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Demonetisation

Interview Niti Aayog’s Bibek Debroy: Demonetisation was for institutional cleansing

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Bibek Debroy
Bibek Debroy during an interview with IANS in New Delhi. (Photo: Bidesh Manna/IANS)

New Delhi, Nov 9: NITI Ayog member Bibek Debroy admits that demonetisation was a temporary shock on growth but asserts that the economy has now climbed back. One year into the disruptive note ban, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policy adviser says the worst is over and there are signs that things are improving now.

He also says demonetisation should not be seen through a narrow cost-benefit calculus but as a move aimed at “institutional cleansing”.

“Yes, there has been a dip, but followed by a climb back. If you look at the data, there has been a slowdown in the growth rate continuously. I have not seen any data, even remotely statistical, which suggests that demonetisation has led to a more than temporary shock in terms of growth or employment,” Debroy, who heads the Economic Advisory Council revived recently by the Prime Minister, told IANS in an interview.

Debroy said demonetisation should not be looked at only from an economic perspective.

“If I evaluate it with a narrow economic cost-benefit calculus, I think that would be unfair, because the intention (behind the move) was not narrow economics,” Debroy said. The decision was aimed at institutional cleansing. “How do I even quantify and measure it?”

“If I look at it only with that economic lens, I will evaluate the costs and the benefits in a certain way. If I look at it with a political-economic kind of lens of cleansing up the system, I will evaluate it in a slightly different way.”

Debroy said that purely in terms of economics, one will not have to wait too long as some data, like that of direct tax collections, would come out soon which would reflect demonetisation and help understand its implications.

There was “excessively high” prevalence of cash in the system till last year and cash-to-GDP ratio has now sharply declined by almost one-third post-demonetisation, he said.

Debroy said that before demonetisation, the cash-to-GDP ratio in India was almost 13 per cent. “That’s excessive. It has now come down to a little over nine per cent,” Debroy noted.

“A lot of the cash in India was excessive and was not yielding returns to the person who held the cash, nor was it performing the role that money performs as a multiplier.”

“I’m not comparing with developed countries but even if you compare with other countries in South Asia, India had too much cash,” he said.

As per estimates, the cash-to-GDP ratio was 5.8 per cent in Bangladesh, 3.5 per cent in Sri Lanka and 9.3 per cent in Pakistan in 2015, whereas in India it was 13 per cent.

“That excessive cash has now vanished. The money has now come into the banking system. But that does not necessarily legitimise that money. You have to subject yourself to further scrutiny,” Debroy said.

Debroy has come out with a compilation, “On the Trail of the Black”, along with his colleague Kishore Arun Desai, with contributions from several writers tracing the prevalence of corruption and evaluating its impact on society and the economy.

He admitted that every decision related to the demonetisation exercise might not have been perfect.

“But we know that with the benefit of hindsight…. and this kind of thing had never been attempted before,” he said.

Read more…Bollywood’s organised sections escaped impact, but daily wagers suffered

He said the biggest challenge in implementing the demonetisation decision was to maintain the surprise element which was crucial.

Kishore Arun Desai, who edited the book along with Debroy, said the war against corruption was a work in progress and November 8, 2016, should not be looked at in isolation.

“We’re talking a lot about November 8, but there are a series of actions that the government has been taking ever since coming to power, starting with setting up an SIT on black money, followed by the Benami Transactions Act, an act for transparent auction of coal mines, the Income Declaration Scheme, the RERA Act and the Jan Dhan Yojana.

“We have been witnessing the overall intent of the government of cleaning up the economy across various sectors and demonetisation was just a trigger and one of the boldest steps,” Desai told IANS.

IANS

Demonetisation

Fake 2,000-rupee note was out within 53 days of demonetisation!

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ncrb-wefornews

By Rajnish Singh 

New Delhi, Dec 7 : It didn’t take long for fake notes of 2,000 rupees to start circulating after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation in November 2016, with one of its stated aims being to kill counterfeit currency, official data show.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) latest report released on November 30, a total of 2,272 fake notes of Rs 2,000 denomination were seized in 2016. Since the Rs 2,000 note — along with the new Rs 500 currency — was introduced only after November 8, 2016, it means that those counterfeiting the notes got into the act very quickly.

