“The Resilient Banker”

Shaktikanta Das, RBI Governor


Let’s talk about a remarkable individual who has successfully steered India’s economy through challenging times. Meet Shaktikant Das, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), fondly referred to as the “captain of the ship” during the pandemic and geopolitical crises. His innovative reforms, effective communication, and exceptional leadership have earned him the esteemed Central Banker of the Year award for 2023, bestowed upon him by Central Banking, an international publication.

This recognition comes as no surprise given Das’ impressive achievements since assuming office in December 2018. The citation acknowledges his pivotal role in solidifying critical reforms, spearheading groundbreaking payment innovations, and skillfully navigating India through turbulent times with confidence and eloquence.

It’s worth noting that Das is the second RBI governor to receive this prestigious honor, following in the footsteps of Raghuram Rajan in 2015. The timing of this award is particularly noteworthy as Das currently faces a multitude of challenges, including inflationary pressures, sluggish growth, banking sector stress, currency volatility, and external shocks.

A War Effort Against Covid-19

Das faced one of his most significant tests as Governor during the Covid-19 pandemic, which wreaked havoc on India in 2020 and 2021, disrupting countless lives and livelihoods. Swift and decisive action became paramount, and Das rose to the occasion by implementing a series of measures to support the economy. These included liquidity injections, moratoriums, restructuring schemes, regulatory relief, and policy rate cuts.

Moreover, Das worked closely with the government and other regulators to ensure financial stability and the smooth functioning of markets. Through his exceptional communication skills, he reassured the public and effectively conveyed the RBI’s stance on various issues. He passionately advocated for a comprehensive “war effort” to combat the virus, employing both conventional and unconventional measures.

In his acceptance speech for the award, Das stated:

“Life during the time of Covid-19 has been marked by unprecedented loss and isolation. However, we must remember that tough times are temporary; it is tough individuals and resilient institutions that endure.”

A Balancing Act: Inflation vs. Growth

Balancing the twin goals of curbing inflation and stimulating growth posed another significant challenge for Das, especially amidst the pandemic. As the head of the RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), he grappled with mounting inflationary pressures resulting from supply shocks, rising fuel prices, and global commodity cycles.

The MPC’s stance gradually shifted from accommodative to neutral and, eventually, hawkish as inflation surpassed the target range of 2-6 percent for most of 2022. Consequently, the MPC increased the policy rate by a cumulative 250 basis points, from 4 percent to 6.5 percent, to rein in inflation expectations and bolster credibility.

However, Das diligently ensured that growth did not suffer under the weight of tight monetary conditions. He emphasized that the rate hikes were “calibrated” and “gradual,” and reiterated the RBI’s commitment to providing ample liquidity and targeted support to specific sectors. He also underscored that sustainable growth was an essential condition for long-term inflation management.

Das remarked:

“Our aim is to foster a lasting recovery while maintaining price stability. Monetary policy in India is guided by our flexible inflation targeting framework, which has proven effective.”

A Reformer and Innovator

Das has been widely praised for his reform initiatives and innovative practices across various aspects of central banking. He has actively pursued governance reforms in public sector banks, facilitated the resolution of non-performing loans, strengthened supervision and regulation, promoted the development of financial markets, and fostered digital payment inclusion.

Furthermore, Das oversaw the introduction of new instruments and frameworks, such as long-term repo operations (LTROs), targeted long-term repo operations (TLTROs), on-tap TLTROs, open market operations (OMOs) for state development loans (SDLs), variable reverse repo rate (VRRR) auctions, the retail direct scheme, and the secondary market G-sec acquisition program (G-SAP).

He also supported the establishment of new entities and platforms, including the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd (NARCL), the Account Aggregator Network (AAN), the Centralised Payment Systems (CPS) Hub, and the Retail Direct Gilt Account (RDG).

Das emphasized:

“We have worked tirelessly to make our policy actions more transparent, predictable, and effective. Additionally, we have strived to foster innovation by creating an enabling environment for new players and products.”

A Leader amidst Crisis

Das has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership skills during numerous crises that have unfolded during his tenure. He adeptly managed the collapse of a major non-bank firm (IL&FS), the fraud at a prominent private bank (Yes Bank), the cyber-attack on a small cooperative bank (Cosmos Bank), the failure of a prominent housing finance company (DHFL), and governance issues at a leading private bank (HDFC Bank).

Furthermore, he successfully navigated external shocks arising from the US-China trade war, Iran-US tensions, Brexit uncertainties, oil price fluctuations, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Throughout these challenges, Das remained composed and self-assured, while effectively coordinating efforts with other authorities and stakeholders.

Das remarked:

“With an economy as intricate as India’s, challenges are bound to arise. Nevertheless, as I embark on the remainder of my second term, I take pride in our significant accomplishments thus far.”

A Man of Many Talents

Das is not merely a central banker but also a versatile individual with a range of talents. He holds a history degree from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and a post-graduate degree in economics from Delhi School of Economics. Additionally, he is a civil servant, having joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1980.

Throughout his career in the government, Das has held various notable positions, including revenue secretary, economic affairs secretary, fertilizer secretary, and G-20 sherpa. He has also represented India at prestigious international forums such as the IMF, the World Bank, the ADB, and the BRICS.

Beyond his professional life, Das is an avid reader, writer, and speaker. He has authored two books: “I Do What I Do” and “Overdraft: Saving the Indian Saver.” Additionally, he has delivered numerous lectures and speeches on central banking, fiscal policy, financial inclusion, climate change, and geopolitics.

Furthermore, Das is a sports enthusiast who actively participated in cricket and badminton during his younger days. He has a deep appreciation for music and movies, particularly Bollywood classics.

A Governor for All Seasons

Das has proven himself to be a Governor for all seasons, seamlessly adapting to evolving circumstances and rising to meet expectations. His vision, wisdom, and courage have been instrumental in navigating India’s economy through one of its most arduous phases. Notably, he has earned the respect and admiration of peers, colleagues, and critics alike.

He has set a remarkable standard for himself and his successors, enhancing the profile and prestige of the RBI as an institution. It is without a doubt that he is truly deserving of the Central Banker of the Year award for 2023.

Do you find this post useful?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Leave a Comment