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What is cash reserve ratio or CRR?

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CRR is one of the most important tools available to the RBI, to monitor liquidity in the banking system

Banks in India are liable to maintain a certain percentage of their total deposits with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the form of cash. This percentage of their total deposits is known as the CRR.

What is the full form of CRR?

Simply put, CRR or cash reserve ratio, is a percentage of cash that banks are required to keep in reserves vis-à-vis their total deposits, technically referred to as the Net Demand and Time Liabilities (NDTL).

By making changes in the CRR rate, the apex bank in India is able to keep inflation at its desired level and control and monitor money flow in the banking system.

Objective of CRR

There are three key objectives of the cash reserve ratio.

To maintain bank liquidity: The RBI, in the capacity of a banking regulator, is responsible for controlling and monitoring liquidity levels. Towards that goal, it infuses or takes liquidity out of a system with the help of the CRR. If the RBI wishes to infuse more liquidity into a system, it lowers the CRR and leaves banks with more liquidity to lend to their customers. On the other hand, if it wants to take out liquidity from the system, it increases the CRR.

To maintain banks’ health: The CRR is an important tool to maintain the fiscal health of banks. Since banks keep the CRR deposited with the banking regulator, they can use this fund when bank customers start to make huge withdrawals. The cash reserve ratio helps banks to safeguard themselves in such situations, as the cash reserve kept with the RBI ensures that banks do not run out of cash to meet the demands of their customers.

To set the repo rate: The RBI is also responsible for periodically setting the repurchase rate or repo rate. This is the minimum rate at which it lends money to commercial banks in India. While setting the repo rate, the RBI also considers the CRR rate. When the Reserve Bank wants banks to infuse more liquidity into the system it lowers the repo rate. Conversely, banks have less money to lend in case the RBI decides to increase the repo rate to tame inflation. To boost demand and support the economy, the RBI recently maintained a status quo on the repo rate for the seventh time on August 6, 2021, and left it unchanged at 4%. In case inflation starts to go over the comfort limit of the RBI it may, in the future, increase the repo rate.

CRR or cash reserve ratio

Cash reserve ratio calculation formula

The rights to set and make changes in the CRR lie with the RBI, as the apex bank in India. If a customer deposits with his bank Rs 1,000 and the cash reserve ratio is 8%, the bank will have to keep Rs 80 as the CRR with the RBI. The bank can keep this amount either in its vault or with the RBI in the form of cash. This also means that the bank can only use Rs 910 of the customer’s deposit for lending purposes.

If the RBI increases the CRR from, say, 8% to 10% at some point, a bank upon receiving a deposit of Rs 1,000 will have to keep aside Rs 100 as the CRR in its vault or deposit it with the RBI. The CRR cannot be used for lending purposes either by the RBI or by the banks.

Current CRR rate in India

Currently, the cash reserve rate in India stands at 4%. This means, if a bank gets Rs 100 in deposits, it has to keep Rs 4 as cash deposits with the RBI. For bank customers, the current CRR rate is an indicator that a certain percentage of their deposits are always safe with the RBI, even if the financial health of their bank becomes weak.

Statutory liquidity ratio (SLR)

Statutory liquidity ratio or SLR is also a reserve requirement that banks are expected to keep aside, before offering loans to customers. SLR is the minimum percentage of deposits that banks have to maintain in the form of cash, gold, or other securities.

CRR and SLR: Differences

While both happen to be tools in the hands of the RBI to contain inflation and monitor the money supply, there are certain differences between the CRR and the SLR.

CRR has to be maintained only in cash SLR can be maintained either in the form of gold or cash
CRR is maintained with the RBI SLR is maintained with the bank
Banks do not earn a return on CRR Banks earn a return on SLR

CRR and inflation

At times when the inflation goes over the level desired by the central bank in India, it typically hikes the CRR rate. However, as it currently walks the tightrope of boosting demand in the aftermath of the two waves of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, the RBI has maintained the CRR at a low level, to help the economy.

In fact, the consumer price-based inflation (CPI), which is the RBI’s monetary policy anchor, has remained above the upper band of RBI’s comfort zone of 2%-6% for two straight months in May and June 2021. CPI inflation hit a six-month high of 6.30% in May 2021, before marginally easing to 6.26% in June 2021.


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