In just 53 days between November 8 and December 31 last year, police and other government agencies seized 2,272 fake Rs 2,000 notes — at a time when people across the country were struggling to get hold of the new currency.

The maximum number of these Rs 2,000 fake notes were seized in Gujarat (1,300), followed by Punjab (548), Karnataka (254), Telangana (114), Maharashtra (27), Madhya Pradesh (8), Rajasthan (6) and Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Haryana (3 each). Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala accounted for two fake notes each. One such note was seized in Manipur as well as in Odisha.

The Rs 2,000 notes were part of the 281,839 fake notes of various denominations recovered from different locations across India.

When Modi announced the note ban, he said it was being done to end black money, counter terror financing and do away with counterfeit currency.

Among other fakes, 82,494 notes of Rs 1,000 and 132,227 of Rs 500 denomination were also seized last year along with 59,713 notes of Rs 100 and 2,137 notes of Rs 50, said the annual publication of NCRB released by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

In a number of raids across the country, police forces, the Income Tax department and other government agencies also recovered 184 fake notes of Rs 20, at least 615 notes and coins of Rs 10 and 2,001 notes of Rs 5.

Also seized were 196 fake coins of Rupee 1 denomination — between January to December 31 last year.

According to the data, the face value of the total fake notes found in 2016 is Rs 101,222,821.

In terms of value of maximum fake notes, Delhi (Rs 56,521,460) topped the list.

The national capital was followed by Gujarat (Rs 23,724,050), West Bengal (Rs 23,295,800), Andhra Pradesh (Rs 9,280,000), Karnataka (Rs 8,009,136), Telangana (Rs 7,600,905), Uttar Pradesh (Rs 5,013,700), Maharashtra (Rs 4,799,700), Punjab (Rs 4,239,750), Bihar (Rs 3,736,800), Tamil Nadu (Rs 3,342,540), Kerala (Rs 2,057,200), Madhya Pradesh (Rs 1,626,890), Chandigarh (Rs 1,499,000), Rajasthan (1,035,100), Assam (Rs 800,050), Jharkhand (Rs 706,000) and Uttarakhand (Rs 666,400).

At 114,751, Delhi also topped the chart in terms of maximum seizure of fake notes, followed by Gujarat (39,725), West Bengal (32,869), Andhra Pradesh (14,541), Karnataka (14,228) and Telangana (12,667).

Among all the states and union territories, Goa accounted for just 21 fake notes having a face value of Rs 17,000.

No fake note was recovered from Chhattisgarh, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu as well as Lakshadweep, the NCRB data says.

The data said a total of 1,172 FIRs were registered and 1,107 people arrested for their involvement in the illegal trade.

IANS

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Demonetisation

Demonetisation a ‘magical’ scheme that turned black into white: Rahul Gandhi

Modi had on November 8 last year announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

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RAHUL-GANDHI

Dahod (Guajrat), Nov 25 : Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that demonetisation was a “magical” scheme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that turned all the black money into white.

Addressing the “Adivasi Adhikar Sabha” (Meeting for tribal rights) in this Gujarat district, he said that while the common man stood in long bank queues for days, the rich got their old currency exchanged through the backdoor.

“There is another magic by Modiji and it is demonetisation. You all stood in bank queues, but did you see any suited-booted gentleman standing in the queue? You did not, and I will tell you why,” Gandhi said.

“It is because all the suited-booted guys entered the banks from the back door, sat in air-conditioned rooms and got their lakhs and crores exchanged. All the thieves thus got their black money converted into white through magic,” he said.

Modi had on November 8 last year announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

Gandhi also attacked Modi over not fulfilling the promises he made to the tribal people.

“Modiji did not give a penny to the tribals, but he granted your land, which you call mother, worth Rs 33,000 crore to Tata’s Nano project. But the interesting thing is that I do not see any Nano cars on the roads in Gujarat or elsewhere,” he said.

Gandhi emphasised that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governemnt had allocated Rs 35,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme that provided sustenance to millions across the country.

“And here, Modiji gave this much amount to just one industrialist in one single state. Be it land, be it electricity or be it Narmada’s water, everything is being given to just 5-10 select people,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Gandhi visited residences of Congress Rajya Sabha MP Madhusudan Mistry who has lost his son and that of former MP and AICC Secretary Mirza Irshad Baig who passed away recently, to convey his condolences.

