Stinks to High Heaven: Air India Bailed Out by Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India

Against a backdrop of rising concerns over NPAs in the banking system, it was reported that Air India was looking at the possibility of availing a new scheme, the Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A), to rejig debt to the tune of a minimum of Rs 100 Bn. Since 2012, the airline has been on a life support with a Rs 300 Bn bailout package from the government, spread over ten years. In fact, this may be one of the biggest sums that LIC has ever loaned out till date: this new loan to Air India of Rs 100 Bn (If that number is correct), will grow its loan book by an enormous 9.26%.

Who reported this? A Secret deal? Was it leaked?

Since, at the time of writing, Air India has made available annual reports only until FY 2013-14, all the financial figures and plans of rejig coming out in the newspapers, if true, are very likely being leaked from Air India/ Civil Aviation Ministry itself, and being dealings in material non-public information, this constitutes a situation of non-uniform dissemination of sensitive information, and possible violation of securities law.


Indeed, the public sector bank index was up by a chunky 1.5% today, being the first day since the story broke, with two of the three stocks mentioned in the story (Bank of India, Bank of Baroda) up over a per cent and the third stock (Punjab National Bank) within 3% of its 52-week high.

Best of socialism at its worst?

There are many facets to this development that stink to high heaven. As Firstpost pointed out – Why the bailout when it was already turning around? It has also been queried before on multiple occasions when LIC was bailing out public sector Companies and investing aggressively in public sector disinvestments, who has the authority to approve this and why isn’t there a public outcry? And all this for a saving of Rs 3 Bn (A 3% saving on Rs 100 Bn), which Air India could save anyway by paying its fuel bills on time, as has been reported here by the Business Standard.

Hypocrisy unlimited

Arun Jaitley: “LIC is not a body which invests only to bailout the government in disinvestment. In issues by private companies, LIC also participates.”

That’s right. The (dis)honorable Finance Minister had agreed, last year, that LIC bails out & bails out repeatedly. And that LIC, with the public’s insurance money, routinely bails out private Companies too!

The government speaks highly of transparency and accountability, yet hijacks the public treasury to bail out desperate banks and monopolies, placing an incremental debt burden on the public.

Here’s another quote from ex- Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha, a senior leader of the current ruling party, while he was in opposition in March 2012, around the time LIC bailed out ONGC’s disinvestment auction with an unnecessarily high-priced bid:

“LIC is a captive source of funds for the government. They have misused the status of LIC to misappropriate policyholders’ money and brought it to the government’s coffers through the ONGC disinvestment.”

Now that his party is engaged in the same treasonous act, in his own words, a “daylight robbery”, I’m sure he will stand up for the public and do everything in his power to stop this transaction.

Fat chance!

A case of honest kleptocracy

But the Bullish Bear wouldn’t write this if there wasn’t a silver lining to this all. There is an honest side to this, y’kno.

This bailout has proved that the government can openly rob the public of its money, via the LIC, to bail out bankrupt Companies.

Such instances of naked cronyism can at least serve to warn the public that their savings and insurance are at risk. The Life Insurance Corporation of India is not a safe house, nor are any of these banks offering 4-7% return on savings, making loans to extremely indebted Companies while maintaining tier-I ratios of just 10%.

Related reading: Debt-ridden Government makes more claims on LIC (NDTV Profit) >>

This amounts to a rather more transparent & direct socialistic involuntary bailout. Which is bad no doubt, but incrementally better than an indirect socialistic involuntary bailout! As Canadian billionaire and philanthropist Eric Sprott warned, “Whenever you think of the word bank, you should think risk.”

For a brief education on bailouts funded with public money, it can’t get any better than this short video segment, in which Peter Schiff, an Austrian economist and a guru & mentor to yours truly, lambasts a pitch for a government sponsored bailout of American car manufacturers by Lansing, Michigan Mayor Virg Bernero on live television! “If you think these Companies are such good investments, you put your own money into it!”

