RBI Monetary Policy Committee begins its first meeting

The newly-constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by the Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel to fix the apex bank’s key interest rates began its first meeting here on Monday, ahead of the RBI’s first bi-monthly policy review under new governor.

The deliberations of the six-member committee would be made public along with announcement of the RBI monetary policy review, which is scheduled for 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The six-member MPC has three members nominated by the Union government. If it is divided in its decision, the Governor can use his veto.

Meanwhile, experts said the MPC is unlikely to lower rates at its maiden review as it awaits more data on inflation.

“RBI may choose to wait for some more time before wielding the knife as inflationary trends may accelerate going forward,” Indian rating agency Crisil said in a recent research note.

American agency Fitch group company India Rating (Ind-Ra) said the sharp fall in retail inflation in August has accentuated the rate cut proposition in the next quarter itself, although it has made achievable the RBI’s target of bringing retail price inflation down to five per cent by March 2017.

“But it may be early to rejoice given the baffling behaviour of retail inflation in the past. The cyclical components either aggravate or soften it as is evident from the movement in wholesale prices,” Ind-Ra said.

“Clearly, the fight on the inflation front, particularly food inflation, is far from over,” it added.

India’s annual rate of inflation based on wholesale prices touched a two-year high in August at 3.74 per cent from 3.55 per cent in the month before, official data showed in September.

After rising for the first time in April following 17 straight months of contraction, the WPI has cumulatively risen by 4.45 per cent in the current fiscal up to August, as against 0.23 per cent for the corresponding period in 2015.

Food articles inflation in August increased by 8.23 per cent on year-on-year basis.

Earlier data on the consumer price index had showed that the annual retail inflation had eased by 100 basis points to 5.05 per cent in August.

The government last week named three academics from the country’s top institutions as its nominees. They are Chetan Ghate, Professor at the Indian Statistical Institute; Pami Dua, Director at Delhi School of Economics; and Ravindra Dholakia, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

The elevation of Patel has raised expectations among those who were critical of then Governor Raghuram Rajan for not easing enough the monetary policy by cutting rates, though his moorings are as monetarist as his predecessor and he is considered to attach the same importance to inflation control.

His views on monetary policy were expressed at the time Rajan held rates in the February 2015 review after making an unexpected rate cut a month earlier — the first in nearly two years — as he elaborated on the “important backdrop” to the move, citing the trend of accommodative monetary policies being adopted by developed economies.