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Ex-RBI chief backs govt's plan to raise $10 bn from first foreign bond sale

Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Bimal Jalan joined the debate on whether or not the nation should go for an offshore bond sale

Vrishti Beniwal | Bloomberg 

Former RBI governor Bimal Jalan
Former RBI governor Bimal Jalan

India’s decision to sell its maiden overseas sovereign bond has been panned by at least two former central bank chiefs, but the government’s plan has just found support in another ex-governor who thinks it’s a good idea.

Former Reserve Bank of India Governor joined the debate on whether or not the nation should go for an offshore bond sale, saying India’s fundamentals supported the case for going ahead with the fund raising.

“At the moment we are in a fortunate position. Our debt to GDP ratio is not very high, exchange rate is stable, and foreign exchange reserves are high,” Jalan said in an interview in New Delhi on Wednesday. “So foreign borrowing, if it’s long term, which it would be, is not a problem.”

Former governors C. Rangarajan and Raghuram Rajan have viewed the plan with skepticism, with the latter saying foreign currency debt has no real benefit and is fraught with risks -- a view echoed by two ex-deputy governors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing resistance from other quarters as well: an ally of his Bharatiya Janata Party described it as “dangerous,” while one of his advisers said he has “grave concerns” about the debt sale.

Critics of the borrowing plan have pointed to India’s current-account deficit, which makes the nation reliant on foreign inflows and vulnerable to swings in investor sentiment and the currency. Many have cited the experience of Latin American countries that issued and ended up creating liabilities.

“Debt of Latin American countries was very high compared to ours,” said Jalan, who is currently heading a panel to study the transfer of RBI’s surplus capital to the government. “Our growth rate is good, investment is good, technology is good. So I have a positive view.”

India is considering an option to raise $10 billion in one go from its first overseas bond sale as early as October, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier. The central bank is in agreement with the plan to raise debt overseas, they said.


To contact the reporter on this story: Vrishti Beniwal in New Delhi at vbeniwal1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net, Karthikeyan Sundaram, Abhay Singh

First Published: Thu, July 25 2019. 10:48 IST
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