In conclusion

As mentioned previously, the Bullish Bear is an ardent fan of free markets and open competition. Yet, I have sympathy with Air India’s Chairman & Managing Director, Ashwani Lohani. Coming from the head of a public sector enterprise, these are astonishing words, admitting that a public sector entity does not really care about the delivery of its services. Although he does shy away from writing the public sector off completely, the Bullish Bear believes that he is headed in the right direction!

“Often my airline is questioned on its inability to match the private sector on various operating parameters, and this is unfortunately always done without due appreciation of the fundamental reality that there is no level-playing field… A course correction is the need of the hour, for contrary to what many may think, the public sector has still not lost its relevance in entirety… Unless and until we all, and that includes the mighty government machinery, start believing in the supremacy of deliverance over everything else, such dilemmas would always continue.”

Source: The Australian

Review of Under Fire BHP Billiton’s 2016 AGM: Jac Nasser to Leave on a Sorry Note

The Samarco dam disaster in Brazil continued to take its toll on BHP with the pending exit of Chairman Jac Nasser now confirmed. The disaster took place on November 5th, 2015, killing 19 people, and has been well documented here for its initial impact, here where the flooded vicinities are shown, and here documenting how protestors and representatives of victims of BHP Billiton’s mining projects not just in Brazil, but also in Indonesia and Columbia, planned to demonstrate outside the Company’s AGM in London.

The Bullish Bear caught up with the 2016 BHP Billiton AGM, and can confirm that representatives from Brazil and Indonesia were there and questioned the management incisively, to which the management replied with little more than platitudes and steps already put in place.

Some background: Samarco (Brazil) iron ore asset

Source: Company Annual Report FY 2016

The Samarco Mineração S.A., which operates the Samarco iron ore operation in Brazil, is held 50% each by BHP Billiton Brasil and Vale S.A. As a result of the tragic dam failure, operations at Samarco have been suspended, with no indication of reopening soon. Samarco’s main product was iron ore pellets. Prior to the suspension of operations, the extraction and beneficiation of iron ore were conducted at the Germano facilities in the municipalities of Mariana and Ouro Preto. In FY2016, BHP’s share of production was 5.2 MT of pellets (4% of Iron Ore production in revenue terms).

Impact and management steps

As at June 30th, 2016, BHP Billiton’s contingent liabilities registered a relatively small uptick from US$ 3.263 Bn a year ago to US$3.442 Bn, a figure which precludes “A number of matters, for which it is not possible at this time to provide a range of possible outcomes or a reliable estimate of potential future exposures.” Hmmm.. the potential potentialities!

Related reading: Is Deadly Dam Collapse BHP Billiton’s “Deepwater Horizon”? (The Motley Fool) >>

Equally noteworthy is that, despite insurance policies in place with Brazilian and international insurers, no insurance receivable has been recognized by Samarco for recoveries yet. Related to Samarco, BHP Billiton is externally insured for up to $360 MM, a figure which is dwarfed by the claims as below.

As at June 30th, 2016, BHP Billiton Brasil has identified contingent liabilities arising as a consequence of the Samarco dam failure as follows: (1) P&L: impairment charge of US$525 million, (2) Balance Sheet: Losses and provisions totaling US$ 1.2 Bn, (3) Environment and socio-economic remediation: An agreement with various authorities and partners to set up a Foundation, with funds of $ 134 MM initially (4) Legal: Various law suits including a claim brought by the Federal Public Prosecution Office on 3 May 2016, seeking approximately $48 Bn, (5) Commitment: a short-term facility to Samarco of up to $116 MM to carry out remediation and stabilization work.

These heady, heavy numbers aside, the management did take many steps, however. For example, (1) it took part in over 500 community meetings over the last year, (2) 41 programs were set up involving Samarco, BHP, Vale S. A. and the  Brazilian government, to focus on and rehabilitate social, economic and environmental impact of the accident, (3) A governance review of non-operating minerals joint ventures has been undertaken, (4) An expert panel’s investigative findings were released in August ’16 and also shared with other resource Companies, and (5) A global centralized dam management function was set up, with global tailings standards for design construction, maintenance of tailings and more frequent usage of independent safety reviews.

