Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Demon of Demonetisation

In recent RBI history, some highlights: smooth transition to Basel regulations and efficient monetary policy under Bimal Jalan and Rangarajan, global aplomb post-recession under YV Reddy, preventing hyperinflation by Subbarao and taming of the NPAs by Raghuram Rajan. These achievements have put the RBI in prime position among central banks of the world. But the utter lack of planning and monumental mismanagement post-demonetisation by the same institution have tarnished its image.  

Banking operations other than currency operations in the country have almost come to a halt, barring exceptions. Credit is on a downturn. All the rating agencies, including Nomura, have down-rated the economic growth. The road to recovery sans GST is going to be difficult.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Asking the Right Questions on Demonetisation

This is what many in the country – both economists and non-economists – are doing. Strange indeed that fiction should overtake facts when an eminent economist and a popular columnist, Bibek Debroy chose to counter Manmohan Singh-likes that are just handful in the country in a column in the Hindu dated 12th December, '16. The fact is that majority of the population were in support of demonetisation. I demanded for it even in 2011 for three reasons that the PM mentioned. There was one more reason at that time – to contain inflation that was razing at 8.5% then.The fiction is that 98.7% of households have bank accounts that too with the proportions mentioned by him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Doyen Among Journalists No More

To imagine that V. Hanumantha Rao (Vihari) is no more, is hard to imagine. He is a journalist standing tall among the community. Till his last breath he was contributing to the columns. There is no Telugu daily without his article. 45 years of my friendship vanished yesterday to my utter grief.

He introduced the feature articles in Telugu as part of the triumvirate - Potturi Venkateswara Rao and ABK Prasad being the other two when EENADU daily was launched. Till then only the English dailies used to carry the features on editorial page.

When I was Agent (now the Branch Manager) of Agricultural Development Branch, SBI, in 1972, he visited my branch as a UNI correspondent. He inquired of the activities of my branch because ADB was a structural innovation in branch banking of the SBI to serve the farm sector different from the other sectors it used to engage in. After seeing the farmer crowd, he asked me how will the 2000 SF/MF would be financed their crop loans in a week or ten days - as seasonal lending is of utmost importance. I told him that we would be completing the documentation and due diligence process in the villages adopted by the Bank and they were 31 in number. He asked me whether he could accompany me on such visits. I said: yes and next day we started for the villages at 7a.m from my residence.

He saw the bank field staff and me filling up the 9 page application, taking signatures on 9 page document of hypothecation deed, Demand Promissory Note and Take Delivery letter involving no less than 400-odd signatures and thumb impressions ( inn respect of illiterate farmers). We could complete on that day documentation and disbursement of farm loans to the extent of just 50 farmers!

At about 3p.m he left telling that he has to file a story from the office. Next day, June 20, 1972 if I recall right, all the news dailies and weekly tabloids and monthly journals later carried a box item:

'A Farmer has to affix 420 LTI/signatures even to get a Rs.100 loan. B. Yerram Raju, Agent, ADB, confirmed in a village adopted by the SBI ADB in Thagarapuvalasa Block of Bhimunipatnam Taluk.'

My residential phone on that  day started ringing from the day dawn - all calls from the Regional manager, Development Manager (Agriculture), Secretary & Treasurer and so on. The RM asked me to fly to Hyderabad as the Chairman R.K. Talwar wanted me to meet him. I took the Indian Airlines mid-noon flight.

The worry of the Bank top management was that using all the influence, they had published a photo of the inauguration of State Bank Staff College with Y>B. Chavan, the then FM and the Chairman of the Bank and the Principal in the front page of the then widely circulated Deccan Chronicle and right underneath the photo the above box item appeared almost annulling all their PR effort.

The most progressive Chairman that the SBI ever had in post-independence India, discussed with me over lunch the way forward to reduce the misery in such documentation. The solicitors were summoned to the Central Office and the Development Manager Agriculture facilitating documentation was simplified within a month.

VH proved what a journalist could do. He established DNF and published my first book under that banner: Commercial banks and rural development - Issues & Trends in 1981. He has a penchant for statistics and his analysis beats some of the best analysts on the financial dailies even at his 91. What a loss to the world of Telugu journalism? He has established the School of Journalism and produced a large number of responsive journalists.

He was responsible for my subscribing to the columns of Telugu dailies feature articles on subjects of public interest and they are as many as 250 out of my all the other feature articles numbering over 2000. Even 15 days ago he called me up and had a discussion on the fundamentals of GST and its impact on the economy. He wrote a piece on GST in Prajavani next day. A journalist of unparalleled stature exited this world!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Debates, Discussions, Demonetisation and Distress

Debates, Discussions, Demonetisation and Distress

Most discussions and debates on demonetisation have a few things in common: the move is right; it is the worst planned event in India’s economic history; calculations on black money went wrong; and rural masses are in distress unable to meet their daily needs. I am a strong votary of demonetisation. I am, however, not a supporter of complete digitisation or cashless economy. Less cash economy can be a target of gradualism and not maximalism.

Former Governors of RBI, C. Rangarajan, Y.V. Reddy, and Subbarao also lent support to the move in their articulations in the Press and media. Kenneth Rogoff, renowned economist also supported the move, but the mechanism suggested was gradualism and not a sudden action like the currently engineered measure. However, would all these articulations, mine not excluded, alleviate the distress of the vast rural masses?

Both houses of Parliament demanded a discussion, but were unwilling to discuss demonetisation for reasons that the common man was unable to understand. The distress of those who had to bury their dead or had imminent marriages in the family, not to mention the plight labour on daily wages has been immense.