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Analysis

Demonetisation failed litmus test as most banned notes returned

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(‘Note-Bandi: Demonetisation and India’s Elusive Chase for Black Money’ is an upcoming book from Oxford University Press dedicated to the “memory of Indian citizens who lost their lives due to demonetisation”). Excerpts from a chapter.

The litmus test for the success of any demonetisation is the amount of cash that does not return to the banking system. For long, economists and observers were intrigued by the refusal of the RBI to share data on SBNs (Specified Bank Notes) returned to banks after December 10, 2016.

Information on SBNs returned was important because any amount not returned to the banking system was supposed to be ‘black money’, which could be ‘extinguished’ by the RBI… Consequently, the RBI could pass over an equivalent amount to the government, which in turn could spend it for welfare purposes.

The government’s expectations were shared by the Attorney-General of India, Mukul Rohatgi, with the Supreme Court. According to Rohatgi, the government did not expect more than Rs 12 lakh crore to be returned to the banks, which implied that about Rs 3 lakh crore worth of ‘black money’ was to be extinguished and passed over to the government.

Image result for demonetisation disaster urjit patel

As demonetisation proceeded, these hopes stood belied. To begin with, (RBI Governor Urjit) Patel was forced to clarify on December 7, 2016, that “the withdrawal of legal tender characteristic status does not extinguish any of the RBI balance sheets … They are still the liability of the RBI”.

On December 8, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia told journalists that “the expectation is that the entire money which is in circulation has to come to the banking channel”. In other words, the pace at which SBNs were being returned to the banking system had convinced the government that there would be no currency left to extinguish. By December 10, Rs 12.44 lakh crore worth SBNs had already returned to the banking system.

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The government staunchly refused to share any figure on SBNs returned after December 10. Instead, it attempted to obfuscate facts and confuse the public with convoluted stories of ‘double counting’. On December 15, (Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta) Das told the media that data on SBNs returned were being withheld because the RBI suspected ‘double counting’ of currency notes.

Das’ statement was soon shown to be wrong.

There were two ways in which returned SBNs could be counted. One, through the simple addition of the cash position of individual banks with respect to the SBNs returned. There could be double-counting here, as banks without currency chests may have deposited cash with banks that had currency chests.

Two, directly from the currency chests, in which case there was no scope for double-counting. (Deputy Governor of RBI Usha) Thorat, in an interview, pointed out that “there is no question of double counting… RBI only looks at the currency chest data”.

In an interview with the Economic Times, Rajnish Kumar, the Managing Director of the SBI, further clarified this in no uncertain terms: …currency chest position is the correct position, there cannot be any flaw in that … double counting can only happen if the individual banks and post offices are reporting the deposit position … but [in] currency chest reporting which is done every day and which is an automated process, the possibility of any discrepancy does not exist … If the Reserve Bank has given the number based on the currency chest position, then there should be no discrepancy. But if the data is given on the basis of daily reports of deposits being given by the bank, then there is a possibility of some double counting.

In its regular media briefings, the RBI was indeed providing SBN data from currency chests and not by adding the cash positions of individual banks. The RBI’s Deputy Governor R. Gandhi told the media on December 13, 2016, that “specified bank notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 returned to the RBI and currency chests amounted to Rs 12.44 lakh crore as on December 10, 2016 “.

Yet, the RBI was to state on January 5, 2017, that “figures [on SBN] would need to be reconciled with the physical cash balances to eliminate accounting errors/possible double counts”. The effort, clearly, was to hide.

It was only in August 2017 that the RBI, ultimately, released the final figures of the SBNs returned. According to the RBI’s Annual Report for 2016-17, out of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore worth of currency in circulation as on November 8, 2016, Rs 15.3 lakh crore had returned to the banking system as on June 30, 2017. In other words, 98.96 per cent of the SBNs was back in the banking system and only 1.04 per cent of the SBNs remained outside.

The verdict was finally out: As most critics predicted, demonetisation had failed to extinguish any amount of money that could be alleged as ‘black’.

By R. Ramakumar

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

(R. Ramakumar is Dean, Centre for Study of Developing Economies, School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He can be reached at [email protected])

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