Another change was made after the December 2015 results: shareholder dividends were set at a minimum of 50% of underlying attributable profit, against a progressive dividend policy that sought to increase steadily or at least maintain half yearly dividends.

As for the earnings of CEO Andrew Mackenzie, they fell to half as he did not receive any performance-related pay in FY2016 – short-term and long-term  incentives were both zero. This was notably lauded by a keen attendee at the AGM, I noticed.


The failure of the tailings dam was blamed on construction defects in the base drain, while numerous warnings went unheeded

A Fundão Tailings Dam Review Panel was constituted by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, which was retained jointly by Samarco Mineração S.A. and its shareholders, BHP Billiton Brasil Ltd. and Vale S.A., to conduct an investigation to determine the immediate cause of the November 5, 2015 Fundão tailings dam failure.

As I read the disclaimer on the website page here it clearly indicated that this was going to be less a fault-finding mission and more a technical, causation-investigative mission.

[A side note on tailings dam: A tailings dam in a cost effective structure to hold back the water from the mining area, contain the ground-rock tailings from the ore-milling and separation process and recycle the water to be reused in processing.]

It was originally planned to deposit sands behind a compacted earthfill Starter Dam, then raise it by the upstream method to increase progressively its capacity. To preserve the freedraining characteristics of the sands, a 200 m beach width was required to prevent water-borne slimes from being deposited near the dam crest where they would impede drainage.

An incident in 2009, shortly after the Starter Dam was completed, damaged the dam so badly that the original concept could no longer be implemented. This was “due to construction defects in the base drain.” A revised design followed in which more widespread saturation was allowed and accepted, increasing the extent of saturation introduced, which increased the potential for sand liquefaction. Sand liquefaction is a process whereby the material loses nearly all of its strength and flows as a fluid, which is what happened on the fateful afternoon of Thursday, November 5th, 2015, following the likely triggering event of three minor earthquakes in the region.

The foundation was laid, but the summary findings went on to highlight multiple indications and warning signs: (1) In 2011-12, “The 200 m beach width criterion was often not met,” (2) “In late 2012 when a large concrete conduit beneath… was found to be structurally deficient,” (3) During 2013, “Surface seepage began to appear on the left abutment setback at various elevations and times,” (4) By August 2014, “The replacement blanket drain intended to control this saturation reached its maximum capacity”, the saturated mass of tailings having grown meanwhile.

Related reading: A chronology of major tailings dam failures worldwide (WISE Uranium Project) >>

Alas, this narrative points to a pattern of operational negligence, which is what is making the victims, regulators and other stakeholders take action.

Returning to the goings on at the AGM, something else also caught my attention. BHP added this to its Charter (A one page leaflet with a few punchy dictums):

“We are successful when… Our teams are inclusive and diverse.”

Tacit admission of deficient decision-making?

By including the clause of inclusion and diversity in the Company’s Charter, we have a window into the minds of the management, into how they view a possible resolution to the mistakes made in this episode.

It is well-known from many studies [Kellogg, Essec, Houston Journal of Leadership, Skema Business School in France], that diversity boosts decision-making capabilities of a group.

“Our Charter… is the basis of our decision-making.” BHP Billiton Annual Report FY 2016, p. 39.

Reviewing the panel’s findings, it is apparent that despite many warnings, the management of Samarco S.A. continued its operations. Is the new mantra being introduced to improve this facet, and therefore, given the timing of this, is it a tacit admission that poor decision-making while reviewing key incidents through five years of the operation of the tailings dam at Fundão, was the most important cause of its failure?

The Bullish Bear tends to indeed think so.

Unlike The Guardian, BBC, the Financial Times, and many others, all of who suggest that the diversity program is for the sake of it or to improve performance: there is more to it than that. It is for a far more precise, strategic reason – to improve decision-making in high-pressure, high-stakes business scenarios.

