Saturday, December 1, 2012

G 20 and India - summary of informative lecture of RBI GOVERNOR

G 20 and India


(46th A.D Shroff Memorial Lecture delivered by Dr. Duvvuri Subbarao, Governor, Reserve Bank of India, at Indian Merchants’ Chamber Mumbai on November 20, 2012)

This is a summary of the MAIN POINTS in the lecture delivered by the RBI Governor on 20th, Nov,2012. For the full text, readers may visit the RBI web site.

As always, RBI Governor’s lecture here is laced with precision, logic, focus on problems and clarity of solutions.

Anyone who wants some clarity of the present Global economic scenario will indeed profit from the insights that these lectures provide. The General Investor in stocks and shares also will profit by understanding the movement of the Indian and Global economies – and what future holds out for India and the world – especially the G 20.

Now read on the summary :

Ø  What is the G 20?

Ø  G 20 is an informal club with 19 member countries and the European Union which together represent 90 per cent of global GDP, 80 per cent of global trade and two-thirds of the global population.

Ø  The chair of the G 20 rotates every year from country to country. The chair country takes the lead in formulating and driving the agenda. The G 20 leaders meet at the summit level once a year.Besides, the Finance Ministers and central bank governors of G 20 meet twice a year. All the meetings are typically held in, and hosted by, the chair country. The President of the World Bank and the Managing Director of the IMF attend the G 20 meetings, thereby ensuring that the activities of the G 20 are integrated into the agenda of the Bretton Woods Institutions where necessary. There are also other invitees to the G 20 meetings such as the OECD, UNDP and the regional development banks.

Ø  Why is the G 20 important?

Ø  The bigger EMEs, particularly the BRICS3, were growing at a much faster pace than OECD countries for a long time, and were becoming increasingly systemically important. It became clear that for any multilateral economic consultative process managing globalization to be effective, their inclusion in the process was imperative. 

Ø  The second factor that makes the G 20 unique is its attempt to coordinate the macroeconomic policies of systemically important economies to make them more effective in a world where national macroeconomic policy instruments are being blunted via rapid global integration through trade and financial markets. 

Ø  Main Issues on the G 20 Agenda : 

Ø  Global Rebalancing : 

Ø  Almost everyone is agreed that one of the root causes of the global financial crisis is the buildup of global imbalances. In as much as global imbalances - no matter whether they were caused by a ‘consumption binge’ in advanced economies or a ‘savings glut’ in EMEs - were the root cause of the crisis, reducing imbalances is a necessary condition for restoring global financial stability.

Ø  The post-crisis debate on global imbalances has three interrelated facets. The first is the role of exchange rates. The second relates to capital flows into EMEs raising the familiar challenge of managing the impossible trinity. And the third facet is the framework for the adjustment process.
Ø  Role of exchange rates – is a prime lever for redressal of external imbalances. Global rebalancing will require deficit economies to save more and consume less. They need to depend for growth more on external demand which calls for a real depreciation of their currencies. 

Ø  The surplus economies will need to mirror these efforts - save less and spend more, and shift from external to domestic demand. They need to let their currencies appreciate. The problem though is that while the adjustment by deficit and surplus economies has to be symmetric, the incentives they face are asymmetric. Managing currency tensions will require a shared understanding on keeping exchange rates aligned to economic fundamentals, and an agreement that currency interventions should be resorted to not as an instrument of trade policy but only to manage disruptions to macroeconomic stability.

Ø  Global imbalances - capital flows. The problem of capital flows came centre stage in the aftermath of the quantitative easing by advanced economy central banks when the excess liquidity in the global system found its way into faster growing EMEs. The most high profile problems thrown up by capital flows, in excess of a country’s absorptive capacity, are erosion of monetary policy effectiveness, currency appreciation and loss of competitiveness. Speculative capital flows could also lead to asset and commodity bubbles potentially threatening both financial and economic stability.

Ø  In the G 20 debate on capital flows, popularly but mistakenly referred to as ‘currency wars’, EMEs agitated mainly two points. First, that in as much as lumpy and volatile capital flows are a spillover from the quantitative easing of advanced economies, the burden of adjustment has to be shared. Second, that capital controls should be understood as legitimate and acceptable defence against speculative capital flows.

