RBI cuts repo rate cut by 75 bps to 4.4%, CRR by 100 bps to 3%: Full statement

NEW DELHI: Calling the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic an ”unprecedented threat and invisible assassin”, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday (March 27, 2020) cut the Repo Rate by 75 basis points to 4.4 per cent and slashed Reverse Repo Rate by 90 basis points to 4 per cent as part of measures to ease the pain on banks and industries which are suffering from the 21-day lockdown.

This was announced by RBI Governor who said, “Repo rate has been reduced by 75 basis points to 4.4.%. Reverse repo-rate reduced by 90 basis points to 4%.’’ He added that the RBI Monetary policy committee voted 4:2 majority to cut 75 basis points to 4.4 pc during its meeting between March 25-27.

He further informed that the Cash Reserve Ratio of all banks has been reduced by 100 basis point to 3% from March 28, 2020 for a period of 1 year. This will release 1.37 lakh crore.
Describing the Coronavirus pandemic as an ”invisible assassin”, the RBI chief said that all these measures will release 3.74 lakh crore into the system and ease pressure on the banks.
Here’s the full statement of the RBI chief:

Governor’s Statement – Seventh Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement,
2019-20, March 27, 2020

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to advance its meeting scheduled for 31st March, 1st and 3rd April 2020. It met on 24th, 26th and 27th March and undertook a careful evaluation of the current and evolving macroeconomic and financial conditions, and the outlook. I wish to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the MPC members for their swift response to the unprecedented situation and for their valuable contribution to the monetary policy decision taken today. I also wish to thank our teams in the RBI for their continued high-quality support to the MPC’s work through their hard work, research and logistics.

2. After extensive discussions, the MPC voted unanimously for a sizeable reduction in the policy repo rate and for maintaining the accommodative stance of monetary policy as long as necessary to revive growth, mitigate the impact of COVID-19, while ensuring that inflation remains within the target. While there were some differences in the quantum of reduction, the MPC voted with a 4-2 majority to reduce the policy rate by 75 basis points to 4.4 per cent.

3. Simultaneously, the fixed rate reverse repo rate, which sets the floor of the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) corridor, was reduced by 90 basis points to 4.0 per cent, thus creating an asymmetrical corridor. The purpose of this measure relating to reverse repo rate is to make it relatively unattractive for banks to passively deposit funds with the Reserve Bank and instead, to use these funds for on-lending to productive sectors of the economy. It may be recalled that during the month of March so far, banks have been parking close to 32 lakh crore on a daily average basis under the reverse repo, even as the growth of bank credit has been steadily slowing down.

4. This decision and its advancement has been warranted by the destructive force of the corona virus. It is intended to (a) mitigate the negative effects of the virus; (b) revive growth; and above all, (c) preserve financial stability.

5. We are living through an extraordinary and unprecedented situation. Everything hinges on the depth of the COVID-19 outbreak, its spread and its duration. Clearly, a war effort has to be mounted and is being mounted to combat the virus, involving both conventional and unconventional measures in continuous battle-ready mode. Life in the time of COVID-19 has been one of unprecedented loss and isolation. Yet, it is worthwhile to remember that tough times never last; only tough people and tough institutions do.

6. In the recent period, the Reserve Bank has been in action on a daily basis with efforts to alleviate financial stress, build confidence and keep the financial system sound and functioning. Measures taken by the Reserve Bank are given below.

• a cumulative reduction in the policy repo rate of 135 basis points;
• accommodative stance of monetary policy as long as necessary
to revive growth, while keeping inflation within the target.
• two USD buy/sell swap auction of USD 5 billion each conducted
on March 26 and April 23, 2019, injecting liquidity into the banking
system amounting to ₹34,561 crore and ₹34,874 crore,
• seven open market purchases, injecting ₹92,500 crore into the
• four simultaneous purchase and sale of government securities
under Open Market Operations (special OMOs or what is known
3 as operation twist) during December and January (December 23
and 30, 2019 and January 6 and 23, 2020) to ensure better
monetary policy transmission.
• five long term repo operations (LTROs) between February 17
and March 18, 2020 for one-year and three-year tenors
amounting to ₹1,25,000 crore of durable liquidity at reasonable
cost (fixed repo rate).
• exemption on incremental credit disbursed by banks between
January 31-July 31, 2020 on retail loans for automobiles,
residential housing and loans to micro, small and medium
enterprises (MSMEs) from the maintenance of cash reserve ratio
• two 6-month US Dollar sell/buy swap auction providing dollar
liquidity amounting to USD 2.71 billion.
• fine-tuning variable rate repo auctions of ₹50,000 crore and
₹25,000 crore of 8 days and 3 days maturity on March 26 and
March 31, respectively, with standalone primary dealers (SPDs)
allowed to participate.
• fine-tuning variable rate Repo auction of 16-day maturity
amounting to ₹81,585 crore on March 23-24, 2020.
• The amount under the Standing Liquidity Facility (SLF) available
for standalone primary dealers was enhanced from ₹2,800 crore
to ₹10,000 crore on March 24, 2020 and this will be available till
April 17, 2020.