Latest update: Brazil lays homicide charges over Samarco dam collapse, BHP Billiton rejects the charges outright (The Australian) >>

Leeching Human Enterprise: Indian Government’s Booty Swells with Spectrum Auctions while Companies, Banks and Investors Muddle Along

“If it moves, privatize it. If it doesn’t move, privatize it.” – Dr Walter Block

Public ownership of any good or service is fraught with inefficiency and lack of accountability. The Keynesian explanation in the case of, say a manufactured toy, is that a monopoly (i.e. in the classical sense,  government ownership) always produces less of a good or service at a higher cost. But Keynesians rebuke strongly any idea of non-public ownership of “public goods”, such as radio spectrum. Coming from a libertarian point of view, the Bullish Bear professes private ownership even for a public good or service, say military defense, and strongly refutes the need for government ownership. And how come the government came to own radiowaves – this valuable resource – in the first place? It wrote itself a title. Or probably did not bother to do even that!

Globally, low spectrum utilization has been observed and documented. A study in 2003 found that only 19% of frequency space in Washington, DC was used in peak times. Clearly, radiowaves are more abundant and hence less valuable than apparent at first. But we can hardly rely on the public sector to resolve this issue – the Indian Spectrum Management Committee (GOT-IT, 1999) had found that the armed forces had “squatted” on the radio frequencies they occupied while using very little of them (in the words of Ashok Desai, whose critical insights we rely on very much, and whose work we highlight later on).

The 2016 spectrum auction, which lasted for a workweek, enabled the government to sell 965 MHz of spectrum for a total sum of Rs 657.9 Bn or $9.85 Bn. This is equivalent to over 2.5 months of revenue of the largest private sector Company in India, Reliance Industries! Yet, this was an underwhelming yield for the government, because spectrum supply was plentiful, there was less need for renewals and also because the government shot itself in the foot with sky-high reserve prices for the most lucrative segments of spectrum, despite financially stresses of participants.

However, in this blogpost, the Bullish Bear will dwell more on the historic development of the telecom industry’s auctions and take a look at the harsh impact of the government’s severe interventions into what should have been the free market operation of this industry.


Competitive nature of the industry shaped by part-liberalization in the 1990s, giving relief from public sector stranglehold

The first glimpses of liberalization in the mid-1990s led to private sector participation being allowed in basic services, and growth in wireline services picked up. The Indian Telecommunication industry tried to embrace a more modern image with the National Telecom Policy of 1999, allowing private sector players to break through the monopoly of DoT little-by-little.

The short history of India’s Telecommunication Industry is, as laid out in this brilliant publication by Mr Ashok Desai, a tale of how entrepreneurs climbed their way out of the government’s impossibly high license fees by getting foreign partners and public sector banks themselves involved in funding telecom operations!

In the period before the liberalization began that we can get a glimpse of how state monopoly was playing a balancing act between hiding its laziness on the one hand, thus keeping at bay any deregulations and new entrants and yet, on the other hand, showing a substantial-enough pipeline of pending orders & risking revealing its laziness, thus staking a claim on additional funds from the government. We can post this revealing table below, in which we can see that despite substantial backlog of orders worth 25% of installed lines in 1982, growth in installed lines barely broke out into the teens in 1992! All this while, the waiting list was kept hovering at around 4 years!



Indeed, telephones were classified as a luxury item and given low priority in India’s socialistic five year plans. “The telephone system began to expand rapidly only in the late 1980s, when the ITI-Alcatel factory delivered switches in large enough volumes,” Mr Desai sighs.


How come the government owns the air above us?

Socialist India gave monopoly power to the Department of Post and Telegraphs, until 1985, when Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) were created as public sector undertakings under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). It is through this entity, the DoT, that the law still bestows an exclusive privilege on the Government to provide telecommunications services. The DoT issues various notifications imposing onerous obligations and restrictions on players in the industry.


