Monday, 9 May 2016

Raghuram Rajan coy about second term as RBI Governor

New Delhi has not yet asked Raghuram Rajan whether he would like to pad up for a second innings at the Reserve Bank of India after his term ends on September 4. In the past one month, there has been endless speculation about the equations between the government and the RBI governor — whether Rajan would be given a cold shoulder, or offered another term, or invited to play a different role.

"That question, I can't answer. First I have to be asked, 'Do you want to continue?' Then, I can answer," said Rajan at the Shiv Nadar University on Saturday when ET asked him whether he would like a second term as the RBI boss. There is a widely shared perception in financial markets and banking circles that the Centre may find it difficult to refuse a second term to Rajan if he were keen on continuing. But as of now, the Chicago school economist — who in the past three years has positioned himself as an inflation warrior — is keeping options open.

"I love teaching. I will go back to academia once I am done with my work here," Rajan said in a meeting with the Shiv Nadar University's faculty. The governor was the chief guest at the second convocation of the university, which was founded in 2011. Even though corporate India and local markets have criticised Rajan's policy to keep interest rates high and liquidity tight, foreign portfolio managers, who have gained from high rates and a stable rupee, have been vocal admirers of Rajan.

Last week, Christopher Wood, equity strategist at brokerage and investment group CLSA, said the biggest risk to the Indian bond and currency market will be if the RBI governor is not given a second term. "He (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) must recognise the constructive role played by RBI under Rajan in both imposing a tighter NPL (non-performing loan) system on banks, carrying out a stress test on banks and putting pressure on them to go after defaulting creditors," Wood wrote in the widely circulated CLSA newsletter.

Before taking over as the RBI governor in September 2013, Rajan was the chief economic adviser in the ministry of finance. Prior to that, he was a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "I have no problems with India's growth. It could be better. The best is yet to come," said Rajan.

Rajan also stressed the need to have research-oriented universities. "As a country, as we grow in stature, we have to contribute ideas. We are always protesting — this doesn't look good, that doesn't look good. We are always underprepared and that's why we shout." Back in the '50s, he pointed out, ideas and concepts such as Panchsheel emerged in India, but today "we are a shouting lot".



"If we contribute ideas based on facts, based on research, we could very quickly become leaders," he said. Addressing students at the convocation, Rajan said, "India is changing, in many ways for the better. You will be able to help shape our country, the world, and your place in it. Play to your strengths." Referring to the Shiv Nadar University, founded by billionaire tech czar Shiv Nadar, Rajan said, "I would like to see places like this flourish. Thoughtful philanthropy, as reflected in the founding of this school, can further help enhance society's acceptance of great wealth."

However, adding a word of caution, the RBI governor said, "We should make sure that unscrupulous schools do not prey on uninformed students, leaving them with high debt and useless degrees." Greater Noida, where Shiv Nadar University is located, is emerging as an educational hub with around 50 colleges attracting students from across the country.

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