Collateral Debt Obligations. Thought of the Day 111.0

A CDO is a general term that describes securities backed by a pool of fixed-income assets. These assets can be bank loans (CLOs), bonds (CBOs), residential mortgages (residential- mortgage–backed securities, or RMBSs), and many others. A CDO is a subset of asset- backed securities (ABS), which is a general term for a security backed by assets such as mortgages, credit card receivables, auto loans, or other debt.

To create a CDO, a bank or other entity transfers the underlying assets (“the collateral”) to a special-purpose vehicle (SPV) that is a separate legal entity from the issuer. The SPV then issues securities backed with cash flows generated by assets in the collateral pool. This general process is called securitization. The securities are separated into tranches, which differ primarily in the priority of their rights to the cash flows coming from the asset pool. The senior tranche has first priority, the mezzanine second, and the equity third. Allocation of cash flows to specific securities is called a “waterfall”. A waterfall is specified in the CDO’s indenture and governs both principal and interest payments.

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1: If coverage tests are not met, and to the extent not corrected with principal proceeds, the remaining interest proceeds will be used to redeem the most senior notes to bring the structure back into compliance with the coverage tests. Interest on the mezzanine securities may be deferred and compounded if cash flow is not available to pay current interest due.

One may observe that the creation of a CDO is a complex and costly process. Professionals such as bankers, lawyers, rating agencies, accountants, trustees, fund managers, and insurers all charge considerable fees to create and manage a CDO. In other words, the cash coming from the collateral is greater than the sum of the cash paid to all security holders. Professional fees to create and manage the CDO make up the difference.

CDOs are designed to offer asset exposure precisely tailored to the risk that investors desire, and they provide liquidity because they trade daily on the secondary market. This liquidity enables, for example, a finance minister from the Chinese government to gain exposure to the U.S. mortgage market and to buy or sell that exposure at will. However, because CDOs are more complex securities than corporate bonds, they are designed to pay slightly higher interest rates than correspondingly rated corporate bonds.

CDOs enable a bank that specializes in making loans to homeowners to make more loans than its capital would otherwise allow, because the bank can sell its loans to a third party. The bank can therefore originate more loans and take in more origination fees. As a result, consumers have more access to capital, banks can make more loans, and investors a world away can not only access the consumer loan market but also invest with precisely the level of risk they desire.

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1: To the extent not paid by interest proceeds.

2: To the extent senior note coverage tests are met and to the extent not already paid by interest proceeds. If coverage tests are not met, the remaining principal proceeds will be used to redeem the most senior notes to bring the structure back into compliance with the coverage tests. Interest on the mezzanine securities may be deferred and compounded if cash flow is not available to pay current interest due.

The Structured Credit Handbook provides an explanation of investors’ nearly insatiable appetite for CDOs:

Demand for [fixed income] assets is heavily bifurcated, with the demand concentrated at the two ends of the safety spectrum . . . Prior to the securitization boom, the universe of fixed-income instruments issued tended to cluster around the BBB rating, offering neither complete safety nor sizzling returns. For example, the number of AA and AAA-rated companies is quite small, as is debt issuance of companies rated B or lower. Structured credit technology has evolved essentially in order to match investors’ demands with the available profile of fixed-income assets. By issuing CDOs from portfolios of bonds or loans rated A, BBB, or BB, financial intermediaries can create a larger pool of AAA-rated securities and a small unrated or low-rated bucket where almost all the risk is concentrated.

CDOs have been around for more than twenty years, but their popularity skyrocketed during the late 1990s. CDO issuance nearly doubled in 2005 and then again in 2006, when it topped $500 billion for the first time. “Structured finance” groups at large investment banks (the division responsible for issuing and managing CDOs) became one of the fastest-growing areas on Wall Street. These divisions, along with the investment banking trading desks that made markets in CDOs, contributed to highly successful results for the banking sector during the 2003–2007 boom. Many CDOs became quite liquid because of their size, investor breadth, and rating agency coverage.

