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Indian Financial Code: Draft dilutes RBI Governor’s power; can’t veto on policy rate

Proposes a monetary policy committee headed by RBI ‘chairperson’ to decide on rates by majority vote.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: July 24, 2015 11:58:22 am
RBI, monetary policy, RBI monetary policy, Reserve Bank of India, RBI interest rates, RBI governor, RBI governor power, financial sector, finance ministry, Indian Financial Code,  business news, economy news The central bank would also be expected to publish a report every two months on the sources of inflation and the forecast for inflation.

In a major revamp of the financial sector architecture, the finance ministry on Thursday issued a fresh draft of the Indian Financial Code (IFC) that proposed a monetary policy committee headed by the “chairperson” of the Reserve Bank of India to decide on key interest rates by a majority vote.

“Inflation target for each financial year will be determined in terms of the consumer price index by the Central government in consultation with the Reserve Bank every three years,” said the revised draft of the IFC.

Apart from the RBI chairperson, the monetary policy committee (MPC) would consist of five members — one executive member of the Reserve Bank Board nominated by the Reserve Bank Board; one employee of the Reserve Bank nominated by the Reserve Bank chairperson; and four persons appointed by the Central government.

The original draft, too, had proposed the MPC, but the RBI chairperson had power to “supersede the decision” of the committee in “exceptional and unusual circumstances” though decisions normally would be taken by the majority vote. In the revised draft, the chairperson does not enjoy any such power but will have the casting vote in case of tie.

The RBI and the finance ministry have signed a monetary policy framework agreement earlier this year that would include targeting retail inflation for policy rates and an MPC is expected to be set up — possibly during the course of this year. At present, the RBI Governor consults a Technical Advisory Committee on policy rates but he can choose to take an independent decision.

The revised code has also proposed that the Centre can nominate one representative to attend all the meetings of the MPC and take part in deliberations but will not have a casting vote. Further, the MPC must meet once every two months. The central bank would also be expected to publish a report every two months on the sources of inflation and the forecast for inflation. Further, in case, the inflation target is not met, the RBI would be expected to submit a report to the Central government on the reasons.

The revised IFC has been put out by the finance ministry for public comments until August 8. “The modifications mainly relate to: strengthening the regulatory accountability of financial agencies, removing the provision empowering FSAT (Financial Sector Appellate Tribunal) to review Regulations, rulemaking and operational aspects of capital controls, monetary policy framework and composition of the MPC, regulation of systematically important payment system and others, removing the provision of special guidance ,” said a release, adding that The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 2013, (PFRDA Act) and Securities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014 have also been taken into consideration.

The finance ministry is expected to table IFC Bill in the Winter session of Parliament. It will finalise the Code and send it to the ministry of law for legal vetting and then take it to the Union Cabinet for approval.

The IFC was suggested by the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC), set up in 2011, for re-writing the financial sector laws to bring them in harmony with the current requirements.

The Commission, headed by Justice BN Srikrishna, submitted its report in two volumes in 2013, which included the draft law. The revised IFC is also silent on the setting up of a Debt Agency Advisory Council that was proposed in the earlier draft to advise the Public Debt Management Agency. The revised draft has also toned down the FSAT and removed the provision empowering it to review regulations. Additionally, on the issue of capital controls, it said the Centre must make rules in consultation with the RBI.

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