Spectrum value is artificially high as the public ownership is creating artificial scarcity

“Is the radio spectrum a unique resource that belongs to the public, or can it be privately owned like any other good or service? Most people assume that public ownership is axiomatic—a starting point rather than the historical consequence of special interests pretending to misunderstand economics. This is wholly incorrect… Full-scale privatization of this resource is essential.” – B. K. Marcus, Mises Daily

It is worth our time to pause and evaluate this situation. At the moment, the government is holding back all the spectrum and renewing licenses to operate on it via the auction method. Some spectrum is in the low frequency ranges (Which have better ranging abilities), whereas some are in the high frequency ranges (Which can carry higher bit rates). But the government’s reclusive actions are creating artificial scarcity, particularly for the spectrum being used currently – as the government will obviously not auction spectrum that is Not in use currently in the telecom industry. Thus, not only is existing spectrum valued artificially highly, but there exists a systemic latency to discourage switching to higher spectra. Thus, players, particularly the incumbents, who have large amounts of capital and resources at their command, are less willing than they would otherwise be, to trial newer technologies at higher bit rates, thus retarding the speed of technological development.

Clearly, the government is meddling in the formation of lower prices at the consumer level both directly (through high taxes and license fees) and indirectly (through deceleration of technological innovation by encouraging extant spectrum usage).


Government’s Telecom booty: High spectrum fees accounts for all of the debt accumulated in recent years


An analysis of the government’s revenue from the telecom industry in the form of corporate taxes, licenses fees, spectrum usage charges and spectrum auction revenue suggests that the government is running its own parallel Company alongside: about the size of Idea Cellular, the #3 telecom company in India by market share. For every Rs 100 of honest revenue earned by the top-4 listed Companies, the government “earns” Rs 36, Rs 17.5 of which comes from License Fee (LF) and Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC), Rs 12.5 from spectrum auctions and Rs 5.5 from corporate taxes.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Bullish Bear estimates that the incremental indebtedness brought to bear upon the Companies brings the government an additional 0.5% through dividends from publicly owned banks (We have to assume a share of 50% to PSU banks, as break up of this data is not provided by the Companies nor by the banks). This equates to a cool Rs 4.4 Bn in FY16.

According to these estimates and adjusting for inflation, the Indian government has amassed nearly Rs 2,300 per man, woman & child in India since 2010, compared to the monthly income per capita for an average Indian of Rs 7,774. Were it not for spectrum auctions raking in Rs 85,000 crore since 2010 ($12.9 Bn at today’s exchange rate), the telecom industry, the top-4 listed players of which have accumulated total debt of Rs 1.26 Tn (57% of which have accumulated since 2010), would be almost certainly debt-free by now.


End result: Investors disinterested and Companies financially stressed


For investors, the golden period seems to have come to an end with the industry in a mature phase and the companies in serious financial stress.

Telecom companies, even including tower Companies, which are much more profitable (for now), have underperformed almost all prominent sectoral indices over the last three years. Despite exponential growth in data, overall growth seems to be slowing and it remains to be seen how the $20 Bn new entrant, Reliance Jio, impacts the structure of the industry.


From the perspective of corporations, by logical and empirical evidence, we have seen how onerous public sector ownership and regulations have hampered the development of the telecom industry. India’s Telecommunication regulatory bodies: DoT, TRAI and COAI have become mightily powerful and can potentially become broad-based regulators and censors as well, if we were to look at the example of the United States: Marcus educates us as to how the regulator there, the FCC, has become “the largest censorship body in the world.”

But if we were to ask “Cui bono?” Not only has the government benefited, but the regulated industry itself being cartelized, its members have benefited as well. They pull together when in need to erect artificial barriers to entry (say a minimum paid-in capital or unbundling free internet messengers) and push together when defending from higher tariffs.

In summary, the government, the banks, the regulators and bureaucrats, foreign & domestic entrepreneurs are all in the gravy train, and the investors and public treasury have to protect their invested capital (in telecom companies and in the banks) & bear the risks (of investments failing). Investors blame the Companies, the Companies blame regulations and high interest rates, the regulators want revenue to shore up government revenue and the government cannot do without revenue, can it? All this while, the elephant in the living room, namely the unethical public ownership of radio spectrum, lives happily ever after!

