Risks to current account deficit remain

Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Mar 1 2011, 07:05am hrs
The risks to Indias current account deficit widening remain, Subir Gokarn, deputy governor, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), told reporters in Mumbai on Monday. Gokarn added that the Budget proposal addressed the vulnerability of inflows. However, Gokarn said, RBI's preference for debt inflows in the least.

The deputy governor observed that the governments borrowing plan for the next fiscal year, starting in April, 2011, does not pose a challenge. There will be no pressure in managing the government borrowing programme.'' Fiscal consolidation is moving in the right direction, and the borrowing plan doesnt pose a challenge, Gokarn said, adding that the borrowing calendar for 2011-12 would be drawn up in March in consultation with the government.

Speaking on inflation, Gokarn said that the inflation outlook hasn't changed after the budget and that the budget recognises the structural nature of food inflation. In its quarterly monetary policy review in the last week of January, the RBI had raised its inflation projection to 7% from 5.5%. The RBI which has raised its key policy rate, the repo rate, benchmark repurchase rate seven times in the past year to 6.5%, signalled more increases on January, 25, 2011, as it urged the government to cut subsidies and tighten the fiscal policy alongside rising borrowing costs to defeat inflation.

Gokarn observed that, the liquidity situation in financial year 2012 will be less volatile. With the RBI encouraging liquidity to be just adequate banks have been resorting to borrowing from the central banks special liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) windows. While the amount accessed has fallen over the past month or so, there have been a couple of occasions even in recent weeks, when banks borrowed Rs one lakh crore from the special LAF windows.

Moreover, Gokarn observed that the budget proposals would facilitate infrastructure financing. The government has proposed the setting infrastructure funds to attract foreign investors and has lowered the withholding tax to 5% from 20%. Moreover, the government has allowed foreign investors to invest an additional $20 billion in infrastructure bonds with a residual maturity of five years.

The governments proposed capitalisation of public sector banks, the deputy governor said, would add stability to the system. He also added that the RBI is line with the time frame for new bank norms. The finance minister, in his budget speech, said the central bank would issue final guidelines on permitting new private players in the banking space by March 2011.

The net market borrowing of the Central government through issue of dated securities in 2011-12 is estimated to be Rs 3.43 lakh crore. The gross market borrowing in the 2011-12 budget estimate is placed at Rs 4.17 lakh crore, taking into account scheduled repayment of Rs 74,128 crore, as per the budget documents. "Taking into account the various other financing items for fiscal deficit, the net market borrowing of the government in 2011-12 would be Rs 3.43 lakh crore," the finance minster said on Monday. In addition, Rs 15,000 crore is proposed to be financed through Treasury Bills, he said. Accordingly, the government debt as a proportion of GDP is estimated at 44.2% for 2011-12 as against 52.5% recommended by the 13th Finance Commission, he added.