The revised FSLRC draft has sparked off a debate on the government maiming RBI and enjoying a greater say in the making of India’s monetary policy. Photo: Bloomberg
At first glance, the revised draft of the Indian Financial Code released last week, 853 days after the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) published the first draft, seems to be a balancing act.
It has recommended substantial dilution of the powers of the proposed Financial Sector Appellate Tribunal (FSAT). This will replace the existing Securities Appellate Tribunal and entertain appeals against all financial sector regulators, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), but won’t have the powers to set aside any regulations which the first draft had envisaged. This is good news for the Indian central bank, but the not-so-good news is the composition of the monetary policy committee or MPC that it has proposed.
The latest draft gives the Union government the right to appoint four out of seven MPC members. It also takes away the veto power of the RBI governor even as he will have a casting vote in the event of a tie in the MPC (which can happen if one member is absent at the meeting).
The idea of the veto power of the governor was mooted by the original report of the FSLRC which had spoken about a seven-member MPC, chaired by the RBI governor. While one member will be from the RBI, five independent experts in the field of monetary economics and finance will be appointed by the Union government, it had suggested. Of the five, the appointment of two members will be in consultation with the governor. It had also said that a representative of the central government, without having any voting rights, would participate in the MPC meetings to express the views of the finance ministry. The revised draft has changed the representation of RBI: government ratio in the MPC from 2:5 to 3:4 but dropped the proposed veto power of the governor.
This has sparked off a debate on the government maiming RBI and enjoying a greater say in the making of India’s monetary policy. The fear is politicization of the process as the members chosen by the government are expected to toe the government line, which often has short-term views on growth and inflation.
Even if the government enjoys the power of appointing four of the seven members of the MPC and the RBI governor does not enjoy the veto power, there’s nothing to worry about as long as the credentials of the members are impeccable and they are not serving government officials. Since the minutes of the MPC meeting will be made public, the government will be exposed if it plans to push its agenda through its nominees. Also, not the governor alone but the entire MPC will be held accountable if the inflation target is missed. This means everybody will have a stake and credibility to defend. The new set-up will not dent RBI’s autonomy, but even before it is put in place, the finance ministry should stop expressing its opinion on interest rates.
Tamal Bandyopadhyay, consulting editor of Mint, is adviser to Bandhan Financial Services Pvt. Ltd, India’s newest bank in the making. He is also the author of Sahara: The Untold Story and A Bank for the Buck. Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His Tweeter handle is @tamalbandyo