The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently announced that its board had approved the transfer of a surplus of Rs 30,307 crore to the Union government for the fiscal year 2021-22, while maintaining the Contingency Risk Buffer at 5.5%.
How does RBI make profit?
- The RBI is a “full service” central bank— not only is it mandated to keep inflation or prices in check, it is also supposed to manage the borrowings of the Government of India and of state governments; supervise or regulate banks and non-banking finance companies; and manage the currency and payment systems.
- While carrying out these functions or operations, it makes profits. Typically, the central bank’s income comes from the returns it earns on its foreign currency assets, which could be in the form of bonds and treasury bills of other central banks or top-rated securities, and deposits with other central banks.
- It also earns interest on its holdings of local rupee-denominated government bonds or securities, and while lending to banks for very short tenures, such as overnight. It claims a management commission on handling the borrowings of state governments and the central government.
Why RBI transfers surplus to government?
- The RBI is not a commercial organisation like the banks or other companies that are owned or controlled by the government – it does not, as such, pay a “dividend” to the owner out of the profits it generates.
- Although RBI was promoted as a private shareholders’ bank in 1935 with a paid up capital of Rs 5 crore, the government nationalised it in January 1949, making the sovereign its “owner”.
- What the central bank does, therefore, is transfer the “surplus” – that is, the excess of income over expenditure – to the government, in accordance with Section 47 (Allocation of Surplus Profits) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934: “After making provision for bad and doubtful debts, depreciation in assets, contributions to staff and superannuation fund [and for all other matters for which] provision is to be made by or under this Act or which are usually provided for by bankers, the balance, of the profits shall be paid to the Central Government.”
- Like in India, central banks in both the UK and US decide after consultations with the government regarding how much surplus has to be transferred to the government. But in Japan, it is the government that decides.
What is the ‘Contingency Fund’?
This is a specific provision meant for meeting unexpected and unforeseen contingencies, including depreciation in the value of securities, risks arising out of monetary/exchange rate policy operations, systemic risks and any risk arising on account of the special responsibilities enjoined upon the Reserve Bank. This amount is retained within the RBI.
What is the CGRA Account?
- The Currency and Gold Revaluation Account (CGRA) is maintained by the Reserve Bank to take care of currency risk, interest rate risk and movement in gold prices.
- Unrealised gains or losses on valuation of foreign currency assets (FCA) and gold are not taken to the income account but instead accounted for in the CGRA.
- Net balance in CGRA, therefore, varies with the size of the asset base, its valuation and movement in the exchange rate and price of gold.
- CGRA provides a buffer against exchange rate/ gold price fluctuations. It can come under pressure if there is an appreciation of the rupee vis-à-vis major currencies or a fall in the price of gold.
What are IRA-FS and IRA-RS accounts?
- The unrealised gains or losses on revaluation in foreign dated securities are recorded in the Investment Revaluation Account Foreign Securities (IRA-FS).
- Similarly, the unrealised gains or losses on revaluation is accounted for in Investment Revaluation Account-Rupee Securities (IRA-RS).