Until the beginning of this year, the country had saved enough for the rainy day, because of strong capital flows in the past. However, those reserves are depleting fast. India lost nearly $85 billion of its forex reserves in the first half of the fiscal year, the second biggest depletion among major emerging market (EM) peers during the period.
India’s forex reserves were $528.4 billion as of 14 October, the lowest since July 2020, and sharply down from the record $642.4 billion last year. The rupee has crashed more than 10% against the US dollar this year and slipped below 83 for the first time in past few weeks.
To help arrest rupee’s record fall, the Reserve Bank of India has also burned $114 billion from its forex coffer, triggering concerns on this front as well. The central bank has however attributed about two-thirds of the decline to valuation effects. The decline of the forex reserves cannot be solely attributed to a central bank’s intervention to defend the currency against the dollar.
There has been a sharp depletion of forex reserves in the last few months, but what is comforting is India’s high level of reserves that has enabled it to withstand the sharp depletion without any major panic so far. Another comforting factor is the country’s low external debt (20% of gross domestic product) and the short-term debt as a share of total external debt is around 20%.
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