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RBI & how its policies can start to affect the market
Disclaimer: This DD is to help start forming a market view as per RBI announcements. Also a gentle reminder that fundamentals play out over a longer time frame than intraday. The authors take no responsiblity for your yolos. With contributions by Asli Bakchodi, Bran OP & dragononweed! What is the RBI? RBI is the central bank of India. They are one of the key players who affect India’s economic trajectory. They control currency supply, banking rules and more. This means that it is not a bank in which retailers or corporates can open an account with. Instead they are a bank for bankers and the Government of India. Their functions can be broadly classified into 6. · Monetary authority · Financial supervisor for financial system · Issuer of currency · Manages Foreign exchange · Bankers bank · Banker to the government This DD will take a look at each of these functions. It will be followed by a list of rates the RBI sets, and how changes in them can affect the market. 1.Monetary Authority One of RBI’s functions is to achieve the goal of “Price Stability” in the economy. This essentially means achieving an inflation rate that is within a desired limit. A monetary policy committee (MPC) decides on the desired inflation rate and its limits through majority vote of its 6 members, in consultation with the GoI. The current inflation target for RBI is as follows Consumer Price Inflation (CPI): 4% Upper Limit: 6% Lower Limit: 2% An increase in CPI means less purchasing power. Generally speaking, if inflation is too high, the public starts cutting down on spending, leading to a negative impact on the markets. And vice versa. Lower inflation leads to more purchasing power, more spending, more investments leading to a positive impact on the market. 2.Financial Supervisor For Financial System A financial system consists of financial markets (Capital market, money market, forex market etc.), financial institutions (banks, stock exchanges, NBFC etc) & financial assets (currencies, bills, bonds etc) RBI supervises this entire system and lays down the rules and regulations for it. It can also use further ‘Selective Credit Controls’ to regulate banks. 3.Issues of currency The RBI is responsible for the printing of currency notes. RBI is free to print as much as it wants as long as the minimum reserve of Rs 200 Cr (Gold 112 Cr) is maintained. The RBI has total assets or a balance size sheet of Rs. 51 trillion (April 2020). (1 Trillion = 1 Lakh crore) India’s current reserves mean our increase in currency circulation is well managed. 4.Manages Foreign Exchange RBI regulates all of India’s foreign exchange transactions. It is the custodian of all of foreign currencies in India. It allows for the foreign exchange value of the rupee to be controlled. RBI also buy and sell rupees in the foreign exchange market at its discretion. In case of any currency movement, a country’s central bank can directly intervene to either push the currency up, as India has been doing, or to keep it artificially low, as the Chinese central bank does. To push up a currency, a central bank can sell dollars, which is the global reserve currency, or the currency against which all others are measured. To push down a currency, a central bank can buy dollars. The RBI deciding this depends on the import/export and financial health of the country. Generally a weaker rupee means imports are more expensive, but are favourable for exports. And a stronger rupee means imports are cheaper but are unfavourable for exports. A weaker rupee can make foreign investment more lucrative driving up FII. A stronger rupee can have an adverse effect of FII investing in markets. 5.Banker’s Bank Every bank has to maintain a certain amount of reserve with the RBI. A certain percentage of a bank’s liabilities (anywhere between 3-15% as decided by RBI) has to be maintained in this account. This is called the Cash Reserve Ratio. This is determined by the MPC during the monetary policy review (which happens every six weeks at present). It lends money from this reserve to other banks if they are short on cash, but generally, it is seen as a last resort move. Banks are encouraged to meet their shortfalls of cash from other resources. 6.Banker to the government RBI is the entity that carries out ALL monetary transactions on behalf of the Government. It holds custody of the cash balance of the Government, gives temporary loans to both central and state governments and manages the debt operations of the central Government, through instruments of debt and the interest rates associated with them - like bonds. The different rates set & managed by RBI - Repo rate The rate at which RBI is willing to lend to commercial banks is called as Repo Rate. Banks sometimes need money for emergency or to maintain the SLR and CRR (explained below). They borrow this from RBI but have to pay some interest on it. The interest that is to be paid on the amount to the RBI is called as Repo Rate. It does not function like a normal loan but acts like a forward contract. Banks have to provide collateral like government bonds, T-bills etc. Repo means Repurchase Option is the true meaning of Repo an agreement where the bank promises to repurchase these government securities after the repo period is over. As a tool to control inflation, RBI increases the Repo Rate making it more expensive for banks to borrow from the RBI with a view to restrict availability of money. Exact opposite stance shall be taken in case of deflationary environment. The change of repo rate is aimed to affect the flow of money in the economy. An increase in repo rate decreases the flow of money in the economy, while the decrease in repo rate increases the flow of money in the economy. RBI by changing these rates shows its stance to the economy at large whether they prioritize growth or inflation. - Reverse Repo Rate The rate at which the RBI is willing to borrow from the Banks is called as Reverse Repo Rate. If the RBI increases the reverse repo rate, it means