Power & Market

India’s Monetary Blunders

In 2016 India’s Hindu fundamentalist Modi government abruptly banned the use of 500 and 1000 rupees notes to curb corruption, black money, counterfeit currency, and to combat terrorism. Within a month’s time the government realized their demonetization policy had failed so they very conveniently changed the objective to a cashless digital economy. Within a year’s time almost all cash was back with RBI suggesting a total failure of demonetization! In the aftermath of such a knee-jerk policy decision the economy tanked and unemployment shot up.

As if such a blunder of demonetization was not enough, the Indian central bank RBI immediately started issuing a totally new 2000 rupees notes. As per the RBI governor: “Rs 2000 bank notes were introduced primarily to replenish the notes withdrawn following demonetization.”

This policy decision made no sense. If the original purpose of demonetizing 500- and 1000-rupees notes was to curb black money and corruption, then how would replacing those denomination notes with an even bigger denomination 2000 rupee note help solve the problem of black money and corruption? Or counterfeit currency and terrorism? Will doing corruption and stashing away more black money not become easier using 2000 rupees notes instead of 500 and 1000?

Remonetizing the economy with 2000 rupees notes defeated the whole purpose of tackling black money, corruption etc. And if the worry of the RBI was deflation and disruption of day-to-day exchanges, which were guaranteed, then there was no need to deflate the money supply by demonetizing 500 and 1000 rupees notes in the first place.

When people were slowly forgetting and recovering from the wounds of demonetization and other policy blunders, government dealt another blow in the form of a sudden announcement of the withdrawal of those remonetized 2000 rupees notes few days back. This time the reason for demonetizing 2000 rupees notes is different. RBI’s communique said:

The ₹2000 denomination banknote was introduced in November 2016 under Section 24(1) of RBI Act, 1934, primarily to meet the currency requirement of the economy in an expeditious manner after the withdrawal of legal tender status of all ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes in circulation at that time. The objective of introducing ₹2000 banknotes was met once banknotes in other denominations became available in adequate quantities. Therefore, printing of ₹2000 banknotes was stopped in 2018- 19.

About 89 percent of the ₹2000 denomination banknotes were issued prior to March 2017 and are at the end of their estimated lifespan of 4-5 years. The total value of these banknotes in circulation has declined from ₹6.73 lakh crore at its peak as on March 31, 2018 (37.3 percent of Notes in Circulation) to ₹3.62 lakh crore constituting only 10.8 percent of Notes in Circulation on March 31, 2023. It has also been observed that this denomination is not commonly used for transactions. Further, the stock of banknotes in other denominations continues to be adequate to meet the currency requirement of the public.

In view of the above, and in pursuance of the “Clean Note Policy” of the Reserve Bank of India, it has been decided to withdraw the ₹2000 denomination banknotes from circulation.

Again, this reason of clean note policy makes no sense. As per RBI’s own communique they were already demonetizing 2000-rupee notes quietly since 2018-19 when they stopped printing those notes. They should’ve continued to replace 2000 notes without putting people in a panic mode like this again. The whole logic of withdrawing 2000 rupees notes from circulation also doesn’t make any sense because RBI is saying that these notes will continue to be legal tender even after the deadline of depositing or exchanging them passes on 30th September 2023! If a currency will be legal tender, then why would anyone exchange or deposit it back with the RBI? In that case notes will not be withdrawn from the economy.

We don’t yet know the ulterior motives of the government behind this policy. Maybe they will abruptly cancel 2000 notes after the September deadline to surprise the public again.

If they decide to cancel these notes past the deadline, then the ensuing recession will be severe as these notes represent some 10 percent of the present money supply. The abrupt withdrawal is already disturbing the economic exchanges in the market as many traders and common people have stopped accepting those notes immediately. People overnight rushed to buy gold using 2000 rupees notes which has locked up a sizeable amount of savings in nonproductive gold, starving the economy of important productive investment.

Money is the life blood of the body economic. By making market exchanges easy, money makes progress and civilization possible. Without direct exchange money economy there will be no specialization and division of labor, and without them there will be no progress and civilization. Such illogical monetary experiments of the Modi government have deadly consequences for the people of India, but then government doesn’t care about such things, and they aren’t even capable of foreseeing such consequences. As long as Indians continue to vote for socialism, politicians will continue to implement their whimsical ideas to wreck peoples’ lives.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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