tagging of touch points will be important in monitoring and scaling of infrastruc­ture in the financial sector. The RBI has also opened its Sandbox for On Tap applicatio­n for themes of cohorts earlier closed. This move will ensure that technology obsolescen­ce is addressed at the earliest.

Overall, the policy has taken a cautious wait-andwatch stance while ensuring domestic recovery is nurtured assiduousl­y through all policy channels.

The author is Group Chief Economic Advisor, State Bank of India. Views are personal

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