that the RBI is willing to offer lucrative interest rate to banks to park their money with the RBI. Banks in this case agree to resell government securities after reverse repo period. Generally, an increase in reverse repo rate that banks will have a higher incentive to park their money with RBI. It decreases liquidity, affecting the market in a negative manner. Decrease in reverse repo rate increases liquidity affecting the market in a positive manner. Both the repo rate and reverse repo rate fall under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility tools for RBI. - Cash reserve ratio (CRR) Banks in India are required to deposit a specific percentage of their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) in the form of CASH with the RBI. This minimum ratio (that is the part of the total deposits to be held as cash) is stipulated by the RBI and is known as the CRR or Cash Reserve Ratio. These reserves will not be in circulation at any point in time. For example, if a bank had a NDTL (like current Account, Savings Account and Fixed Deposits) of 100Cr and the CRR is at 3%, it would have to keep 3Cr as Cash reserve ratio to the RBI. This amount earns no interest. Currently it is at 3%. A lower cash ratio means banks can deposit just a lower amount and use the remaining money leading to higher liquidity. This translates to more money to invest which is seen as positive for the market. Inversely, a higher cash ratio equates to lower liquidity which translates to a negative market sentiment. Thus, the RBI uses the CRR to control excess money flow and regulate liquidity in the economy. - Statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) Banks in India have to keep a certain percentage of their net demand and time liabilities WITH THEMSELVES. And this can be in the form of liquid assets like gold and government securities, not just cash. A lot of banks keep them in government bonds as they give a decent interest. The current SLR ratio of 18.25%, which means that for every Rs.100 deposited in a bank, it has to invest Rs.18.50 in any of the asset classes approved by RBI. A low SLR means higher levels of loans to the private sector. This boosts investment and acts as a positive sentiment for the market. Conversely a high SLR means tighter levels of credit and can cause a negative effect on the market. Essentially, the RBI uses the SLR to control ease of credit in the economy. It also ensures that the banks maintain a certain level of funds to meet depositor’s demands instead of over liquidation. - Bank Rate Bank rate is a rate at which the Reserve Bank of India provides the loan to commercial banks without keeping any security. There is no agreement on repurchase that will be drawn up or agreed upon with no collateral as well. This is different from repo rate as loans taken with repo rate are taken on the basis of securities. Bank rate hence is higher than the repo rate. Currently the bank rate is 4.25%. Since bank rate is essentially a loan interest rate like repo rate, it affects the market in similar ways. - Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate (MCLR) This is the minimum rate below which the banks are not allowed to lend. Raising this rate, makes loans more expensive, drying up liquidity, affecting the market in a negative way. Similarly, lower MCLR rates will bring in high liquidity, affecting the market in a positive way. MCLR is a varying lending rate instead of a single rate according to the kind of loans. Currently, the MCLR rate is between 6.65% - 7.15% - Marginal Standing facility Marginal Standing Facility is the interest rate at which a depository institution (generally banks) lends or borrows funds with another depository institution in the overnight market. Overnight market is the part of financial market which offers the shortest term loans. These loans have to be repaid the next day. MSF can be used by a bank after it exhausts its eligible security holdings for borrowing under other options like the Liquidity adjustment facilities. The MSF would be a penal rate for banks and the banks can borrow funds by pledging government securities within the limits of the statutory liquidity ratio. The current rate stands at 4.25%. The effect it has on the market is synonymous with the other lending rates such as repo rate & bank rate. - Loan to value ratio The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is an assessment of lending risk that financial institutions and other lenders examine before approving a mortgage. Typically, loan assessments with high LTV ratios are considered higher risk loans. Basically, if a companies preferred form of collateral rises in value and leads the market (growing faster than the market), then the company will see the loans that it signed with higher LTV suddenly reduce (but the interest rate remains the same). Let’s consider an example of gold as a collateral. Consider a loan was approved with gold as collateral. The market price for gold is Rs 2000/g, and for each g, a loan of Rs 1500 was given. (The numbers are simplified for understanding). This would put LTV of the loan at 1500/2000 = 0.75. Since it is a substantial LTV, say the company priced the loan at 20% interest rate. Now the next year, the price of gold rose to Rs 3000/kg. This would mean that the LTV of the current loan has changed to 0.5 but the company is not obligated to change the interest rate. This means that even if the company sees a lot of defaults, it is fairly protected by the unexpected surge in the underlying asset. Moreover, since the underlying asset is more valuable, default rates for the loans goes down as people are more protective of the collateral they have placed. The same scenario for gold is happening right now and is the reason for gold backed loan providers like MUTHOOT to hit ATHs as gold is leading the economy right now. Also, these in these scenarios, it also enables companies to offer additional loan on same gold for those who are interested Instead of keeping the loan amount same most of the gold loan companies. Based on above, we can see that as RBI