Viewpoint: India’s Cash Ban Failed Even to Create a Bank Savings Culture
By Mihir Sharma
The Indian central bank’s final tally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2016 demonetization drive, intended to take money derived from tax evasion out of circulation, showed that 99.3 percent of outlawed high-value banknotes had been returned. That’s a severe loss of face for officials, who had argued that holders of the cash would rather destroy it than return it to banks, providing a windfall for the government.
The authorities managed to produce several other defenses of the initiative, however. One in particular was appealing to financial markets: The notion that, in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s words, “Demonetization appears to have led to an acceleration in the financialization of savings.” Households that traditionally kept their savings in cash would now prefer to put the money into other instruments, perhaps even the stock market. This would increase the amount of capital available for companies to deploy and banks to lend, spurring economic growth.
Photo courtesy of Satish Krishnamurthy.