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India’s outgoing bank chief rebuts critics, holds rates

MUMBAI: India’s outgoing central bank chief insisted he had laid the foundations for sustainable growth in the world’s best-performing major economy after keeping interest rates on hold in his final policy review on Wednesday.
Raghuram Rajan, who caught the government off guard in June by announcing he was stepping down in September, said he was unfazed by his critics and that the only thing that mattered was the impact of his decisions.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor was speaking to reporters after announcing the outcome of the last monthly policy review before he returns to academia next month.
After confirming that he was keeping rates on hold to check inflation, Rajan staunchly defended his time in office during which he has faced severe criticism from allies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I think snap judgements either by critics or by supporters aren’t really what matters,” Rajan, who is a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist, told reporters in Mumbai.
“What matters is how this plays out in the longer run for stronger and sustainable growth for the country, for job creation, for our movement into the middle income. In our view, the measures we have taken in the RBI were and are justified given the conditions that we have. People can have different judgements.”
Since Rajan’s appointment in 2013 under the previous centre-left government, India has enjoyed growth rates that have eclipsed other major economie. India’s economy expanded by 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015-16, the fastest of any major economy, while inflation has fallen from double-digit levels to under sixpc on his watch.
But although interest rates are at their lowest level since 2011, there have been tensions with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has been pushing for deeper cuts, saying these would boost growth further.
The BJP lawmaker Subramanian Swamy called Rajan an idiot earlier this year and told him to “go back to Chicago” where he used to be a finance professor.
Most economists however have lamented the prospect of the departure of the man who famously predicted the 2008 global financial crisis.
Rajan had been widely expected to hold the benchmark repo rate — the level at which it lends to commercial banks — at 6.50pc on Wednesday. The bank last cut rates by 25 basis points in April.
‘HAWKISH APPROACH’: In his address to the media, Rajan said he was confident there would be further falls in inflation after the level inched upwards to 5.77pc in June, but warned that risks remained.
“Until we see the full effects of the monsoon, it would be premature to declare victory,” he said.



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