changes LTV for certain assets, we are in a position to identify potential institutions that could get a good Quarterly result and try to enter it early. Conclusion The above rates contain the ways in the Central Bank manages the monetary policy, growth and inflation in the country. Its impact on Stock market is often seen when these rates are changed, they act as triggers for the intraday positions on that day. But overall, the outlook is always maintained on how the RBI sees the country is doing, and knee jerk reactions are limited to intraday positions. The long term stance is always well within the limits of the outlook the big players in the market are expecting. The important thing to keep in mind is that the problems facing the economy needn’t be uni-dimensional. Problems with inflation, growth, liquidity, currency depreciation all can come together, for which the RBI will have to play a balancing role with all it powers to change these rates and the forex reserve. So the effect on the market needs to be given more thought than simply extrapolated as ‘rates go low, markets go up’. But understanding these individual effects of these rates allows you to start putting together the puzzle of how and where the market and the economy could go.
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What do you all make of the mainstreaming of the market?
There are so many new investors it’s almost staggering! I know this is known, but the scale of it finally caught up to me. My 22 year old nephew is Forex trading, and he didn’t even finish high school. The SoFi sponsored Cowboys game ran an ad claiming to give away free stock if your team wins....like fucking pizza!! The fully mainstreamed free trades and fractional shares. What in the world is this shit? CashApp has investing. Everybody I know is talking about this thing...as if it’s a brand new toy they just discovered! It reminds me of all those companies trying to buy up our gold before the 08 crash. As if they’re trying to get all the cash before we go to a new and fully digital currency (like the corporate fascist shit that’s been happening in India the past few years). On a more pertinent note, how has this changed your outlook on trading, investing and price targets? I mean if we are all now playing to the least common denominator of the hyped up FOMO and short sighted illogic of the masses, doesn’t this substantially change the game? And the ripple effects will be huge! For example: an already defunct, decontextualized, profit based media system will be pumping out market related garbage for clicks, and this could drastically increase prices (or at least volatility)...as if it already hasn’t. Schwab has a new warning ⚠️ note posted to their site about volatility being the “new normal”. Sure it may just be the recession-like/Covid situation we’re in...OR this could really be the new normal when the markets are completely mainstream. ...and we haven’t even mentioned the Fed...and I’m not going to. I really just feel like the game may be permanently changed. And if you pit Joe Blow against JP Morgan, that spells disaster for even more people. Thoughts?
Indian sugar industry’s major player Nirani Group projects going forward as a bio-energy company with sugar a by-product
Indian sugar industry’s major player Nirani Group is looking to evolve beyond the traditional sugar business model and expand further as it targets new long-term supply deals for the ethanol, leaving sugar as a by product. The company's Managing Director - Mr. Vijay Nirani told ChiniMandi News in an interview. Speaking on his assessment on the sugar season in terms of sugar production, exports and profitability he said, “With a very good monsoon this year, Karnataka is set to see a record breaking crushing season this year. The district of Bagalkot itself has forecasted a crushing of 14 million Mt, which is the highest ever. This year is an opportunity to crush with high efficiency and try and make it even with the preceding 3 bad seasons where we had to face huge natural calamities like droughts and flash floods. The high crushing that is forecasted is not all merry, as there will be a huge gap between demand and supply as there is going to excess production of sugar, it is going to be a challenge in itself this year to get a good realisation for sugar. With speculations from the Government of India, that they may not consider giving subsidy for exports, it will only multiply the challenges in hand. Though mills in the state and the country have a great chance to make up for the accumulated losses in the past, with good availability of quality cane, the millers are all set to exhibit their talents by ensuring high efficiency crushing with maximum value additions, the true crux of profitability lies with the sugar market dynamics, the Govt. has to ensure proper regulation to make sure the mills get a fair share in order to ensure timely and proper payments to farmers who are already in great distress due to continued draught, flash floods and now the spread of this deadly pandemic of COVID-19. On being asked how he sees the prices of sugar in Karnataka State considering the aftermath of Covid-19 and no announcement of hike in MSP Nirani said, “It is definitely going to be a great challenge to get a proper realisation for sugar though there is an Minimum Selling Price (MSP), if we look at the pretext of MSP being set at ₹3100 is itself not a thorough price, in order to bridge the cost gap between FRP to MSP the MSP has to be revised to ₹3500. Since sugar being an essential commodity there is not going to be a huge drop in consumption by any means at the same time we know there is already carried forward stock from the last season and the production this year is going to be massive by all measures and the consumption of sugar is not going to increase all of a sudden. This is definitely going to directly impact the price, the symptoms have already begun, the rates are already in a downward trajectory.” Sharing views about the growth prospect in Karnataka state for the sugar industry he shared, “It is definitely