7. Let me assure all that the Reserve Bank is at work and in mission mode, monitoring the evolving financial market and macroeconomic conditions; and calibrating its operations to meet any need for additional liquidity support as well as other measures, as 4 may be warranted. It is our effort to ensure normal functioning of markets, nurture the impulses of growth and preserve financial stability. Incidentally, we have quarantined 150 members of our staff and service providers together with the IT facilitators as a part of our Business Continuity Plan (BCP). The plan was prepared and executed in a matter of days.

8. The MPC noted that global economic activity has come to a near standstill as COVID-19 related lockdowns and social distancing are imposed across a widening swathe of affected countries.
Expectations of a shallow recovery in 2020 from 2019’s decade low in global growth have been dashed. The outlook is now heavily contingent upon the intensity, spread and duration of the pandemic. There is a rising probability that large parts of the global economy will slip into recession.

9. Turning to growth in India, the implied real GDP growth of 4.7 per cent for Q4:2019-20 in the second advance estimates of the National Statistics Office, released in February 2020, within the annual estimate of 5 per cent for the year as a whole is now at risk from the pandemic’s impact on the economy. As regards the outlook for 2020-21, apart from the continuing resilience of agriculture and allied activities, most other sectors of the economy will be adversely impacted by the pandemic, depending upon, I repeat, its intensity, spread and duration. If COVID-19 is prolonged and supply chain disruptions get accentuated, the global slowdown could deepen, with adverse implications for India. The slump in international crude prices could, however, provide some relief in the form of terms of trade gains. Downside risks to growth arise from the spread of COVID-19 and prolonged lockdowns. Upside growth impulses are expected to emanate from monetary, fiscal and other policy measures and the early containment of COVID-19.

10. As regards inflation, the prints for January and February 2020 indicate that actual outcomes for the quarter are running 30 bps above projections, reflecting the onion price shock. Looking ahead, food prices may soften even further under the beneficial effects of the record foodgrains and horticulture production, at least till the onset of the usual summer uptick. Furthermore, the collapse in crude prices should work towards easing both fuel and core inflation pressures, depending on the level of the pass-through to retail prices. As a consequence of COVID-19, aggregate demand may weaken and ease core inflation further. Heightened volatility in financial markets could also have a bearing on inflation. Given this heightened volatility, unprecedented uncertainty and extremely fluid state of affairs, projections of growth and inflation would be heavily contingent on the intensity, spread and duration of COVID-19.
Precisely for these reasons, the MPC refrained from giving out specific growth and inflation numbers.

11. The MPC noted that macroeconomic risks, both on the demand and supply sides, brought on by the pandemic could be severe. The need of the hour is to do whatever is necessary to shield
the domestic economy from the pandemic. Central banks across the world have responded with monetary and regulatory measures – both conventional and unconventional. Governments across the world have unleashed massive fiscal measures, including targeted health services support, to protect economic activity from the impact of the virus. The Government of India has yesterday announced a number of measures. The MPC further noted that the Reserve Bank has taken several measures to inject substantial liquidity in the
system. Nonetheless, the priority is to undertake strong and purposeful action in order to minimise the adverse macroeconomic impact of the pandemic. It also underscored the need for all
stakeholders to fight against the pandemic. Banks and other financial institutions should do all they can to keep credit flowing to economic agents facing financial stress on account of the isolation that the virus has imposed. Market participants should work with regulators like the Reserve Bank and the SEBI to ensure the orderly functioning of markets in their role of price discovery and financial intermediation. Strong fiscal measures are of course critical to deal with the situation.

12. To summarise, COVID-19 stalks the global economy and the
outlook is highly uncertain and negative. Several nations are battling
its exponential contagion; countries are shutting down to prevent
being sucked into that black hole. Authorities all over the world are
mobilising on a massive scale to fight an invisible assassin. India
has locked down. Economic activity and financial markets are under
severe stress. Finance is the lifeline of the economy. Keeping it
flowing is the paramount objective. The time has come for the
Reserve Bank to unleash an array of instruments from its arsenal to
staunch and mitigate the impact of COVID-19, revive growth and,
above all, preserve financial stability. The aggressive action and
stance of the MPC provides a befitting launching pad. In turn, the
configuration of initiatives unveiled in the Statement on
Developmental and Regulatory Policies – which I am now going to
announce – amplify the MPC’s decision and leverages on it as well.
Accordingly, it is appropriate that the MPC’s decision and the
Reserve Bank’s actions be regarded as a comprehensive package
with force multipliers.