Rating agencies helped bring liquidity to the CDO market. They analyzed each tranche of a CDO and assigned ratings accordingly. Equity tranches were often unrated. The rating agencies had limited manpower and needed to gauge the risk on literally thousands of new CDO securities. The agencies also specialized in using historical models to predict risk. Although CDOs had been around for a long time, they did not exist in a significant number until recently. Historical models therefore couldn’t possibly capture the full picture. Still, the underlying collateral could be assessed with a strong degree of confidence. After all, banks have been making home loans for hundreds of years. The rating agencies simply had to allocate risk to the appropriate tranche and understand how the loans in the collateral base were correlated with each other – an easy task in theory perhaps, but not in practice.

The most difficult part of valuing a CDO tranche is determining correlation. If loans are uncorrelated, defaults will occur evenly over time and asset diversification can solve most problems. With low correlation, an AAA-rated senior tranche should be safe and the interest rate attached to this tranche should be close to the rate for AAA-rated corporate bonds. High correlation, however, creates nondiversifiable risk, in which case the senior tranche has a reasonable likelihood of becoming impaired. Correlation does not affect the price of the CDO in total because the expected value of each individual loan remains the same. Correlation does, however, affect the relative price of each tranche: Any increase in the yield of a senior tranche (to compensate for additional correlation) will be offset by a decrease in the yield of the junior tranches.

Bear Stearns. Note Quote.

Like many of its competitors, Bear Stearns saw the rise of the hedge fund industry during the 1990s and began managing its own funds with outside investor capital under the name Bear Stearns Asset Management (BSAM). Unlike its competitors, Bear hired all of its fund managers internally, with each manager specializing in a particular security or asset class. Objections by some Bear executives, such as co-president Alan Schwartz, that such concentration of risk could raise volatility were ignored, and the impressive returns posted by internal funds such as Ralph Cioffi’s High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund quieted any concerns.

Cioffi’s fund was invested in sophisticated credit derivatives backed by mortgage securities. When the housing bubble burst, he redoubled his bets, raising a new Enhanced Leverage High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund that would use 100 leverage (as compared to the 35 leverage employed by the original fund). The market continued to turn disastrously against the fund, which was soon stuck with billions of dollars worth of illiquid, unprofitable mortgages. In an attempt to salvage the situation and cut his losses, Cioffi launched a vehicle named Everquest Financial and sold its shares to the public. But when journalists at the Wall Street Journal revealed that Everquest’s primary assets were the “toxic waste” of money-losing mortgage securities, Bear had no choice but to cancel the public offering. With spectacular losses mounting daily, investors attempted to withdraw their remaining holdings. In order to free up cash for such redemptions, the fund had to liquidate assets at a loss, selling that only put additional downward pressure on its already underwater positions. Lenders to the fund began making margin calls and threatening to seize its $1.2 billion in collateral.

In a less turbulent market it might have worked, but the subprime crisis had spent weeks on the front page of financial newspapers around the globe, and every bank on Wall Street was desperate to reduce its own exposure. Insulted and furious that Bear had refused to inject any of its own capital to save the funds, Steve Black, J.P. Morgan Chase head of investment banking, called Schwartz and said, “We’re defaulting you.”

The default and subsequent seizure of $400 million in collateral by Merrill Lynch proved highly damaging to Bear Stearns’s reputation across Wall Street. In a desperate attempt to save face under the scrutiny of the SEC, James Cayne made the unprecedented move of using $1.6 billion of Bear’s own capital to prop up the hedge funds. By late July 2007 even Bear’s continued support could no longer prop up Cioffi’s two beleaguered funds, which paid back just $300 million of the credit its parent had extended. With their holdings virtually worthless, the funds had no choice but to file for bankruptcy protection.

On November 14, just two weeks after the Journal story questioning Cayne’s commitment and leadership, Bear Stearns reported that it would write down $1.2 billion in mortgage- related losses. (The figure would later grow to $1.9 billion.) CFO Molinaro suggested that the worst had passed, and to outsiders, at least, the firm appeared to have narrowly escaped disaster.