going to be value addition and ensuring zero wastage, we need to ensure there is a proper backward and a forward integration for all the mass that is being generated or put into use in the mills.” “The major advantages that the sugar industries have are yet untapped by many, with just sugar cane as a raw material, we can generate - Sugar, jaggery powder, jaggery cakes, sugar syrup, icing sugar, Electricity, Pulp from Bagasse, furniture from bagasse, biodegradable products from bagasse, CNG and Bio gases, bio fuels, chemicals, ENA, Ethanol the list goes on. The key to sustain is to add value to every product, rather create products of value and not just depend on sugar as a product.” He further added. Over the couple of years, Nirani Group has been widening its wings in the business of sugar, answering whether there are any further plans on expansion in capacity and beyond Karnataka Nirani said, “We started off about 2 decades ago as the smallest industry in the country with a crushing capacity of 500 mT per day, but now stand tall with a consolidated crushing capacity of 60,000mT with 230 MW of Co-Generation and with allied integration spread across 6 mills. We have understood the weight that the sector carries and envision the thousands of lives that each of our mills have an effect on. We have been turning around sick units in the state, like Kedarnath Sugars and Agro, Badami Sugars Ltd, Pandavapura SSk, Sreerama Sugars SSK, SPR sugars, these were all closed/distressed units that we took over and are being run professionally and successfully, directly helping out all the families that were associated with those mills by means of employment, by crushing farmers cane in time, by creating many unorganised businesses around the campuses and creating revenue for the state and the country. Coming towards, how we at Nirani Group are taking measures to step up for the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP); our chairman Shri Murugesh R Nirani ji was one of the pioneers of this EBP programme, he being a close associate in the govt and decision making, had key impact in developing of this scheme. As a group we already have a production capacity of 650 KLPD and are in an advanced stage of expanding the capacities to over 1000 KLPD by December of 2021. The EBP program has truly been a blessing not just for the health of the sugar industry but also achieves major goals like, reducing crude imports, directly benefiting our FOREX and addressing major ecological crises. We were one of the first in the state to divert sugarcane juice to Ethanol, during the previous crushing season 19-20, we have produced close to 16 Million litres of Ethanol from Sugarcane juice/Syrup. Going forward also we have all the plans to divert maximum of sugar into producing Ethanol we estimate a production of close to 96 Million liters of Ethanol purely from Sugarcane juice/syrup, the decision to allow Sugar cane juice/Syrup/B-heavy molasses for Ethanol and giving attractive incentives have been a landmark policy in the country for Sugar Sector. On being asked, what long term policies should be announced by the Govt. for the sugar industry to develop he said, “The Govt. should first eliminate the EBP hinges, like allowing for OMCs to enter into a 5 year supply contract and bringing in 2nd round of Interest subvention scheme, the GOI has already addressed a big crux, the enhancement of rate for ethanol by 3 odd rupees is an icing on the cake. The key policy that is thoroughly in need is the revision in MSP to ₹3500 at least, this is no way going to burden the average consumer as shelling out ₹3 to 5 more on sugar is not a huge impact for them, as compared to the benefits that this decision would bring, timely and prompt payments to farmers and sustainability of the mills. “Also to address the challenge of excess supply of sugar in the country the GOI usually gives export subsidy, which is usually released after a lot of scrutiny and delays, instead they should allow for this excess sugar to be diverted to ethanol so that the cash cycle is quicker and we address the demand that is there for ethanol. This diversion of excess sugar to Ethanol can be considered as deemed export and the same benefit can be given to the sugar mills that adopt this mechanism. To address the issue of excess production the GOI should increase the radial distance between the plants from the existing 15 Kms to atlest 35 Kms.” Nirani added. https://storage.googleapis.com/stateless-chinimandi-com/2020/11/8b27b37c-indian-sugar-industry’s.dom\_.eng\_.02.11.2020.08.58.mp3
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No, the British did not steal $45 trillion from India
This is an updated copy of the version on BadHistory. I plan to update it in accordance with the feedback I got. I'd like to thank two people who will remain anonymous for helping me greatly with this post (you know who you are) Three years ago a festschrift for Binay Bhushan Chaudhuri was published by Shubhra Chakrabarti, a history teacher at the University of Delhi and Utsa Patnaik, a Marxist economist who taught at JNU until 2010. One of the essays in the festschirt by Utsa Patnaik was an attempt to quantify the "drain" undergone by India during British Rule. Her conclusion? Britain robbed India of $45 trillion (or £9.2 trillion) during their 200 or so years of rule. This figure was immensely popular, and got republished in several major news outlets (here, here, here, here (they get the number wrong) and more recently here), got a mention from the Minister of External Affairs & returns 29,100 results on Google. There's also plenty of references to it here on Reddit. Patnaik is not the first to calculate such a figure. Angus Maddison thought it was £100 million, Simon Digby said £1 billion, Javier Estaban said £40 million see Roy (2019). The huge range of figures should set off some alarm bells. So how did Patnaik calculate this (shockingly large) figure? Well, even though I don't have access to the festschrift, she conveniently has written an article detailing her methodology here. Let's have a look.