Government Continues its Regulatory Onslaught with Aadhaar Despite Supreme Court Orders: 6 Separate Instances of Flagrant Abuse in 25 Days

Deepening the erosion of civil liberties, subsidies of LPG now cannot be received unless you sign up into the club of Aadhaar. A firm warning was fired to the some 20% subscribers who have not yet given in to enrolling with UIDAI’s database by the Oil Ministry. Chief Executive of the UIDAI, Mr A. B. Pandey cited Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act to rifle home the point that Aadhaar numbers are mandatory for the receipt of subsidies that fall under the Consolidated fund of India.

The Bullish Bear has earlier neurotically documented the hidden abuses of the UIDAI system in this blog at Liberty Here and Now. Here, I document how, contrary to the claims by politicians, the UIDAI system is extremely costly, insecure, exclusionary and is basically meant to control our existence and identity. On 22nd April, 2013, a Parliamentary panel headed by former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who himself was a prominent member of today’s ruling party, had stated that the UIDAI was “discharging its functions without any legal basis.”

Murky legalization


Since then, the same party has come into power, but instead of terminating the program, continued throwing money into the system, making a terribly awkward push for its legalization via the route of the money bill (which avoids formal scrutiny of the Upper House) as late as March of 2016! This only proved how dubious the whole system was – that it had to be dressed up as a financial matter of transfer payments – whatever happened to all the social motives! But let’s leave aside the question of whether LPG subsidies make economic sense, and focus solely on the technical aspects of the use of Aadhaar by the government.

Alert readers may recall that the Supreme Court, in a much publicized ruling in August 2015, had rebuked the RBI and the Election Commission, who tried to mandate the Aadhaar card for banking and voting purposes. It instructed the Government to make people aware through public advertisements that Aadhaar card was not mandatory. Moreover, in February 2014, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily had admitted in public that the Aadhaar was not mandatory for receiving LPG subsidies. A year is all it has taken for the  public to lose focus and for the government to continue its unethical database building.

A report filed by the Mint newspaper also suggested that the Aadhaar number could be mandated for use in the PDS, MNREGA and pension schemes.

“There can’t be a situation where you say, ‘I don’t want to enroll for Aadhaar’”



This latest transgression by the government, Center or State is far from the first. Readily searchable, I document 6 such instances over the past month alone:

#1 Maharashtra’s state level education boards mandating Aadhaar card for registration in examinations and disbursal of scholarships (Times of India, Oct 6, 2016). This was the second time the Maharashtra government was caught openly flouting orders issued by the apex court. In April, 2015, the same government had issued a resolution for making Aadhaar mandatory for all students up to 14 years of age in the state and connect it with their school admission number (Moneylife, Oct 5, 2016)

#2 The Wrestling Federation of India requires that wrestlers have an Aadhaar card to participate in national level tournaments (The Indian Express, Sep 27, 2016)

#3 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools not only forcing students to provide the UID number, but also arranging camps for enrolment of Aadhaar for those who do not have the UID number (Moneylife, Sep 27, 2016)

#4 A letter on July 14, 2016, addressed by the Center to States and Union Territories demanding that Aadhaar card be made mandatory for students for applying for pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarship schemes. (The Hindu, Sep 26, 2016)

#5 The UIDAI instructed all the Union and State Ministries that the Aadhar card will be mandatory for all services, benefits, and subsidies funded from the Consolidated Fund of India. He was quoted as saying, “There can’t be a situation where you say, ‘I don’t want to enroll for Aadhaar.’” (Inc42, Sep 20, 2016)

#6 Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) Chairman and Managing Director A.K. Manocha: Senior citizens will be unable to get ticket concessions without Aadhaar from December, 2016 (The Hindu, September 12, 2016)


Aadhaar [Hindi “आधार”] means “base” or a “foundation”. So far, the UIDAI’s Aadhaar system has been destroying the foundation of citizen’s privacy and the bureaucratic class has been desperately ramming home this database shamelessly and baselessly.


