Monetary Policy walks tightrope

KATHMANDU: Recognising the high inflationary pressure, the country’s central bank Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) today announced a cautious and tight Monetary Policy for the fiscal year 2009-10.

“It is believed it will contribute to the prudent macroeconomic management, consolidation of the financial and external sectors and secured internal payments system to create a conducive economic environment for higher growth,” said NRB governor Deependra Bahadur Kshetry, unveiling the eighth Monetary Policy.

“The existing liquidity overhang in the economy is sufficient to facilitate economic growth of 5.5 per cent,” Kshetry said adding that the policy also envisions containing inflation at seven per cent.

However, the Monetary Policy — in the last fiscal year also — failed to contain the price hike and it is still doubted whether it will fuel growth and contain the price hike.

The policy has reintroduced Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) after one-and-a-half decades to contain inflation and fuel growth.

SLR is commonly used to contain inflation and fuel growth by increasing or decreasing it, respectively.

This counteracts by decreasing or increasing the money supply in the system.

The commercial banks, development banks and finance companies are now required to invest in government securities six per cent, two per cent

and one per cent of their total deposit mobilisation by second quarter, respectively and

which will be increased to eight, three and two per cent respectively by the end of the fourth quarter.

“The old banks already have invested in government bonds and securities over the limit fixed by the policy,” said Anil Shah, vice-president of Nepal Bankers’ Association (NBA) and CEO of Nabil Bank.

“However, the new banks will feel the heat and it might put pressure on lending rates,” he added.

Kishore Maharjan, CEO of Sunrise Bank agreed with Shah. “Lending rates may go up,” he said.

Though the limit of paid-up capital is unchanged, the policy has made capital fund the main barometer of any financial institution.

Apart from that, it has also opened the borders for domestic banks. They can now open branches outside the country.

“The policy is flexible and can be adjusted according to the situation anytime,” governor Kshetry said.

It has not changed any major rate like Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), refinancing rates or the bank rate.

SLR versus CRR

KATHMANDU: What Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) does is it restricts the bank’s leverage in pumping more money into the economy. On the other hand, Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) is the portion of deposits that the banks have to maintain with the central bank.The higher the ratio, the lower the amount that banks can use for lending and investment.

The other difference is that to meet SLR, banks can use cash, gold or approved securities whereas with CRR it has to be only cash. CRR is maintained in cash form with

NRB whereas SLR is maintained in liquid form with the banks themselves. SLR refers to the amount that all

banks require to maintain in cash or in the form of gold or approved securities. However, the Monetary Policy

has directed the banks to

buy government bonds and securities.

The objectives of SLR are to restrict the expansion of bank credit, augment the investment of banks in government securities and ensure solvency of banks. CRR is in the form of fiat currency stored with the central bank. The reserve ratio is used as a tool in the Monetary Policy, influencing the country’s economy, borrowing, and interest rates. It will cause immediate liquidity problems for banks with low excess reserves. It was increased from 5 to 5.5 per cent in the last Monetary Policy. — HNS