Today’s monetary policy was as aggressively accommodative as possible without cutting the policy rate. The decision to remain accommodative for an extended period and to look through “transient humps” in inflation reveals an appreciation for the basic principles of economics –that a GDP contraction of 9.5 per cent is simply not compatible with demand-side inflation pressures. If inflation has persisted over the RBI’s target limit, it has been driven by persistent supply-side problems. Persistence itself cannot transform a supply-driven problem to a demand-side concern amenable to monetary policy-driven containment. Given the stance, there is a significant probability of a rate cut in February, if not in December itself as inflation, as we expect, moderates.
The highlight of the policy was the RBI’s signal that it would “do whatever it takes” (a phrase immortalized by former European Central Bank Governor Mario Draghi) to align risk-free government bond yields with the fundamentals of the economy. This involved key changes such as an increase in the size of Open Market Operations and innovations like OMOs in State Government Bonds. Were these measures to succeed, as we expect them to, the upward pressure on yields that have built up on the back of heavily anticipated supply of central and state government bonds is likely to moderate.
Has the RBI gone overboard in its effort to support growth? We think not. These are unprecedented times and the Indian economy’s revival efforts are hobbled by the lack of adequate fiscal support. If monetary policy does have to do the heavy lifting, it cannot do it within the confines of a conventional “take-no-risks” framework. Conservatives will fret over both inflation and financial stability risks given the combination of a liquidity glut and an effective dilution of prudential norms for things like home loans. We believe it’s a risk worth taking.