Ø  Global imbalances and their correction were the main concern in the G20 Framework and Mutual Assessment Process (MAP) exercise. The MAP exercise is aimed at making countries commit to external sector policies that lead to strong, sustained and balanced growth at the global level. The understanding is that global imbalances, especially imbalances built on the strength of undervalued exchange rates accompanied by a build-up of reserves, threaten the stability of the global economy due to the possibility of disorderly unwinding.

Ø  China’s exchange rate policies were at the centre of the debate in the G 20. As on date, China’s current account surplus (in relation to its GDP) has declined from the pre-crisis peak, and China’s real effective exchange rate has also appreciated since 2005, even though it is widely believed that it needs to appreciate further. In the meanwhile, however, the cumulative surpluses of oil producing countries (mostly OPEC, Russia and Norway) have increased and now account for the lion’s share of global current account surpluses. While global imbalances have declined in the post-crisis period, their nature and composition continue to evolve. It is important that the MAP exercise in the G 20 keeps a watch on changes in the composition, nature and distribution of global imbalances and their implications, and to steer the work towards their underlying causes.

Ø  India perspective on the global imbalance problem : India did not contribute to the generation or transmission of global imbalances. As much as we want to enhance our export competitiveness, we believe that it should come from improved productivity rather than an artificially calibrated exchange rate. Our exchange rate is largely market driven, and we intervene in the forex market only to manage volatility in the rate and to prevent macroeconomic disruptions. As a developing economy, we run a large current account deficit (CAD) that has in recent period expanded relative to our historical record. We need capital flows to finance the CAD. We have an express preference for equity flows over debt flows, for direct investment over portfolio investment and for long term over short term flows and. We are moving gradually towards opening our capital account along a roadmap, the roadmap itself being recalibrated to the evolving global situation. Our policy, in short, is festina lente which is Latin for ‘make haste slowly’.

Ø  India co-chairs, along with Canada, the G 20 Framework ‘MAP’ Working Group (FWG). This provides India an opportunity not only to get an early preview of the macro and micro consequences of global initiatives, but also to actively contribute to such initiatives. India’s suggestions on the role infrastructure investment can play in the global recovery and rebalancing is a case in point.

Ø  Protectionism

Ø  In the post-crisis world, there may not actually be ‘deglobalization’ but the earlier orthodoxy that globalization is an unmixed blessing is being increasingly challenged. The rationale behind globalization was, and hopefully is, that even as advanced countries may see some low end jobs being outsourced, they will still benefit from globalization because for every low end job gone, another high end job - that is more skill intensive, more productive - will be created. If this does not happen rapidly enough or visibly enough, protectionist pressures will arise, and rapidly become vociferous and politically compelling.

Ø  Recent international developments mark an ‘ironic reversal’ in the fears about globalization. Previously, it was the EMEs which feared that integration into the world economy would lead to welfare loss at home. Those fears have now given way to apprehensions in advanced economies that globalization means losing jobs to cheap labour abroad.

Ø  There is concern in some quarters that even as open protectionism has been resisted relatively well during the current crisis, opaque protectionism has been on the rise. Opaque protectionism takes the form of resorting to measures such as anti-dumping actions, safeguards, preferential treatment of domestic firms in bailout packages and discriminatory procurement practices. To strengthen multilateral trade discipline, the need for a quick conclusion of the Doha Round can hardly be overemphasized. In a world with growing worries about the debt creating stimulus packages, a Doha Round agreement should be welcomed as a non-debt creating stimulus to the global economy.

Ø  India opposes protectionism in all its forms. However, at the same time, we have to respect the WTO-consistent policy space available to the developing countries to pursue their legitimate objectives of growth, development and stability. We are encouraged by the analysis of the recent trade monitoring report jointly released by WTO, OECD and UNCTAD on G 20 economies which shows that majority of the trade measures taken by India in the review period were either trade facilitative or roll back measures.

Ø  Financial Sector Reforms

Ø  Received wisdom today is that financial deregulation shares the honours with global imbalances as being one of the twin villains of the crisis

Ø  The broad contours of the international initiatives spearhead by the G 20 on financial sector reform rest on four broad pillars: regulation, supervision, resolution, especially in respect of global systemically important financial institutions (or SIFIs), and assessment of the implementation of new standards. So far, one pillar that has received substantial public attention is regulatory reform, where there have already been some notable achievements, including agreement on the new Basel III capital and liquidity standards.

