Reserve Bank of India’s big move to inject liquidity in the market and big relief to the common man and small businesses

In order to mitigate the financial stress due to the disruptive force of COVID-19, the Reserve Bank of India had come up today, i.e. on 27th March, 2020, with a Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies which focuses on:

(i) expanding liquidity in the system to ensure that the financial markets and institutions are able to function normally in the current distress;

(ii) reinforcing monetary transmission so that bank’ credit flows on easier terms are sustained to those who have been affected by the pandemic;

(iii) easing financial stress caused by COVID-19 disruptions by relaxing repayment pressures and improving access to working capital; and

(iv) improving the functioning of markets in view of the high volatility experienced with the onset and spread of the pandemic.

A detailed analysis of the press release made by the Reserve Bank of India is as follows:

1. Reduction in Repo rate: The cut of 75 basis points in repo rate is a powerful signal, aimed at lowering the cost of funds. The interest on floating rate housing loans will come down, helping household cash flows. Repo rate will come down to 4.40 % from 5.15%. The committee further cuts the reverse repo rate by 90 basis points which will come down to 4.00% to discourage banks to passively deposit funds with the RBI.

2. Forbearance: RBI instructed all Banks/ FIs to allow moratorium of three months on payment of instalments, for all term loans outstanding as on 1st March 2020, which will help people to postpone payment of EMIs and help their cash position. This will support cash flows of firms too. The same goes for deferment of interest on working capital loans for a period of three months in respect of all such facilities outstanding as on 1st March, 2020. Deferment of Loan repayment for three months would not impact the credit history of the borrower.

3. Easing of Working Capital Financing: In respect of working capital facilities sanctioned in the form of cash credit/overdraft, lending institutions may recalculate drawing power by reducing margins and/or by reassessing the working capital cycle for the borrowing without resulting in asset classification downgrade.

4. Liquidity in money markets: Money markets were facing pressures from redemptions by mutual funds. The Targeted Long-term Refinancing Operations (TLTRO) will ease the liquidity position of the banks, for which they were supposed to invest in investment-grade bonds, commercial paper etc. In order to reduce the adverse effects on the economic activity leading to pressures on cash flows, the apex bank had decided to 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. This will reassure the money markets to work without the crunch of funds.

5. Cut in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR): The 100 basis point cut in cash reserve ratio (CRR) means more money with banks. Some of them had to access the wholesale funding markets for maintaining the mandatory Ratio. Despite ample liquidity in the system, the transmission is slow, hence CRR is reduced from 4% to 3% for a period of 1 year. This reduction in the CRR would release primary liquidity of about ₹1,37,000 crore holdings uniformly across the banking system in excess of  SLR. Minimum daily CRR daily balance is also reduced from 90% to 80%, due to social distancing in banks effective from the first day of the reporting fortnight beginning March 28, 2020.

6. Greater access to MSF (Marginal Standing Facility): Under the marginal standing facility (MSF), banks can borrow overnight at their discretion by dipping upto 2 per cent into the Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR). In view of the exceptionally high volatility in domestic financial markets which bring in phases of liquidity stress and to provide comfort to the banking system, it has been decided to increase the limit of 2 per cent to 3 per cent with immediate effect. This measure will be applicable up to June 30, 2020 and would provide additional comfort of ₹1,37,000 Crores of liquidity to the banking system under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF) window.

These three measures relating to TLTRO, CRR and MSF will inject a total liquidity of ₹3,74,000 crore to the system.

7. Widening of the Monetary Policy Rate Corridor: The Apex Bank today 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 and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate would continue to be 25 bps above the policy repo rate.

8. Deferment of Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) by six months: As part of reforms, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) had introduced 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. As per the prescribed timeline, banks in India were required to maintain NSFR of 100 per cent from April 1, 2020. It has now been decided to defer the implementation of NSFR  to October 1, 2020.

9. Deferment of Last Tranche of Capital Conservation Buffer: The capital conservation buffer (CCB) is designed to ensure that banks build up capital buffer during normal times (i.e., outside periods of stress) which can be drawn down as losses are incurred during a stressed period.

As per Basel standards, the CCB was to be implemented in tranches of 0.625 per cent and the transition to full CCB of 2.5 per cent was set to be completed by March 31, 2020 (Revised). 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% of the CCB to September 30, 2020.

10. Permitting Banks to Deal in Offshore Non-Deliverable Rupee Derivative Markets (Offshore NDF Rupee Market): The offshore Indian Rupee (INR) derivative market – the Non-Deliverable 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. Accordingly, it has now been decided, to permit banks in   India which operate International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) Banking Units (IBUs) to participate in the NDF market with effect from June 1, 2020. Banks may participate through their branches in India, their foreign branches or through their IBUs.

11. Forward guidance: The RBI has infused ₹ 280,000 crore, equivalent to 1.4% of Indian GDP, which along with the current tools announced by the RBI will result in liquidity injection of 3.2% of the GDP and is fully prepared to take ‘whatever tools are necessary—all instruments, conventional and unconventional are on the table’. RBI reaffirms the hope to deal with COVID-19 economic impact.

Conclusion :

Our Country’s outlook is now heavily contingent upon the intensity, spread & duration of the pandemic. There is a rising probability that most parts of the world economy would also slip into recession. RBI’s role is to maintain its “accommodative” stance and would maintain its position “as long as necessary” to revive growth while ensuring inflation remained within the target. Priority is being given to undertake the purposeful action in order to minimise the adverse macroeconomic impact of the pandemic. Today’s RBI announcement is a major step to boost the economy which is reeling under lockdown and hardships due to negative effects of COVID-19.

Written and compiled by

CA Sunil Kumar Gupta

Founder Chairman, SARC Associates