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Before MPC meet, PM Modi advisor says RBI should cut rates

The six-member monetary policy committee's two-day meeting to decide on policy rates will start on Tuesday

Kartik Goyal | Bloomberg 

Ashima Goyal
Ashima Goyal, a member of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council

The Indian central bank’s tendency to overestimate has prevented it from cutting further and cost the economy, according to one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advisors. 

“Their view of the economy doesn’t seem to be correct,” and by keeping rates high, they “have imposed a high output sacrifice,” said Ashima Goyal (pictured), a member of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council. “They believe will rise, but you know their predictions of have always been overestimated.” 

The six-member monetary policy committee’s (MPC’s) two-day meeting to decide on policy rates will start on Tuesday. 

While the central bank’s CPI forecasts are wrong, its notion that keeping rates higher will anchor expectations has also worked against them and proved to be a drag on growth, Goyal said in an interview last week.           

The has room to reduce rates by 100 basis points as CPI will remain within its target range of 4 per cent plus/minus 2 per cent and as India doesn’t need real rates of more than one percent, she said. 

The repo rate, at which the central bank lends money to banks, is at 6 per cent now and economists don’t expect any changes in that, considering is on the rise, according to a Business Standard poll of 10 economists and bond market participants. The retail in October was at 3.58 per cent, and according to many economists polled, the reading could be around 4.5 per cent for the rest of this financial year. The central bank strives to keep at a central point of 4 per cent for the medium term The did not respond to an email or phone call seeking comment. 

“They have been working through the aggregate demand channel to reduce but aggregate demand channel is weak in India,” said Goyal, who earlier served as a member of the RBI’s technical advisory committee on monetary policy. Decreasing aggregate demand, “decreases output, and has the first effect on output and little effect on ” 

The $2.3 trillion economy is likely to grow 6.5 percent this year as consumption and investment remain sluggish, she said. That would be the slowest pace of growth since 2014. Data last week showed gross domestic product grew 6.3 percent in the July-September quarter, rebounding from 5.7 percent in the previous quarter. 

“The recovery is there but it’s not large,” she said. “There are demand constraints. So, therefore, whatever space there is – fiscal, monetary – should be used.” will remain under control due to a “secular downtrend in commodities,” better supply management of pulses by the government, improvements in agricultural marketing and the expectation that will remain lower, she said. “The has over-delivered on its mandate,” said Abhishek Gupta, Mumbai-based India analyst with Bloomberg Economics. “Structural reforms are lifting potential growth, but a tight monetary policy stance by the is restraining consumption and investment demand.”The central bank in April 2014 forecast 8 per cent CPI by January 2015, but the actual reading was 5.2 per cent. Similarly, in April 2015, it predicted CPI at 5.8 per cent by March 2016, while it cooled to 4.83 per cent and in early 2016 when it called for 5 per cent CPI by March 2017, it was 3.89 per cent. 

“Since 2014, when the fell, they have not really believed that this fall is sustainable, they keep expecting to rise and rise,” she said. 

became governor in September 2016, taking over from  

Expectations the central bank will keep on hold in its 6 December  policy decision have weighed on rupee bonds, along with fears of a wider government The yield on the benchmark 10-year sovereign notes climbed four basis points Monday to 7.09 per cent, set for its highest close since Sept. 2016. The rupee gained 0.3 per cent to 64.29 per dollar. 

Goyal is also critical of the central bank’s belief that keeping high will curb inflationary expectations, which she says are guided more by the commodity and food prices. 

“Estimates have shown that oil prices, food prices affect inflationary expectations more than other things, more than high interest rates,” she said. “When you are on a secular downward trend for commodities, shale oil coming in and you have reforms kicking in agriculture, I mean the should have strongly communicated this. I think, it would have helped anchor household expectations.”                        

First Published: Tue, December 05 2017. 00:46 IST