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A blog on financial markets and their regulation
A number of phenomena we observe in India in the last few years can be interpreted as incipient capital flight:
While economists have focused on the impossible trinity (open capital account, independent monetary policy and fixed exchange rates), I am more concerned about the unholy trinity that leads to full blown capital flight. This unholy trinity has three elements: (a) a de facto open capital account, (b) poor perceived economic fundamentals and (c) heightened political uncertainty. I believe that the first two elements of this unholy trinity are already in place; we can only hope that the 2014 elections do not deliver the third element.
While our policy makers keep up the pretence that India has a closed capital account, the reality is that during the last decade, the capital account has in fact become largely open. Outward capital flows were largely opened up by liberalizing outward FDI and allowing every person to remit $200,000 every year for investment outside India. This means that the first element of the unholy trinity (an open capital account) has been in place for sometime now. If the other two elements were also to materialize, a full blown capital flight is perfectly conceivable. India’s reserves may appear comfortable in terms of number of months of imports, but in an open capital account, this is not a relevant metric. What is relevant is that India’s reserves are about 20% of the money supply (M3), and in a full blown capital flight, a large part of M3 is at risk of fleeing the country.