How exactly did the British manage to diddle us and drain our wealth’ ? was the question that Basudev Chatterjee (later editor of a volume in the Towards Freedom project) had posed to me 50 years ago when we were fellow-students abroad.
This is begging the question.
After decades of research I find that using India’s commodity export surplus as the measure and applying an interest rate of 5%, the total drain from 1765 to 1938, compounded up to 2016, comes to £9.2 trillion; since $4.86 exchanged for £1 those days, this sum equals about $45 trillion.
This is completely meaningless. To understand why it's meaningless consider India's annual coconut exports. These are almost certainly a surplus but the surplus in trade is countered by the other country buying the product (indeed, by definition, trade surpluses contribute to the GDP of a nation which hardly plays into intuitive conceptualisations of drain). Furthermore, Dewey (2019) critiques the 5% interest rate.
She [Patnaik] consistently adopts statistical assumptions (such as compound interest at a rate of 5% per annum over centuries) that exaggerate the magnitude of the drain
The exact mechanism of drain, or transfers from India to Britain was quite simple.
Drain theory possessed the political merit of being easily grasped by a nation of peasants. [...] No other idea could arouse people than the thought that they were being taxed so that others in far off lands might live in comfort. [...] It was, therefore, inevitable that the drain theory became the main staple of nationalist political agitation during the Gandhian era.
The key factor was Britain’s control over our taxation revenues combined with control over India’s financial gold and forex earnings from its booming commodity export surplus with the world. Simply put, Britain used locally raised rupee tax revenues to pay for its net import of goods, a highly abnormal use of budgetary funds not seen in any sovereign country.
The issue with figures like these is they all make certain methodological assumptions that are impossible to prove. From Roy in Frankema et al. (2019):
the "drain theory" of Indian poverty cannot be tested with evidence, for several reasons. First, it rests on the counterfactual that any money saved on account of factor payments abroad would translate into domestic investment, which can never be proved. Second, it rests on "the primitive notion that all payments to foreigners are "drain"", that is, on the assumption that these payments did not contribute to domestic national income to the equivalent extent (Kumar 1985, 384; see also Chaudhuri 1968). Again, this cannot be tested. [...] Fourth, while British officers serving India did receive salaries that were many times that of the average income in India, a paper using cross-country data shows that colonies with better paid officers were governed better (Jones 2013).
Indeed, drain theory rests on some very weak foundations. This, in of itself, should be enough to dismiss any of the other figures that get thrown out. Nonetheless, I felt it would be a useful exercise to continue exploring Patnaik's take on drain theory.
The East India Company from 1765 onwards allocated every year up to one-third of Indian budgetary revenues net of collection costs, to buy a large volume of goods for direct import into Britain, far in excess of that country’s own needs.
So what's going on here? Well Roy (2019) explains it better:
Colonial India ran an export surplus, which, together with foreign investment, was used to pay for services purchased from Britain. These payments included interest on public debt, salaries, and pensions paid to government offcers who had come from Britain, salaries of managers and engineers, guaranteed profts paid to railway companies, and repatriated business profts. How do we know that any of these payments involved paying too much? The answer is we do not.