13. The developmental and regulatory policies can be broadly
delineated under four categories:

(1) measures to expand liquidity in the system sizeably to
ensure that financial markets and institutions are able to function
normally in the face of COVID-19 related dislocations;
(2) steps to reinforce monetary transmission so that bank
credit flows on easier terms are sustained to all those who have been
affected by the pandemic;
(3) efforts to ease financial stress caused by COVID-19
disruptions by relaxing repayment pressures and improving access
to working capital; and
(4) endeavour to improve the functioning of markets in view of
the high volatility experienced with the onset and spread of the
I. Liquidity Measures

14. A multi-pronged approach, comprising both targeted and
system-wide liquidity provision, has been adopted to ensure that
COVID-19 related liquidity constraints are eased.

Targeted Long Term Repo Operations (TLTRO)

15. Large sell-offs in the domestic equity, bond and forex markets
have intensified redemption pressures. Liquidity premia on
instruments such as corporate bonds, commercial paper and
debentures have surged. Financial conditions for these instruments,
which are used, inter alia, to access working capital in the face of
the slowdown in bank credit, have also tightened. To mitigate the
adverse effects on economic activity leading to pressures on cash
flows across sectors, the Reserve Bank will conduct auctions of
targeted term repos of up to three years tenor of appropriate sizes
for a total amount of up to `1,00,000 crore at a floating rate, linked
to the policy repo rate. Liquidity availed under the scheme by banks
has to be deployed in investment grade corporate bonds,
commercial paper and non-convertible debentures over and above
the outstanding level of their investments in these bonds as on
March 25, 2020. Eligible instruments comprise both primary market
issuances and secondary market purchases, including from mutual
funds and non-banking finance companies. Investments made by
banks under this facility will be classified as held to maturity (HTM)
even in excess of 25 per cent of total investment permitted to be
included in the HTM portfolio. Exposures under this facility will also
not be reckoned under the large exposure framework. The first
auction of `25,000 crore will be conducted today. The relevant
notification is being issued separately.

Cash Reserve Ratio

16. It is observed that, despite ample liquidity in the system, its
distribution is highly asymmetrical across the financial system, and
starkly so within the banking system. To help banks tide over the
disruption caused by COVID-19, it has been decided to reduce the
cash reserve ratio (CRR) of all banks by 100 basis points to 3.0 per
cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) with effect from the
reporting fortnight beginning March 28, 2020 for a period of one
year. This reduction in the CRR would release primary liquidity of
about `1,37,000 crore uniformly across the banking system in
proportion to liabilities of constituents rather than in relation to
holdings of excess SLR.

17. Furthermore, taking cognisance of hardships faced by banks
in terms of social distancing of staff and consequent strains on
reporting requirements, it has been decided to reduce the
requirement of minimum daily CRR balance maintenance from 90
per cent to 80 per cent, effective from the first day of the reporting
fortnight beginning March 28, 2020. This is a one-time dispensation
available up to June 26, 2020.

Marginal Standing Facility
18. In view of the exceptionally high volatility in domestic financial
markets which brings in phases of liquidity stress and to provide
comfort to the banking system, it has been decided to increase the
accommodation under the marginal standing facility (MSF) from 2
per cent of the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) to 3 per cent with
immediate effect. This measure will be applicable up to June 30,
2020. This measure should provide comfort to the banking system
by allowing it to avail an additional ` 1,37,000 crore of liquidity under
the LAF window in times of stress at the reduced MSF rate
announced in the MPC’s resolution.

19. These three measures relating to TLTRO, CRR and MSF will
inject a total liquidity of `3.74 lakh crore to the system.

Widening of the Monetary Policy Rate Corridor

20. In view of persistent excess liquidity, it has been decided to
widen the existing policy rate corridor from 50 bps to 65 bps. Under
the new corridor, the reverse repo rate under the liquidity adjustment
facility (LAF) would be 40 bps lower than the policy repo rate, as
against existing 25 bps. The marginal standing facility (MSF) rate
would continue to be 25 bps above the policy repo rate.

II. Regulation and Supervision

21. Alongside liquidity measures, it is important that steps are
taken to mitigate the burden of debt servicing brought about by
disruptions on account of COVID-19 pandemic. Such steps, in turn,
will go a long way to prevent the transmission of financial stress to
the real economy, and ensure the continuity of viable businesses
and provide relief to borrowers in these extraordinarily troubled
times. These measures include moratorium on term loans; deferring
interest payments on working capital; easing of working capital
financing; deferment of implementation of the net stable funding
ratio; and the last tranche of the capital conservation buffer.

