Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda: Who pays for low rupee volatility?

Who pays for low rupee volatility?

The recent high volatility in the rupee market is likely to continue in the months to come. This is an outcome of the RBI running into its limits of sterilised intervention. As the cost of sterilisation rises, the pressure on the RBI to step away from purchasing dollars and pushing more liquidity into the system will grow. As the latest RBI bulletin shows, the biggest event on the monetary policy front in February was not the public announcements made by RBI officials. It was the currency trading done behind the scenes. The RBI purchased dollars worth $11.9 billion, thus pumping liquidity into the economy. In other words, the monetary tightening is largely lip service to the cause of fighting inflation. While firms and households will find their interest burden and credit contraction painful, it is unlikely that the rate hikes will do much to quell inflation unless the behind-the-scenes story of dollar purchases also aligns itself to the same effect.

Why should ordinary people pay the cost for exchange rate stability? Firms and exporters, who have foreign currency exposures and who would suffer if the exchange rate moves, should be encouraged to hedge their own risk। A vibrant currency futures market will help. The emergence of such a market in Dubai shows that the demand for such hedging instruments is strong. To provide low exchange rate volatility as a public good to them, paid for by the entire economy at high cost, is bad policy. Moreover, it is unsustainable, because firms and households who end up bearing the cost of ‘hedging’ on behalf of exporters are not going to endlessly accept this as a happy equilibrium state. Then argument is being made that the higher volatility in the rupee should be countered by greater capital controls which would reduce RBI intervention, its sterilisation measures included. To solve the challenges to monetary policy posed by the ‘impossible trinity’ through capital account restrictions will be a setback to reforms. India should be moving forward and developing financial markets that its globalising economy needs. It should not solve these problems by trying to go back to the past.hey will protest.


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