So what was really happening is the government was paying its workers for services (as well as guaranteeing profits - to promote investment - something the GoI does today Dalal (2019), and promoting business in India), and those workers were remitting some of that money to Britain. This is hardly a drain (unless, of course, Indian diaspora around the world today are "draining" it). In some cases, the remittances would take the form of goods (as described) see Chaudhuri (1983):
It is obvious that these debit items were financed through the export surplus on merchandise account, and later, when railway construction started on a large scale in India, through capital import. Until 1833 the East India Company followed a cumbersome method in remitting the annual home charges. This was to purchase export commodities in India out of revenue, which were then shipped to London and the proceeds from their sale handed over to the home treasury.
While Roy's earlier point argues better paid officers governed better, it is honestly impossible to say what part of the repatriated export surplus was a drain, and what was not. However calling all of it a drain is definitely misguided. It's worth noting that Patnaik seems to make no attempt to quantify the benefits of the Raj either, Dewey (2019)'s 2nd criticism:
she [Patnaik] consistently ignores research that would tend to cut the economic impact of the drain down to size, such as the work on the sources of investment during the industrial revolution (which shows that industrialisation was financed by the ploughed-back profits of industrialists) or the costs of empire school (which stresses the high price of imperial defence)
Since tropical goods were highly prized in other cold temperate countries which could never produce them, in effect these free goods represented international purchasing power for Britain which kept a part for its own use and re-exported the balance to other countries in Europe and North America against import of food grains, iron and other goods in which it was deficient.
Re-exports necessarily adds value to goods when the goods are processed and when the goods are transported. The country with the largest navy at the time would presumably be in very good stead to do the latter.
The British historians Phyllis Deane and WA Cole presented an incorrect estimate of Britain’s 18th-19th century trade volume, by leaving out re-exports completely. I found that by 1800 Britain’s total trade was 62% higher than their estimate, on applying the correct definition of trade including re-exports, that is used by the United Nations and by all other international organisations.
While interesting, and certainly expected for such an old book, re-exporting necessarily adds value to goods.
When the Crown took over from the Company, from 1861 a clever system was developed under which all of India’s financial gold and forex earnings from its fast-rising commodity export surplus with the world, was intercepted and appropriated by Britain. As before up to a third of India’s rising budgetary revenues was not spent domestically but was set aside as ‘expenditure abroad’.
So, what does this mean? Britain appropriated all of India's earnings, and then spent a third of it aboard? Not exactly. She is describing home charges see Roy (2019) again:
Some of the expenditures on defense and administration were made in sterling and went out of the country. This payment by the government was known as the Home Charges. For example, interest payment on loans raised to finance construction of railways and irrigation works, pensions paid to retired officers, and purchase of stores, were payments in sterling. [...] almost all money that the government paid abroad corresponded to the purchase of a service from abroad. [...] The balance of payments system that emerged after 1800 was based on standard business principles.India bought something and paid for it.State revenues were used to pay for wages of people hired abroad, pay for interest on loans raised abroad, and repatriation of profits on foreign investments coming into India. These were legitimate market transactions.
Indeed, if paying for what you buy is drain, then several billions of us are drained every day.
The Secretary of State for India in Council, based in London, invited foreign importers to deposit with him the payment (in gold, sterling and their own currencies) for their net imports from India, and these gold and forex payments disappeared into the yawning maw of the SoS’s account in the Bank of England.
It should be noted that India having two heads was beneficial, and encouraged investment per Roy (2019):
The fact that the India Office in London managed a part of the monetary system made India creditworthy, stabilized its currency, and encouraged foreign savers to put money into railways and private enterprise in India. Current research on the history of public debt shows that stable and large colonies found it easier to borrow abroad than independent economies because the investors trusted the guarantee of the colonist powers.
Against India’s net foreign earnings he issued bills, termed Council bills (CBs), to an equivalent rupee value. The rate (between gold-linked sterling and silver rupee) at which the bills were issued, was carefully adjusted to the last farthing, so that foreigners would never find it more profitable to ship financial gold as payment directly to Indians, compared to using the CB route. Foreign importers then sent the CBs by post or by telegraph to the export houses in India, that via the exchange banks were paid out of the budgeted provision of sums under ‘expenditure abroad’, and the exporters in turn paid the producers (peasants and artisans) from whom they sourced the goods.
Sunderland (2013) argues CBs had two main roles (and neither were part of a grand plot to keep gold out of India):
Council bills had two roles. They firstly promoted trade by handing the IO some control of the rate of exchange and allowing the exchange banks to remit funds to India and to hedge currency transaction risks. They also enabled the Indian government to transfer cash to England for the payment of its UK commitments.