Moratorium on Term Loans

22. All commercial banks (including regional rural banks, small
finance banks and local area banks), co-operative banks, all-India
Financial Institutions, and NBFCs (including housing finance
companies and micro-finance institutions) (“lending institutions”) are
being permitted to allow a moratorium of three months on payment
of instalments in respect of all term loans outstanding as on March
1, 2020.

Deferment of Interest on Working Capital Facilities

23. In respect of working capital facilities sanctioned in the form of
cash credit/overdraft, lending institutions are being permitted to
allow a deferment of three months on payment of interest in respect
of all such facilities outstanding as on March 1, 2020. The
accumulated interest for the period will be paid after the expiry of
the deferment period. The moratorium on term loans and the deferring of interest
payments on working capital will not result in asset classification

Easing of Working Capital Financing

24. In respect of working capital facilities sanctioned in the form of
cash credit/overdraft, lending institutions are allowed to recalculate
drawing power by reducing margins and/or by reassessing the
working capital cycle for the borrowers. Such changes will not result
in asset classification downgrade.

25. The moratorium on term loans, the deferring of interest
payments on working capital and the easing of working capital
financing will not qualify as a default for the purposes of supervisory
reporting and reporting to credit information companies (CICs) by
the lending institutions. Hence, there will be no adverse impact on
the credit history of the beneficiaries.

Deferment of Implementation of Net Stable Funding Ratio

26. The Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR), which reduces funding
risk by requiring banks to fund their activities with sufficiently stable
sources of funding over a time horizon of a year in order to mitigate
the risk of future funding stress, was required to be introduced by
banks in India from April 1, 2020. It has now been decided to defer
the implementation of NSFR by six months to October 1, 2020.

Deferment of Last Tranche of Capital Conservation Buffer

27. The capital conservation buffer (CCB) is designed to ensure
that banks build up capital buffers during normal times (i.e., outside
periods of stress) which can be drawn down as losses are incurred
during a stressed period. Considering the potential stress on account of COVID-19, it has been decided to further defer the implementation of the last tranche of 0.625 per cent of the CCB from March 31, 2020 to September 30, 2020.

III. Financial Markets

28. The measure for financial markets assumes importance in the
context of the increased volatility of the rupee caused by the impact
of Covid-19 on currency markets.
Permitting Banks to Deal in Offshore Non-deliverable

Rupee derivative Markets (Offshore Rupee NDF Markets)

29. The offshore Indian Rupee (INR) derivative market – the NonDeliverable Forward (NDF) market – has been growing rapidly in
recent times. At present, Indian banks are not permitted to
participate in this market, although the benefits of their participation
in the NDF market have been widely recognised. The time is
apposite to improve efficiency of price discovery. Accordingly, banks
in India which operate International Financial Services Centre
(IFSC) Banking Units (IBUs) are being allowed to participate in
the NDF market with effect from June 1, 2020.

30. Since the last MPC meeting of February 2020, the Reserve
Bank has injected liquidity of `2.8 lakh crore through various
instruments, equivalent to 1.4 per cent of our GDP. Together with
the measures announced today, RBI’s liquidity injection works out
to about 3.2 per cent of GDP.

31. The RBI will continue to remain vigilant and take whatever
steps are necessary to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19
and preserve financial stability. As I had stated earlier, all
instruments – conventional and unconventional – are on the table.

32. Before I conclude, let me reiterate that the Indian banking
system is safe and sound. In the recent past, COVID-19 related
volatility in the stock market has impacted share prices of banks as
well, resulting in some panic withdrawal of deposits from a few
private sector banks. It would be fallacious to link share prices to
safety of deposits. As I have mentioned in my earlier interaction with
the media, depositors of commercial banks including private sector
banks need not worry on the safety of their funds. I would, therefore,
urge members of public as well as the public authorities, who have
deposits in private sector banks, not to resort to any panic
withdrawal of their funds.

33. In conclusion, let me say that, in spite of the very challenging
environment, I remain optimistic. It is worthwhile bearing in mind that
the macroeconomic fundamentals of the Indian economy are sound
and, in fact, stronger than what they were in the aftermath of the
global financial crisis – the fiscal deficit and the current account
deficit are now much lower; inflation conditions are relatively benign;
and financial volatility measured by change in stock prices from
recent peaks and average daily change in the exchange rate of the
rupee is distinctly lower. COVID-19 is upon us; but this too shall
pass. We need to remain careful and take all precautionary
measures. I leave you with this comforting thought. Stay clean. Stay
safe. Go digital.