Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Targeting inflation at 4 percent

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seems to have finally taken the responsibility of targeting inflation as it is a sensitive political issue and could not be left to the discretion of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). With CPI as the anchor, the target will be 4 percent measured annually (+/-2 percent).

Inflation has been a bone of contention for nearly three years now. The RBI has kept the repo rate a wee bit above inflation rate on the supposition that inflation will go down and growth will follow. But the finance ministry wanted the interest rate to be low enough to stimulate growth, which has almost halved in the past two years. The RBI had the upper hand in deciding interest policy because it enjoys autonomy and need not go by the insinuations of the finance ministry.

With a new government at the centre, perceptions have also changed. Picking on the RBI’s suggestion made way back in January, the finance ministry has proposed to decide the inflation target.

Surely, the government has an ear on the pulse of the people and can assess what level of inflation would be acceptable. An average of 4 percent inflation would mean that the repo rate would be 5-6 percent and bank credit 7-8 percent. That should create the right environment for growth.

Why inflation is so persistent

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Inflation has been high for nearly four years and has not responded to the policies of the Reserve Bank of India or the central government. This is because the kind of inflation that we have is of an unusual variety and cannot be checked by conventional means.

It is important to look at the numbers. In July, the consumer price index (CPI) was up 8 percent and threatens to crawl up further after a deficient monsoon. That’s because 68 percent of the increase in CPI comes from food.

Why the RBI raised interest rates

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised interest rates at its review on Jan 28. The justification usually given for doing so is inflation.

But at its previous review, when inflation had soared, the RBI was passive and left rates unchanged. Now, with wholesale price inflation (WPI) slowing to 6.16 percent, the RBI was quick to raise the repo rate by 25 bps back to its highest level since the 2008 crisis. Why?

Which inflation should the RBI target?

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining price and financial stability, and it has used interest rate and money supply to pursue this objective with unwavering determination. Yet, inflation has survived with matching persistence.

The index that the RBI uses to target inflation is the wholesale price index (WPI), which is the combined price of a commodity basket comprising 676 items. A few prices in this basket can be too volatile or outside the scope of the RBI’s monetary policy, leading to poor results.

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