The Indian economy is going through a tough phase. GDP for the first quarter has come at only five percent and this is lower than any poll, forecast or expectation. Drone attacks on Saudi Aramco’s facility in Saudi Arabia have spelt more trouble with Brent crude shooting up 15 percent on Monday. NBFCs continue to struggle as a cash crunch hit IL&FS was forced it to default on interest payment recently. Meanwhile, come October 01, banks will shift to an external benchmark lending rate and there is a debate centred around that too.
RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das sat down with CNBC-TV18’s Latha Venkatesh and took questions on all these topics and more. Here are the top five takeaways from the interview and you can
read and see the full interview here. Growth surprise
India’s economy grew at its slowest pace in over six years in the June quarter. The reading came in at 5 percent. RBI has projected India's GDP for FY20 at 6.9 percent and to achieve this it says that first half (April-September) growth needs to be around 5.8-6.6 percent.
Commenting on the first quarter growth, RBI Governor, Shaktikanta Das admitted that the reading of 5 percent came as a surprise to him. He said, “The numbers definitely look much worse because in the first quarter we had projected 5.8 percent and I think almost everybody had projected not below 5.5 or so. But the number of 5 percent is a surprise.”
He elaborated that the RBI was analysing what exactly happened. He said that right from the February monetary policy committee (MPC) when RBI started cutting the rates by 25 basis points, there were clear signs of a slowdown.”
“…to revive demand, MPC decided to go for a 25 bps rate cut. After that, 4 MPCs, the narrative is very clear. There is a slowdown and we very clearly said that growth seems to be losing traction and therefore, growth is a matter of highest priority”, he explained.
Impact of attack on Saudi Aramco
Drones attacked the world's largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and an oilfield operated by Saudi Aramco early Saturday. The attacks will cut the kingdom’s output by 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd), according to a statement from the state-run oil company and this is more than 5 percent of the total global oil supply.
Reacting to the news, Governor Das said that the Indian central bank was would like to take time to analyse the consequences.
He however added, “There will be an impact on currencies across the world… depending on how long it persists, it will have some impact on the current account deficit and perhaps on fiscal deficit if it lasts longer.”
Das said that a five percent global supply loss would need deeper analysis and he would wait and see how the Aramco authorities put it (production) back in operation.
“Temporarily there will be some impact… whether this temporary effect will last longer, I think the picture will become clearer in the next few days.”
On NBFC crisis
The NBFC (non-banking financial company) crisis has grown deeper and deeper after a cash crunch hit IL&FS and forced it to default on interest payment. The RBI governor shed some light on what the central bank of the country was doing on the issue. He admitted that the central bank was concerned about the situation and informed that it was monitoring the top 50 NBFCs which cover about 70-75 percent of the total loan book.
“We are monitoring about 50 top NBFCs including a few HFCs also which cover roughly about 70-75 percent of the loan outstanding of the banks”, he said.
The RBI governor also said that the central bank was doing a “deep dive” into a few of these cases to gauge the situation better. He said, “We are doing a deep dive to find out more details… otherwise we have the data which comes to us through the Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC). We have that data and we collect additional data that maybe required. Some cases do require further analysis and we are doing that.”
The RBI governor further elaborated, “An RBI team, wherever required, are in touch with the promoters and the management of the NBFCs to see that the repayment obligations and other things are maintained. We are keeping a close watch.”
External benchmark debate
From October 01, banks will move from the marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) regime to external benchmarking. Citibank has already adopted this and other banks are waiting till September end. When asked how the RBI came on board with this decision and were banks being arm twisted in accepting this, Governor Das refuted the suggestion.
He said, “Nobody arm-twisted, at least the RBI did not arm-twist anybody. I am not aware if anybody else arm-twisted.”
He explained that RBI accepts better transmission. “When we reduce the rate, the rate reduction is for the real economy, it should have impact on the real economy and the objective of the rate reduction is that it will have impact on real economy in terms of giving a boost to demand. That will happen only if there is transmission”, he said.
Paytm – Yes Bank speculation
There was speculation that the owners of Paytm bank may take a stake in Yes Bank. However there is a question whether a payment bank will be allowed to hold stake in full service bank, universal bank.
When asked about this the RBI governor said that he did not want to comment on a specific case but reiterated that anybody was free to apply for a banking licence but would have to pass RBI’s fitness test.“Under universal banking, it is on-tap, anybody can apply for a banking licence. RBI has a certain fit and proper criteria. Whoever it is, if he passes the fit and proper criteria he will get a banking licence”, he explained.