ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Financial Literacy and Financial Inclusion

Using district-level data, the effect of financial literacy centres on financial inclusion in India is investigated. There is evidence of an improvement in the use of bank accounts over time. Robustness tests suggest that banks with a strong capital position and asset quality are more inclusive through their financial literacy centres, and the traditional bank agents continue playing an important role in this process despite non-traditional channels like mobile telephony. Yet, the findings show that the overall impact of financial literacy on bank account ownership is still limited. The analysis raises useful policy pointers to address those impediments that plague the process.

Monetary Policy Transmission in Financial Markets

In the Indian context, a key question is addressed: What has been the influence of monetary policy on different segments of the financial markets? Constructing a structural vector autoregressive model with the monetary policy rate, the pattern of monetary transmission to financial markets is examined over three distinct periods of regime changes in the Indian monetary policy and liquidity management framework. The empirical evidence indicates that there is sufficient period-specific transmission of monetary policy across the different segments of the financial markets. While the transmission of monetary policy to the money and bond markets is found to be fast and efficient, the impact of the policy rates on the forex and stock markets is limited.

Understanding Systemic Symptoms of Non-banking Financial Companies

The riskiness of banks (public and private) and non-banking financial companies listed on the stock exchange is examined by measuring their extent of interconnectedness at the lowest tail (1%) quantile. Using the macro risk and balance sheet variables under the directional connectedness framework, this study finds the underperforming periods of Indian banks and NBFCs. The findings are consistent with the systemic risk rankings of the Reserve Bank of India for the domestic banks and systemically important NBFCs.

Government Securities Market

Over 2017–18, there was a sharp rise in Indian government securities interest rates unrelated to fundamentals. Examining each of the standard explanatory variables shows them to be inadequate to account for the rise in bond yields in this period. Turning to aspects of Indian structure, the reason is found to be the narrow focus of monetary operating procedures, with excessive reliance on making up liquidity shortfalls with short-term liquidity, which was inadequate given large exogenous durable liquidity shocks, including foreign inflows. The composition of liquidity, share of reserve money and its sources all matter. Open market operations have a significant impact on yields. Large foreign debt inflows induce open market operations sales as G-Secs are swapped for foreign securities to sterilise the effect of inflows on the money supply. G-Secs yields are then found to rise.

Central Banking in India

The flow of events and ideas behind central banking in India, in four distinct phases since independence—1950–70, 1970–90, 1990–2010, and post 2010—is narrated. The 1950–70 period is characterised as one of planned fiscal dominance, while the 1970–90 period has seen the dominance of the fiscal and financial sector with an inward-looking bias. Although there was partnership in crisis management and reform between the Reserve Bank of India and the government during 1990–2010, the period witnessed some differences between the government and the RBI in the areas of monetary management and external sector. The period since 2010 is broadly categorised by the rebalancing and adoption of a new framework, like inflation targeting.

Can Jan Dhan Yojana Achieve Financial Inclusion?

While there has been a tremendous increase in the number of bank accounts opened, the data show that the average balance in these accounts is low and a significant proportion of the accounts are inoperative. Although there was a rise in the average deposits during demonetisation, they later settled at a lower level. Further, financial inclusion means not just the opening of bank accounts but, more importantly, access to credit from formal sources. The limited data available in this regard show that after the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was launched there has not been any increase in the credit–deposit ratio and the share of small loans has continued to decline. Very few people have benefited from the overdraft facility that is supposed to be provided by the accounts under the scheme. Issues of access to banking in rural areas remain.

Deciphering Financial Literacy in India

Utilising a nationally representative data set, an index of financial literacy consisting of financial knowledge, behaviour, and attitude is constructed. The findings suggest significant variation in financial literacy across states with an over 60 percentage point difference between the state with the highest financial literacy and that with the lowest. Multivariate regressions show that there exist large and statistically significant gender-, location-, employment-, education-, technology-, and debt-driven differences in financial literacy. Much of the observed regional divergence persists even after we control for cohort effects.

Dynamics of Competition in the Indian Banking Sector

Competition is supposed to make banks more efficient and stimulate financial innovation by opening up of new markets. Given the dynamic changes within the Indian banking system in the last two decades, the effect of the developments in the market on the competitive behaviour of Indian commercial banks is assessed. The empirical analysis suggests monopolistic competition. This feature of the Indian banking market is consistent with other emerging-market economies and developing countries. We also find a decrease in competition across the two time-periods, before and after 2007. This may be attributed to the consolidation of the sector, with major banks acquiring smaller banks to gain economies of scale, market share and transaction volume.

Engineering Banking Sector Recovery and Growth

The idea of “bail-in” in cases of serious banking instability has been widely discussed in India ever since the introduction of the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill. Given the large non-performing loans of public sector banks, the Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India as the regulatory authority have to quickly act to ensure that public confidence in the soundness of commercial banks is not breached. In this context, three approaches are explored that could be adopted either individually or in a variety of combinations in different proportions essentially to secure banking stability. The bail-in idea should not be considered except in extreme conditions of large financial stress. The idea could be tried even before the extreme situation arises with provision of incentives.

The Banking Conundrum

Neo-liberal banking reform was launched in the early 1990s to address the low profitability of the public banking system and the large presence of non-performing assets. It set itself the objectives of cleaning out NPAs, recapitalising the banks and modifying banking practices to restore profitability and drastically reduce NPA volumes. This did initially have some effect. However, while the NPA ratio fell between the early 1990s and the mid-2000s, it has risen sharply since then. Moreover, while earlier priority and non-priority loans contributed equally to total NPAs, more recently, large non-priority loans to the corporate sector account for the bulk of NPAs. An analysis of these features reveals that these trends are indicative of the failure of neo-liberal banking reform in India.

Appetite for Official Reserves

There is a strong nexus between the level of reserves, frequency of intervention, and exchange rate variability. Given the current exchange rate arrangements, there is a mandate to accumulate reserves in line with other developments such as import growth, growth in short-term external debt, and so on. The Reserve Bank of India seems to have no option, especially in times of capital flight, than to allow the exchange rate to absorb market pressure if the volume of reserves held is not adequate. This indicates a limited scope for using other instruments. The objective of accumulating additional reserves seems to override the ambition of exchange rate stability when there is a limit on the capacity to intervene imposed by the reserve shortfall. Therefore, reserves matter in times of crisis.

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