The United Nations (1962) historical data for 1900 to 1960, show that for three decades up to 1928 (and very likely earlier too) India posted the second highest merchandise export surplus in the world, with USA in the first position. Not only were Indians deprived of every bit of the enormous international purchasing power they had earned over 175 years, even its rupee equivalent was not issued to them since not even the colonial government was credited with any part of India’s net gold and forex earnings against which it could issue rupees. The sleight-of-hand employed, namely ‘paying’ producers out of their own taxes, made India’s export surplus unrequited and constituted a tax-financed drain to the metropolis, as had been correctly pointed out by those highly insightful classical writers, Dadabhai Naoroji and RCDutt.
It doesn't appear that others appreciate their insight Roy (2019):
K. N. Chaudhuri rightly calls such practice ‘confused’ economics ‘coloured by political feelings’.
Surplus budgets to effect such heavy tax-financed transfers had a severe employment–reducing and income-deflating effect: mass consumption was squeezed in order to release export goods. Per capita annual foodgrains absorption in British India declined from 210 kg. during the period 1904-09, to 157 kg. during 1937-41, and to only 137 kg by 1946.
If even a part of its enormous foreign earnings had been credited to it and not entirely siphoned off, India could have imported modern technology to build up an industrial structure as Japan was doing.
This is, unfortunately, impossible to prove. Had the British not arrived in India, there is no clear indication that India would've united (this is arguably more plausible than the given counterfactual1). Had the British not arrived in India, there is no clear indication India would not have been nuked in WW2, much like Japan. Had the British not arrived in India, there is no clear indication India would not have been invaded by lizard people, much like Japan. The list continues eternally. Nevertheless, I will charitably examine the given counterfactual anyway. Did pre-colonial India have industrial potential? The answer is a resounding no. From Gupta (1980):
This article starts from the premise that while economic categories - the extent of commodity production, wage labour, monetarisation of the economy, etc - should be the basis for any analysis of the production relations of pre-British India, it is the nature of class struggles arising out of particular class alignments that finally gives the decisive twist to social change. Arguing on this premise, and analysing the available evidence, this article concludes that there was little potential for industrial revolution before the British arrived in India because, whatever might have been the character of economic categories of that period,the class relations had not sufficiently matured to develop productive forces and the required class struggle for a 'revolution' to take place.
Yet all of this did not amount to an economic situation comparable to that of western Europe on the eve of the industrial revolution. Her technology - in agriculture as well as manufacturers - had by and large been stagnant for centuries. [...] The weakness of the Indian economy in the mid-eighteenth century, as compared to pre-industrial Europe was not simply a matter of technology and commercial and industrial organization. No scientific or geographical revolution formed part of the eighteenth-century Indian's historical experience. [...] Spontaneous movement towards industrialisation is unlikely in such a situation.
So now we've established India did not have industrial potential, was India similar to Japan just before the Meiji era? The answer, yet again, unsurprisingly, is no. Japan's economic situation was not comparable to India's, which allowed for Japan to finance its revolution. From Yasuba (1986):
All in all, the Japanese standard of living may not have been much below the English standard of living before industrialization, and both of them may have been considerably higher than the Indian standard of living. We can no longer say that Japan started from a pathetically low economic level and achieved a rapid or even "miraculous" economic growth. Japan's per capita income was almost as high as in Western Europe before industrialization, and it was possible for Japan to produce surplus in the Meiji Period to finance private and public capital formation.
The circumstances that led to Meiji Japan were extremely unique. See Tomlinson (1985):
Most modern comparisons between India and Japan, written by either Indianists or Japanese specialists, stress instead that industrial growth in Meiji Japan was the product of unique features that were not reproducible elsewhere. [...] it is undoubtably true that Japan's progress to industrialization has been unique and unrepeatable
So there you have it. Unsubstantiated statistical assumptions, calling any number you can a drain & assuming a counterfactual for no good reason gets you this $45 trillion number. Hopefully that's enough to bury it in the ground. 1. Several authors have affirmed that Indian identity is a colonial artefact. For example seeRajan 1969:
Perhaps the single greatest and most enduring impact of British rule over India is that it created an Indian nation, in the modern political sense. After centuries of rule by different dynasties overparts of the Indian sub-continent, and after about 100 years of British rule, Indians ceased to be merely Bengalis, Maharashtrians,or Tamils, linguistically and culturally.
But then, it would be anachronistic to condemn eighteenth-century Indians, who served the British, as collaborators, when the notion of 'democratic' nationalism or of an Indian 'nation' did not then exist.[...]Indians who fought for them, differed from the Europeans in having a primary attachment to a non-belligerent religion, family and local chief, which was stronger than any identity they might have with a more remote prince or 'nation'.