Behind the scenes, however, Bear management had already begun searching for a white knight, hiring Gary Parr at Lazard to examine its options for a cash injection. Privately, Schwartz and Parr spoke with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. founder Henry Kravis, who had first learned the leveraged buyout market while a partner at Bear Stearns in the 1960s. Kravis sought entry into the profitable brokerage business at depressed prices, while Bear sought an injection of more than $2 billion in equity capital (for a reported 20% of the company) and the calming effect that a strong, respected personality like Kravis would have upon shareholders. Ultimately the deal fell apart, largely due to management’s fear that KKR’s significant equity stake and the presence of Kravis on the board would alienate the firm’s other private equity clientele, who often competed with KKR for deals. Throughout the fall Bear continued to search for potential acquirers. With the market watching intently to see if Bear shored up its financing, Cayne managed to close only a $1 billion cross-investment with CITIC, the state-owned investment company of the People’s Republic of China.

Bear’s $0.89 profit per share in the first quarter of 2008 did little to quiet the growing whispers of its financial instability. It seemed that every day another major investment bank reported mortgage-related losses, and for whatever reason Bear’s name kept cropping up in discussions of the by-then infamous subprime crisis. Exacerbating Bear’s public relations problem, the SEC had launched an investigation into the collapse of the two BSAM hedge funds, and rumors of massive losses at three major hedge funds further rattled an already uneasy market. Nonetheless, Bear executives felt that the storm had passed, reasoning that its almost $21 billion in cash reserves had convinced the market of its long-term viability.

Instead, on Monday, March 10, 2008, Moody’s downgraded 163 tranches of mortgage- backed bonds issued by Bear across fifteen transactions. The credit rating agency had drawn sharp criticism for its role in the subprime meltdown from analysts who felt the company had overestimated the creditworthiness of mortgage-backed securities and failed to alert the market of the danger as the housing market turned. As a result, Moody’s was in the process of downgrading nearly all of its ratings, but as the afternoon wore on, Bear’s stock price seemed to be reacting far more negatively than those of competitor firms.

Wall Street’s drive toward ever more sophisticated communications devices had created an interconnected network of traders and bankers across the world. On most days, Internet chat and mobile e-mail devices relayed gossip about compensation, major employee departures, and even sports betting lines. On the morning of March 10, however, they were carrying one message to the exclusion of all others: Bear was having liquidity problems. At noon, CNBC took the story public on Power Lunch. As Bear’s stock price fell more than 10 percent to $63, Ace Greenberg frantically placed calls to various executives, demanding that someone publicly deny any such problems. When contacted himself, Greenberg told a CNBC correspondent that the rumors were “totally ridiculous,” angering CFO Molinaro, who felt that denying the rumor would only legitimize it and trigger further panic selling, making prophecies of Bear’s illiquidity self-fulfilling. Just two hours later, however, Bear appeared to have dodged a bullet. News of New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s involvement in a high-class prostitution ring wiped any financial rumors off the front page, leading Bear executives to believe the worst was once again behind them.

Instead, the rumors exploded anew the next day, as many interpreted the Federal Reserve’s announcement of a new $200 billion lending program to help financial institutions through the credit crisis as aimed specifically toward Bear Stearns. The stock dipped as low as $55.42 before closing at $62.97. Meanwhile, Bear executives faced a new crisis in the form of an explosion of novation requests, in which a party to a risky contract tries to eliminate its risky position by selling it to a third party. Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs all reported a deluge of novation requests from firms trying to reduce their exposure to Bear’s credit risk. The speed and force of this explosion of novation requests meant that before Bear could act, both Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse issued e-mails to their traders holding up any requests relating to Bear Stearns pending approval by their credit departments. Once again, the electronically linked gossip network of trading desks around the world dealt a blow to investor confidence in Bear’s stability, as a false rumor circulated that Credit Suisse’s memo had forbidden its traders from engaging in any trades with Bear. The decrease in confidence in Bear’s liquidity could be quantified by the rise in the cost of credit default swaps on Bear’s debt. The price of such an instrument – which effectively acts as five years of insurance against a default on $10 million of Bear’s debt – spiked to more than $626,000 from less than $100,000 in October, indicating heavy betting by some firms that Bear would be unable to pay its liabilities.

