More than a month after its board decided to constitute an expert panel to decide on the appropriate size of RBI’s reserves, the central bank Wednesday constituted a six-member committee headed by former Governor Bimal Jalan with former secretary Rakesh Mohan as the vice chair.
The panel will include Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg and RBI Deputy Governor N S Vishwanathan, the RBI said in a statement.
The government has been insisting that the central bank hand over its surplus reserves amid a shortfall in revenue collections. Access to the funds will allow the government to meet deficit targets, infuse capital into weak banks to boost lending and fund welfare programmes.
The panel will decide whether RBI is holding provisions, reserves, and buffers in the surplus of the required levels.
It would propose a suitable profits distribution policy taking into account all the likely situations of the RBI, including the situations of holding more provisions than required and the RBI holding fewer provisions than required.
The ECF committee will also suggest an adequate level of risk provisioning that the RBI needs to maintain. That apart, any other related matter, including treatment of surplus reserves created out of realized gains, will also come within the ambit of this committee.
What is an economic capital framework?
Economic capital framework refers to the risk capital required by the central bank while taking into account different risks. The economic capital framework reflects the capital that an institution requires or needs to hold as a counter against unforeseen risks or events or losses in the future.
Existing economic capital framework which governs the RBI’s capital requirements and terms for the transfer of its surplus to the government is based on a conservative assessment of risk by the central bank and that a review of the framework would result in excess capital being freed, which the RBI can then share with the government.
The government believes that RBI is sitting on much higher reserves than it actually needs to tide over financial emergencies that India may face. Some central banks around the world (like US and UK) keep 13% to 14% of their assets as a reserve compared to RBI’s 27% and some (like Russia) more than that.
Economists in the past have argued for RBI releasing ‘extra’ capital that can be put to productive use by the government. The Malegam Committee estimated the excess (in 2013) at Rs 1.49 lakh crore.
What is the nature of the arrangement between the government and RBI on the transfer of surplus or profits?
Although RBI was promoted as a private shareholders’ bank in 1935 with a paid up capital of Rs 5 crore, the government nationalized it in January 1949, making the sovereign its “owner”. What the central bank does, therefore, is transfer the “surplus” — that is, the excess of income over expenditure — to the government, in accordance with Section 47 (Allocation of Surplus Profits) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
Does the RBI pay tax on these earnings or profits?
No. Its statute provides the exemption from paying income tax or any other tax, including wealth tax.