Chakrabarti, Shubra & Patnaik, Utsa (2018). Agrarian and other histories: Essays for Binay Bhushan Chaudhuri. Colombia University Press Hickel, Jason (2018). How the British stole $45 trillion from India. The Guardian Bhuyan, Aroonim & Sharma, Krishan (2019). The Great Loot: How the British stole $45 trillion from India. Indiapost Monbiot, George (2020). English Landowners have stolen our rights. It is time to reclaim them. The Guardian Tsjeng, Zing (2020). How Britain Stole $45 trillion from India with trains | Empires of Dirt. Vice Chaudhury, Dipanjan (2019). British looted $45 trillion from India in today’s value: Jaishankar. The Economic Times Roy, Tirthankar (2019). How British rule changed India's economy: The Paradox of the Raj. Palgrave Macmillan Patnaik, Utsa (2018). How the British impoverished India. Hindustan Times Tuovila, Alicia (2019). Expenditure method. Investopedia Dewey, Clive (2019). Changing the guard: The dissolution of the nationalist–Marxist orthodoxy in the agrarian and agricultural history of India. The Indian Economic & Social History Review Chandra, Bipan et al. (1989). India's Struggle for Independence, 1857-1947. Penguin Books Frankema, Ewout & Booth, Anne (2019). Fiscal Capacity and the Colonial State in Asia and Africa, c. 1850-1960. Cambridge University Press Dalal, Sucheta (2019). IL&FS Controversy: Centre is Paying Up on Sovereign Guarantees to ADB, KfW for Group's Loan. TheWire Chaudhuri, K.N. (1983). X - Foreign Trade and Balance of Payments (1757–1947). Cambridge University Press Sunderland, David (2013). Financing the Raj: The City of London and Colonial India, 1858-1940. Boydell Press Dewey, Clive (1978). Patwari and Chaukidar: Subordinate officials and the reliability of India’s agricultural statistics. Athlone Press Smith, Lisa (2015). The great Indian calorie debate: Explaining rising undernourishment during India’s rapid economic growth. Food Policy Duh, Josephine & Spears, Dean (2016). Health and Hunger: Disease, Energy Needs, and the Indian Calorie Consumption Puzzle. The Economic Journal Vankatesh, P. et al. (2016). Relationship between Food Production and Consumption Diversity in India – Empirical Evidences from Cross Section Analysis. Agricultural Economics Research Review Gupta, Shaibal (1980). Potential of Industrial Revolution in Pre-British India. Economic and Political Weekly Raychaudhuri, Tapan (1983). I - The mid-eighteenth-century background. Cambridge University Press Yasuba, Yasukichi (1986). Standard of Living in Japan Before Industrialization: From what Level did Japan Begin? A Comment. The Journal of Economic History Tomblinson, B.R. (1985). Writing History Sideways: Lessons for Indian Economic Historians from Meiji Japan. Cambridge University Press Rajan, M.S. (1969). The Impact of British Rule in India. Journal of Contemporary History Bryant, G.J. (2000). Indigenous Mercenaries in the Service of European Imperialists: The Case of the Sepoys in the Early British Indian Army, 1750-1800. War in History
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In 1947, India had just Rs 1500 crore cash. Today, we are about to cross $500 billion in foreign reserves. We have come a long way
In 1947, when India got independence, we had just Rs 1500 crore in cash with us, and even paying Rs 55 crore to Pakistan was a big deal. Mahatma Gandhi had to keep a day's fast to convince Vallabhbhai Patel to transfer Rs 55 crore to Pakistan. Then we started storing foreign reserves to the calamity and emergency. In 1960, India had foreign reserves of $1.46 billion, which could have lasted just 8 weeks of import. In 1980, India had foreign reserves of $7 billion In 1991, India's foreign reserves dipped to an alarming level of just $1.2 billion, which could have lasted just 3 weeks of imports. RBI had to pledge 46.91 tonnes of gold with the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan, and raised $400 million to deal with the unprecedented crisis In 2004, for the first time, we achieved foreign reserves of $100 billion Due to solid performance of our foreign reserves, we somehow navigated the recession of 2009, and our foreign reserves stood at $270 billion And now, for the first time in our history, India will have $500 billion of foreign reserves. As of now, we have $493 billion, which is enough to sustain 17 months of imports. We are right now world's 3rd biggest nation with foreign reserves, after China and Japan. India has indeed come a long way from having just Rs 1500 crore in cash to pledging Gold to sustain the economy, to crossing half a trillion-dollar of foreign reserves. Sources: 12345
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