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Internally, Bear debated whether to address the rumors publicly, ultimately deciding to arrange a Wednesday morning interview of Schwartz by CNBC correspondent David Faber. Not wanting to encourage rumors with a hasty departure, Schwartz did the interview live from Bear’s annual media conference in Palm Beach. Chosen because of his perceived friendliness to Bear, Faber nonetheless opened the interview with a devastating question that claimed direct knowledge of a trader whose credit department had temporarily held up a trade with Bear. Later during the interview Faber admitted that the trade had finally gone through, but he had called into question Bear’s fundamental capacity to operate as a trading firm. One veteran trader later commented,

You knew right at that moment that Bear Stearns was dead, right at the moment he asked that question. Once you raise that idea, that the firm can’t follow through on a trade, it’s over. Faber killed him. He just killed him.

Despite sentiment at Bear that Schwartz had finally put the company’s best foot forward and refuted rumors of its illiquidity, hedge funds began pulling their accounts in earnest, bringing Bear’s reserves down to $15 billion. Additionally, repo lenders – whose overnight loans to investment banks must be renewed daily – began informing Bear that they would not renew the next morning, forcing the firm to find new sources of credit. Schwartz phoned Parr at Lazard, Molinaro reviewed Bear’s plans for an emergency sale in the event of a crisis, and one of the firm’s attorneys called the president of the Federal Reserve to explain Bear’s situation and implore him to accelerate the newly announced program that would allow investment banks to use mortgage securities as collateral for emergency loans from the Fed’s discount window, normally reserved for commercial banks.

The trickle of withdrawals that had begun earlier in the week turned into an unstoppable torrent of cash flowing out the door on Thursday. Meanwhile, Bear’s stock continued its sustained nosedive, falling nearly 15% to an intraday low of $50.48 before rallying to close down 1.5%. At lunch, Schwartz assured a crowded meeting of Bear executives that the whirlwind rumors were simply market noise, only to find himself interrupted by Michael Minikes, senior managing director,

Do you have any idea what is going on? Our cash is flying out the door! Our clients are leaving us!

Hedge fund clients jumped ship in droves. Renaissance Technologies withdrew approximately $5 billion in trading accounts, and D. E. Shaw followed suit with an equal amount. That evening, Bear executives assembled in a sixth-floor conference room to survey the carnage. In less than a week, the firm had burned through all but $5.9 billion of its $18.3 billion in reserves, and was still on the hook for $2.4 billion in short-term debt to Citigroup. With a panicked market making more withdrawals the next day almost certain, Schwartz accepted the inevitable need for additional financing and had Parr revisit merger discussions with J.P. Morgan Chase CEO James Dimon that had stalled in the fall. Flabbergasted at the idea that an agreement could be reached that night, Dimon nonetheless agreed to send a team of bankers over to analyze Bear’s books.

Parr’s call interrupted Dimon’s 52nd birthday celebration at a Greek restaurant just a few blocks away from Bear headquarters, where a phalanx of attorneys had begun preparing emergency bankruptcy filings and documents necessary for a variety of cash-injecting transactions. Facing almost certain insolvency in the next 24 hours, Schwartz hastily called an emergency board meeting late that night, with most board members dialing in remotely. Bear’s nearly four hundred subsidiaries would make a bankruptcy filing impossibly complicated, so Schwartz continued to cling to the hope for an emergency cash infusion to get Bear through Friday. As J.P. Morgan’s bankers pored over Bear’s positions, they balked at the firm’s precarious position and the continued size of its mortgage holdings, insisting that the Fed get involved in a bailout they considered far too risky to take on alone.