3 Reasons Why Urjit Patel Is a Dove Trapped in Hawk’s Clothing

The Bullish Bear is back with a few delectable insights into yesterday’s rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India, a relatively unexpected one, albeit a sixth cut in just under 2 years. A basic survey of newspapers after yesterday’s events will reveal that many analysts seem convinced that Government has now sidelined its CPI target in coming years of 4%. Two quick deductions: (1) Interest rates are decidedly headed in one direction only: and that’s down. For now. And (2) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) or not, Urjit Patel is there to command the ship as per the directions of the BJP-led government. I present my case here in support of such a growing belief that Urjit Patel is a dove trapped in hawk’s clothing under the previous governor’s regime.

#1 Recent data releases were mixed and technically, did not merit a reaction

Consumer sentiment was robust and ahead of forecasts (A: 113, F: 110, P: 112), likewise the August PMI manufacturing forecasts (A: 54.7, F: 52.3, P: 51.9). July’s industrial production index (IIP) missed wildly (A: -2.4%, F: 4.0%, P: 2.0%), though these are known to be volatile, but August’s inflation (A: 5.1%, F: 5.8%, P: 6.1%) and current account deficit in Q2 remained under control (A: -$0.3 B, F: $0.4 B, P: -$0.3 B). [All statistics sourced from]


A cut in interest rates seems to be the obvious course of action from the statistic of Bank Credit growth FYTD of 0.8% significantly lagging Bank Deposits growth of 5.0%. However, sound economics will deduce, infact, a necessity to raise interest rates based on this data point! More money growth in the system is a warning sign of excess money creation, and a cut in interest rates will only add fuel to the fire. In any case, even if we were to analyze the conventional view of cutting interest rates, rate hike transmission was the key intermediate step to resolve: Over the last 150 bp of rate cuts, only 70bp have been passed on.


Comparing India’s positioning to BRICS nations, for the large part, India has favorable growth statistic (9th highest in the world), but is at risk from rising prices. Upside risks to CPI include (1) rising crude prices, (2) upcoming strong quarter for Gold, which may strain deficits & the Rupee and (3) government largess in wages and compensation fueling consumption demand. And although RBI’s release cited moderating food prices as a relief, it should be noted that the food price inflation index is first of all, volatile, and second of all, at a level of 8.23% in July, still very high!


#2 Ex-ante polls were markedly more dovish under the new governor

Since Urjit Patel’s appointment as governor on August 20th, analyst polls on rate cut swung significantly to a more dovish stance (From under 12% expecting a rate cut in deposed governor Raghuram Rajan’s last meeting on August 9th to over 40% ahead of October 4th meeting chaired for the first time by Mr Patel). Reuters on 30th September stated that “Several analysts in the poll said they expect him and the newly-formed Reserve Bank of India Monetary Policy Committee to follow a more dovish path than his predecessor.” If analysts are to be considered “informed,” then this large movement in the informed consensus on what’s coming held valuable information for the market.


#3 Urjit Patel was installed by a government crying out for lower interest rates

Numerous instances have been reported documenting politicians criticizing Raghuram Rajan’s monetary policies. Dovish Government stalwarts such as Rajya Sabha MP Subramianian Swamy openly backed the instalment of Urjit Patel, who thought it was “idiotic” to believe that Patel will be as hawkish as deposed RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. Mr Patel may have some wrongful history as well: it was reported that Patel was involved at the highest levels with scamster Jignesh Shah, according to a report by India Samvad.

And lest we forget the basics of how the central bank operates in India. Per the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (Updated January, 2013): (1) Its governors are appointed or nominated by the central government, (2) the Government of India also dictates the appointment/ nomination of all directors to RBI’s board of directors, (3) the RBI was nationalized on 1 January, 1949, and is fully owned by the Government of India.

And best of all: the RBI does not even get audited!

Independence.. what independence?!