Ø  All G 20 members have committed to the implementation of the Basel III package. However, major jurisdictions have come out with their own regulatory standards. It is important that there is no disharmony that could be confusing. We need to guard against the possibility of regulatory arbitrage. If comparable standards are not implemented in all jurisdictions simultaneously, financial activity will likely migrate to less regulated jurisdictions as well as into shadow banking with disruptive consequences for the entire global financial system.

Ø  As we move forward in the area of regulation, the investment needs of the emerging market and developing economies also deserve special attention. There are two important points in this regard. First, it is important to ensure that financial intermediaries in emerging and developing economies are not disadvantaged in the new regulatory framework, especially since the opportunities and challenges in their systems are quite different.

Ø  Second, the more demanding regulatory standards should not lead to deleveraging by global financial institutions out of emerging markets. It should be noted in this regard that the financial regulatory reform has so far focused on reducing systemic risks, and rightly so, but not much attention has been devoted to redirecting savings from investment in volatile financial assets to financing investment in the real economy, where the impact on growth and jobs is more tangible and direct. We need to recognize that it is income from the real sector that must ultimately pay for the profits of the financial sector. Standards setting bodies should design incentives in a manner that helps redirect global savings into investment in the real economy, particularly in infrastructure, supports demand and enhances long-term potential growth thereby fulfilling the original role of intermediating for growth and development of the real economy.

Ø   Collaboration between financial authorities on these issues is an important, albeit a difficult and painstaking task. The regulatory response in the G 20 should be well coordinated internationally to ensure that the new regulatory framework is effective and globally implemented and the follies of the past that led to the financial crisis are not repeated.

Ø  Future Challenges for the G 20 :

Ø  (1)Drawing a balance between short term compulsions and medium term sustainability. A case in point is the intense debate in the advanced economies on fiscal austerity vs growth. Everyone is agreed that long term fiscal consolidation is critical to macroeconomic sustainability. At the same time, everyone is also aware of the pains of fiscal adjustment in the short-term. If fiscal profligacy is seen as consumption of future income and shifting the burden to a future generation, fiscal austerity should be seen as the price for the necessary correction so that burden sharing across generations is fair and optimal. If the compulsions of short-term and long-term policies point in different directions, how can these be harmonized, especially since the long-term is a stringing together of the short-terms? 

Ø  (2) Nudge the countries’ policies in mutually agreed directions and hold sovereigns accountable for commitments given, especially since these are not legally binding and there is no enforcement mechanism. This is particularly difficult in vigorous democracies where the popular perception could be that national interests are being compromised for the sake of global stability. 

Ø  Seeking firm, forward looking commitments, or pointed criticism of policy frameworks of other countries, on the lines of the European Union, or even the OECD, style of functioning, may be difficult and divisive at this stage… At this stage the issue really is monitoring and assessing whether the general direction of G 20 member country policies is heading in a mutually consistent and agreed fashion over the medium to long-term, and how the G 20 processes can help countries navigate their domestic legislative, regulatory and judicial processes such that commonly agreed policies are adopted.

Ø  (3)The success of domestic policy actions in an increasingly globalizing world with growing policy and market spillovers is linked to global outcomes. If rebalancing is uncoordinated, the outcomes could be even worse. Policy co-operation is therefore potentially win-win, since economic integration has moved far ahead of political integration. While this is most clearly manifest in the case of the euro zone, to a great extent, the challenges ahead before the G 20 may be similar. In this sense, the G 20 can be seen as a brave new experiment to push the boundaries of globalization to harvest this cooperation dividend.

Ø  Summary and conclusion

Ø  The G 20 is by all accounts a bold initiative. It is unique from earlier international initiatives in the sense that it is not formed by a charter, has no mandate for global governance and its decisions are not legally binding and enforceable. In short it is based on the realization that in a globalizing world, our futures are all tied together and the only way we can all prosper is though policy cooperation and on the belief that the only way global governance can be pursued is through an honour code.

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