Its role as a counterparty in trillions of dollars’ worth of derivatives contracts bore an eerie similarity to LTCM, and the Fed once again saw the potential for financial Armageddon if Bear were allowed to collapse of its own accord. An emergency liquidation of the firm’s assets would have put strong downward pressure on global securities prices, exacerbating an already chaotic market environment. Facing a hard deadline of credit markets’ open on Friday morning, the Fed and J.P. Morgan wrangled back and forth on how to save Bear. Working around the clock, they finally reached an agreement wherein J.P. Morgan would access the Fed’s discount window and in turn offer Bear a $30 billion credit line that, as dictated by a last-minute insertion by J.P. Morgan general counsel Steven Cutler, would be good for 28 days. As the press release went public, Bear executives cheered; Bear would have almost a month to seek alternative financing.

Where Bear had seen a lifeline, however, the market saw instead a last desperate gasp for help. Incredulous Bear executives could only watch in horror as the firm’s capital continued to fly out of its coffers. On Friday morning Bear burned through the last of its reserves in a matter of hours. A midday conference call in which Schwartz confidently assured investors that the credit line would allow Bear to continue “business as usual” did little to stop the bleeding, and its stock lost almost half of its already depressed value, closing at $30 per share.

All day Friday, Parr set about desperately trying to save his client, searching every corner of the financial world for potential investors or buyers of all or part of Bear. Given the severity of the situation, he could rule out nothing, from a sale of the lucrative prime brokerage operations to a merger or sale of the entire company. Ideally, he hoped to find what he termed a “validating investor,” a respected Wall Street name to join the board, adding immediate credibility and perhaps quieting the now deafening rumors of Bear’s imminent demise. Sadly, only a few such personalities with the reputation and war chest necessary to play the role of savior existed, and most of them had already passed on Bear.

Nonetheless, Schwartz left Bear headquarters on Friday evening relieved that the firm had lived to see the weekend and secured 28 days of breathing room. During the ride home to Greenwich, an unexpected phone call from New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson shattered that illusion. Paulson told a stunned Schwartz that the Fed’s line of credit would expire Sunday night, giving Bear 48 hours to find a buyer or file for bankruptcy. The demise of the 28-day clause remains a mystery; the speed necessary early Friday morning and the inclusion of the clause by J.P. Morgan’s general counsel suggest that Bear executives had misinterpreted it, although others believe that Paulson and Geithner had soured both on Bear’s prospects and on market perception of an emergency loan from the Fed as Friday wore on. Either way, the Fed had made up its mind, and a Saturday morning appeal from Schwartz failed to sway Geithner.

All day Saturday prospective buyers streamed through Bear’s headquarters to pick through the rubble as Parr attempted to orchestrate Bear’s last-minute salvation. Chaos reigned, with representatives from every major bank on Wall Street, J. C. Flowers, KKR, and countless others poring over Bear’s positions in an effort to determine the value of Bear’s massive illiquid holdings and how the Fed would help in financing. Some prospective buyers wanted just a piece of the dying bank, others the whole firm, with still others proposing more complicated multiple-step transactions that would slice Bear to ribbons. One by one, they dropped out, until J. C. Flowers made an offer for 90% of Bear for a total of up to $2.6 billion, but the offer was contingent on the private equity firm raising $20 billion from a bank consortium, and $20 billion in risky credit was unlikely to appear overnight.

That left J.P. Morgan. Apparently the only bank willing to come to the rescue, J.P. Morgan had sent no fewer than 300 bankers representing 16 different product groups to Bear headquarters to value the firm. The sticking point, as with all the bidders, was Bear’s mortgage holdings. Even after a massive write-down, it was impossible to assign a value to such illiquid (and publicly maligned) securities with any degree of accuracy. Having forced the default of the BSAM hedge funds that started this mess less than a year earlier.

