In its sixth bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement for 2017-18, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has kept the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.0 per cent. Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains at 5.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 per cent.
The decision of the MPC is consistent with the neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth.
The MPC noted that the inflation outlook is clouded by several uncertainties on the upside. “First, the staggered impact of HRA increases by various state governments may push up headline inflation further over the baseline in 2018-19, and potentially induce second-round effects. Second, a pick-up in global growth may exert further pressure on crude oil and commodity prices with implications for domestic inflation. Third, the Union Budget 2018-19 has proposed revised guidelines for arriving at the minimum support prices (MSPs) for kharif crops, although the exact magnitude of its impact on inflation cannot be fully assessed at this stage. Fourth, the Union Budget has also proposed an increase in customs duty on a number of items. Fifth, fiscal slippage as indicated in the Union Budget could impinge on the inflation outlook. Apart from the direct impact on inflation, fiscal slippage has broader macro-financial implications, notably on economy-wide costs of borrowing which have already started to rise. This may feed into inflation. Sixth, the confluence of domestic fiscal developments and normalisation of monetary policy by major advanced economies could further adversely impact financing conditions and undermine the confidence of external investors. There is, therefore, need for vigilance around the evolving inflation scenario in the coming months,” RBI said in its announcement.
Listing the mitigating factors, RBI said, the capacity utilisation remains subdued. It added that oil prices have moved both ways in the recent period and can potentially soften from current levels based on production response. Third, rural real wage growth is moderate.
The MPC noted that the Indian economy is on a recovery path, including early signs of a revival of investment activity. Global demand is improving, which should help strengthen domestic investment activity. The focus of the Union Budget on the rural and infrastructure sectors is also a welcome development as it would support rural incomes and investment, and in turn provide a further push to aggregate demand and economic activity. On the downside, the deterioration in public finances risks crowding out of private financing and investment.
“The Committee is of the view that the nascent recovery needs to be carefully nurtured and growth put on a sustainably higher path through conducive and stable macro-financial management,” RBI said.