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What is RBI's Monetary Policy?

The Monetary and Credit Policy is the policy statement, traditionally announced twice a year, through which the Reserve Bank of India seeks to ensure price stability for the economy. These factors include - money supply, interest rates and the inflation. In banking and economic terms money supply is referred to as M3 - which indicates the level (stock) of legal currency in the economy. Besides, the RBI also announces norms for the banking and financial sector and the institutions which are governed by it. These would be banks, financial institutions, non-banking financial institutions, Nidhis and primary dealers (money markets) and dealers in the foreign exchange (forex) market.

When is the Monetary Policy announced?

Historically, the Monetary Policy is announced twice a year - a slack season policy (April-September) and a busy season policy (October-March) in accordance with agricultural cycles. These cycles also coincide with the halves of the financial year. Initially, the Reserve Bank of India announced all its monetary measures twice a year in the Monetary and Credit Policy. The Monetary Policy has become dynamic in nature as RBI reserves its right to alter it from time to time, depending on the state of the economy. How-ever,with the share of credit to agriculture coming down and credit towards the industry being granted whole year around, the RBI since 1998-99 has moved in for just one policy in April-end. However a review of the policy does take place later in the year.

How is the Monetary Policy different from the Fiscal Policy?

Two important tools of macroeconomic policy are Monetary Policy and Fiscal Policy. The Monetary Policy regulates the supply of money and the cost and availability of credit in the economy. It deals with both the lending and borrowing rates of interest for commercial banks. The Monetary Policy aims to maintain price stability, full employment and economic growth. The Reserve Bank of India is responsible for formulating and implementing Monetary Policy. It can increase or decrease the supply of currency as well as interest rate, carry out open market operations, control credit and vary the reserve requirements. The Monetary Policy is different from Fiscal Policy as the former brings about a change in the economy by changing money supply and interest rate, whereas fiscal policy is a broader tool with the government.

The Fiscal Policy can be used to overcome recession and control inflation. It may be defined as a deliberate change in government revenue and expenditure to influence the level of national output and prices. For instance, at the time of recession the government can increase expenditures or cut taxes in order to generate demand. On the other hand, the government can reduce its expenditures or raise taxes during inflationary times. Fiscal policy aims at changing aggregate demand by suitable changes in government spending and taxes. The annual Union Budget showcases the government's Fiscal Policy.

What are the objectives of the Monetary Policy?

The objectives are to maintain price stability and ensure adequate flow of credit to the productive sectors of the economy. Stability for the national currency (after looking at prevailing economic conditions), growth in employment and income are also looked into. The monetary policy affects the real sector through long and variable periods while the financial markets are also impacted through short-term implications. Following are the other objectives of monetary policy To maintain an interest rate environment that moderates inflation and anchors inflation expectations. To foster an environment of price stability that is conducive to sustaining growth in the medium-term, coupled with financial stability. To manage liquidity to ensure that it remains broadly in balance, with neither a large surplus neither diluting monetary transmission nor a large deficit choking off fund flows. There are four main 'channels' which the RBI looks at:

Quantum channel: money supply and credit (affects real output and price level through changes in reserves money, money supply and credit aggregates). Interest rate channel. Exchange rate channel (linked to the currency). Asset price.

All this is more linked to the banking sector. How does the Monetary Policy impact the individual?
In recent years, the policy had gained in importance due to announcements in the interest rates. Earlier, depending on the rates announced by the RBI, the interest costs of banks would immediately either increase or decrease. A reduction in interest rates would force banks to lower their lending rates and borrowing rates. So if you want to place a deposit with a bank or take a loan, it would offer it at a lower rate of interest. On the other hand, if there were to be an increase in interest rates, banks would immediately increase their lending and borrowing rates. Since the rates of interest affect the borrowing costs of corporates and as a result, their bottom lines (profits), the monetary policy is very important to them also. Since the financial sector reforms commenced, the RBI has moved towards a market-determined interest rate scenario. This means that banks are free to decide on interest rates on term deposits and loans. Being the central bank, however, the RBI would have a say and determine direction on interest rates as it is an important tool to control inflation. The bank rate is a tool used by RBI for this purpose as it refinances banks at the this rate. In other words, the bank rate is the rate at which banks borrow from the RBI.

Some Monetary Policy terms: Bank Rate

Bank rate is the minimum rate at which the central bank provides loans to the commercial banks. It is also called the discount rate. Usually, an increase in bank rate results in commercial banks increasing their lending rates. Changes in bank rate affect credit creation by banks through altering the cost of credit.

Cash Reserve Ratio

All commercial banks are required to keep a certain amount of its deposits in cash with RBI. This percentage is called the cash reserve ratio. The current CRR requirement is 8 per cent.

Money Supply (M3)

This refers to the total volume of money circulating in the economy, and conventionally comprises currency with the public and demand deposits (current account + savings account) with the public. The RBI has adopted four concepts of measuring money supply. The first one is M1, which equals the sum of currency with the public, demand deposits with the public and other deposits with the public. Simply put M1 includes all coins and notes in circulation, and personal current accounts. The second, M2, is a measure of money, supply, including M1, plus personal deposit accounts - plus government deposits and deposits in currencies other than rupee. The third concept M3 or the broad money concept, as it is also known, is quite popular. M3 includes net time deposits (fixed deposits), savings deposits with post office saving banks and all the components of M1.

Statutory Liquidity Ratio

Banks in India are required to maintain 25 per cent of their demand and time liabilities in government securities and certain approved securities. These are collectively known as SLR securities. The buying and selling of these securities laid the foundations of the 1992 Harshad Mehta scam.

Repo Rate
A repurchase agreement or ready forward deal is a secured short-term (usually 15 days) loan by one bank to another against government securities. Legally, the borrower sells the securities to the lending bank for cash, with the stipulation that at the end of the borrowing term, it will buy back the securities at a slightly higher price, the difference in price representing the interest.

Open Market Operations

An important instrument of credit control, the Reserve Bank of India purchases and sells securities in open market operations. In times of inflation, RBI sells securities to mop up the excess money in the market. Similarly, to increase the supply of money, RBI purchases securities.

Reverse Repo rate

Reverse Repo rate is the rate at which RBI borrows money from banks. Banks are always happy to lend money to RBI since their money are in safe hands with a good interest. An increase in Reverse repo rate can cause the banks to transfer more funds to RBI due to this attractive interest rates. It can cause the money to be drawn out of the banking system.

Highlights of the monetary policy 2011-12

Repo Rate hiked by 50 bps from 6.75% to 7.25% Reverse repo hiked by 50 bps from 5.75% to 6.25% Bank rate remains unchanged at 6% CRR remains unchanged at 6% of NDTL MSF rate set at 8.25% Saving account rate hiked from 3.5% to 4% (with an immediate effect) M3 growth is placed at 16% for FY12. Aggregate deposits of SCBs are projected to grow by 17% in FY12 Non-food credit of SCBs is projected at 19% in FY12