On its final 10Q in March, Bear listed $399 billion in assets and $387 billion in liabilities, leaving just $12 billion in equity for a 32 leverage multiple. Bear initially estimated that this included $120 billion of “risk-weighted” assets, those that might be subject to subsequent write-downs. As J.P. Morgan’s bankers worked around the clock trying to get to the bottom of Bear’s balance sheet, they came to estimate the figure at nearly $220 billion. That pessimistic outlook, combined with Sunday morning’s New York Times article reiterating Bear’s recent troubles, dulled J.P. Morgan’s appetite for jumping onto what appeared to be a sinking ship. Later, one J.P. Morgan banker shuddered, recalling the article. “That article certainly had an impact on my thinking. Just the reputational aspects of it, getting into bed with these people.”

On Saturday morning J.P. Morgan backed out and Dimon told a shell-shocked Schwartz to pursue any other option available to him. The problem was, no such alternative existed. Knowing this, and the possibility that the liquidation of Bear could throw the world’s financial markets into chaos, Fed representatives immediately phoned Dimon. As it had in the LTCM case a decade ago, the Fed relied heavily on suasion, or “jawboning,” the longtime practice of attempting to influence market participants by appeals to reason rather than a declaration by fiat. For hours, J.P. Morgan’s and the Fed’s highest-ranking officials played a game of high-stakes poker, with each side bluffing and Bear’s future hanging in the balance. The Fed wanted to avoid unprecedented government participation in the bailout of a private investment firm, while J.P. Morgan wanted to avoid taking on any of the “toxic waste” in Bear’s mortgage holdings. “They kept saying, ‘We’re not going to do it,’ and we kept saying, ‘We really think you should do it,’” recalled one Fed official. “This went on for hours . . . They kept saying, ‘We can’t do this on our own.’” With the hours ticking away until Monday’s Australian markets would open at 6:00 p.m. New York time, both sides had to compromise.

On Sunday afternoon, Schwartz stepped out of a 1:00 emergency meeting of Bear’s board of directors to take the call from Dimon. The offer would come somewhere in the range of $4 to 5 per share. Hearing the news from Schwartz, the Bear board erupted with rage. Dialing in from the bridge tournament in Detroit, Cayne exploded, ranting furiously that the firm should file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 rather than accept such a humiliating offer, which would reduce his 5.66 million shares – once worth nearly $1 billion – to less than $30 million in value. In reality, however, bankruptcy was impossible. As Parr explained, changes to the federal bankruptcy code in 2005 meant that a Chapter 11 filing would be tantamount to Bear falling on its sword, because regulators would have to seize Bear’s accounts, immediately ceasing the firm’s operations and forcing its liquidation. There would be no reorganization.

Even as Cayne raged against the $4 offer, the Fed’s concern over the appearance of a $30 billion loan to a failing investment bank while American homeowners faced foreclosures compelled Treasury Secretary Paulson to pour salt in Bear’s wounds. Officially, the Fed had remained hands-off in the LTCM bailout, relying on its powers of suasion to convince other banks to step up in the name of market stability. Just 10 years later, they could find no takers. The speed of Bear’s collapse, the impossibility of conducting true due diligence in such a compressed time frame, and the incalculable risk of taking on Bear’s toxic mortgage holdings scared off every buyer and forced the Fed from an advisory role into a principal role in the bailout. Worried that a price deemed at all generous to Bear might subsequently encourage moral hazard – increased risky behavior by investment banks secure in the knowledge that in a worst-case scenario, disaster would be averted by a federal bailout – Paulson determined that the transaction, while rescuing the firm, also had to be punitive to Bear shareholders. He called Dimon, who reiterated the contemplated offer range.

“That sounds high tome,” Paulson told the J.P. Morgan chief. “I think this should be done at a very low price.” It was moments later that Braunstein called Parr. “The number’s $2.” Under Delaware law, executives must act on behalf of both shareholders and creditors when a company enters the “zone of insolvency,” and Schwartz knew that Bear had rocketed through that zone over the past few days. Faced with bankruptcy or J.P. Morgan, Bear had no choice but to accept the embarrassingly low offer that represented a 97% discount off its $32 close on Friday evening. Schwartz convinced the weary Bear board that $2 would be “better than nothing,” and by 6:30 p.m., the deal was unanimously approved.

