Friday, September 21, 2012

Is Inflation Good for Growth?

Published in the business section of www.rediff.com on 21 September, 2012


http://www.rediff.com/business/slide-show/slide-show-1-column-is-inflation-good-for-growth/20120921.htm


In a G-24 Policy brief (2012), Anis Chowdhury (UN-DESA) and Iyanatul Islam (ILO) sum up the Inflation Targeted as well as non-targeted)-Growth debate. From their brief, it can be said that monetary policies targeting inflation may not result in better growth than countries that do not have a policy of targeting Inflation.

They quote Friedman (1973): “Historically, all possible combinations have occurred: inflation with and without [economic] development, no inflation with and without [economic] development”.

A little bit of Inflation is good. But too much is bad. Empirical Analysis of inflation and growth over the past 50-60 years, in multiple nations, have concluded every possible combination of the two variables is possible, which ratifies Friedman's statement.

The monetary policy announced on Monday, left the interest rates unchanged at 8%. However, in a surprise move, the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks were reduced by 25 basis points from 4.75 per cent to 4.50 per cent of their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) which according to RBI is expected to infuse approximately Rs170 billion of primary liquidity into the banking system. While the move will give greater freedom to the banks to lend, the unchanged policy repo rate, may not bring in many takers for the loans.

The Reserve Bank of India has maintained that Inflation is too high for their comfort. The point to note here is that the correlation between interest rate and inflation, in India, in the past 10 years, taking September to September rates, is a very small 0.16 only. On the other hand, they are highly correlated with GDP (-0.31) and stock market performance (-0.60).

In a research done by Muneesh Kapur and Harendra Behera (2012), who were both with the RBI at the time of doing the research, they concluded, " the evidence for both India and other countries suggest that the impact of monetary policy actions on inflation is modest and subject to lags... Despite the monetary tightening by Reserve Bank of India during 2010 and 2011, inflation remained high and this could be attributed to the structural component of food inflation as well as the surge in international commodity prices beginning the second half of 2010 and continuing into the first half of 2011".

Inflation can be controlled by controlling budget deficits and by easing bottlenecks to improve supply, as well. But burgeoning subsidies expenditure by the government and inefficiencies have resulted in an expected fiscal deficit of more than 7%; and if the government fails to raise money by divesting the proposed public sector undertakings in the coming year, it will be a reality.

Because of this, the entire onus of controlling the inflation has fallen on the RBI. Which is having an impact on the growth rate.

The stock market rejoiced on Friday, with the benchmark index (SENSEX) moving up by 443 points as the government, led by Dr. Manmohan Singh, announced a subsidy cut on Diesel and easing the FDI norms for the retail and aviation sectors. Monday was not to be the icing on the cake.

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