Thursday, September 06, 2012

Ex-IAS & RBI Guv Subbarao’s "serious" joke takes stock market for a ride

Subbarao with Ashok Jha in North Block (File Photo)
Duvvuri Subbarao, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor and retired IAS of 1972 batch, is known for cracking jokes even during serious deliberations held in its Mint Road headquarters. But on Tuesday, Subbarao’s jokes in a banker’s meet turned so serious that a few reporters did not get it and sent news feed on the “joke”, triggering an upswing in banking stocks. It is often said that bureaucrats…
examine rule books even to decide whether they should laugh inside their own cabins! But more and more officers have begun to shed their traditional image of being a boring and serious breed.
First, let’s see what went wrong with Subbarao’s CRR joke. The CRR is an abbreviation of Cash Reserve Ratio which means the portion of deposits that banks need to keep with the RBI. If CRR is reduced, there is better liquidity in the market, which in turn, means better business for the banks.
It all began when Subbarao in the banking meet said in a very serious tone that he had something to announce. He then said a committee would be formed to debate whether to do away with the CRR in which “Dr. Chakrabarty and Pratip Chaudhuri” will be members. The governor was actually referring to the recent controversy between RBI Deputy Governor KC Chakrabarty and SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri on CRR. Chaudhuri had argued for abolition of CRR.
By the time, some journos began sending the news feed about the possible end of CRR regime. But governor’s joke only started by then. He said both the members of the committee would be locked up in a room until they reach a conclusion. Also, report will not be submitted until Subbarao’s term as governor ends. And those who knew the background got the joke and broke into laughter.
Was Subbarao too serious to crack a joke?
Across the world, there have been attempts to make bureaucrats more jovial and soften their stiff image. The classic episode was the training of Japanese transport ministry officials by professional comedians in summer of 2009, attracting media attention. The idea behind the programme was to soften their stiff attitudes and enhance communications skills. But in the end, the government received flak from various quarters on what was termed as sheer wastage of tax payers’ money.

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