Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

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?

Targeting inflation is surely not the sole object of monetary policy. There have been other considerations, though price stability had precedence. The RBI has recognized the need but did not sufficiently facilitate growth in industry and services. That had been the bone of contention between the RBI and the finance ministry.

The RBI maintained that interest rates alone cannot revive growth because it was suppressed by other obstructive factors, mainly delays in government decisions.

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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