After 85 years in the market, Bear Stearns ceased to exist.

Financial Analysis of the Blue Economy: Sagarmala’s Case in Point

Let us begin with the question. Why is infrastructure even important? Extensive and efficient infrastructure is critical for ensuring the effective functioning of the economy, as it is an important factor determining the location of economic activity and the kinds of activities or sectors that can develop in a particular economy. Well-developed infrastructure reduces the effect of distance between regions, integrating the national market and connecting it at low cost to markets in other countries and regions. In addition, the quality and extensiveness of infrastructure networks significantly impact economic growth and affect income inequalities and poverty in a variety of ways. A well- developed transport and communications infrastructure network is a prerequisite for the access of less-developed communities to core economic activities and services. Effective modes of transport, including quality roads, railroads, ports, and air transport, enable entrepreneurs to get their goods and services to market in a secure and timely manner and facilitate the movement of workers to the most suitable jobs. Economies also depend on electricity supplies that are free of interruptions and shortages so that businesses and factories can work unimpeded. Finally, a solid and extensive communications network allows for a rapid and free flow of information, which increases overall economic efficiency by helping to ensure that businesses can communicate and decisions are made by economic actors taking into account all available relevant information. There is an existing correlation between infrastructure and economic activity through which the economic effects originate in the construction phase and rise during the usage phase. The construction phase is associated with the short-term effects and are a consequence of the decisions in the public sector that could affect macroeconomic variables: GDP, employment, public deficit, inflation, among others. The public investment expands the aggregate demand, yielding a boost to the employment, production and income. The macroeconomic effects at a medium and long term, associated with the utilization phase are related to the increase of productivity in the private sector and its effects over the territory. Both influence significantly in the competitiveness degree of the economy. In conclusion, investing in infrastructure constitutes one of the main mechanisms to increase income, employment, productivity and consequently, the competitiveness of an economy. Is this so? Well, thats what the economics textbook teaches us, and thus governments all over the world turn to infrastructure development as a lubricant to maintain current economic output at best and it can also be the basis for better industry which contributes to better economic output. So far, so good, but then, so what? This is where social analysts need to be incisive in unearthing facts from fiction and this faction is what constitutes the critique of development, a critique that is engineered against a foci on GDP-led growth model.

Rewinding back to earlier this year in April, when the occasion was the inauguration of the 2nd annual meeting of New Development Bank (NDB) by the five member BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) countries in New Delhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stressed that India has a huge unmet need for investment in infrastructure, estimated to the tune of Rs 43 trillion or about $646 billion over the next five years, 70% of which will be required in the power, roads and urban infrastructure sectors. He reiterated that in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs), the overall growth is picking up, although growth prospects diverge across countries. Further,

But there are newer challenges, most notably a possible shift towards inward-looking policy platforms and protectionism, a sharper than expected tightening in global financial conditions that could interact with balance sheet weaknesses in parts of the euro area and increased geopolitical tensions, including unpredictable economic policy of USA. Most importantly, the EMDEs need to carry out this huge investment in a sustainable manner. The established Multi-lateral Development Banks are now capital constrained, and with their over emphasis on processes, are unable to meet this financing challenge. We shall work with the NDB to develop a strong shelf of projects in specific areas such as Smart Cities, renewable energy, urban transport, including Metro Railways, clean coal technology, solid waste management and urban water supply.

This is the quote that reflects the policy-direction of the Government at the centre. Just a month prior to Jaitley’s address, it was the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who instantiated the need for overhauling the infrastructure in a manner hitherto not conceived of, even though policies for such an overhauling were doing the rounds in the pipeline ever since he was elected to the position in May 2014. Modi emphasized that the Government would usher in a ‘Blue Revolution’ by developing India’s coastal regions and working for the welfare of fishing communities in a string of infrastructure projects. that such a declaration came in the pilgrim town of Somnath in Gujarat isn’t surprising, for the foundations of a smart city spread over an area of about 1400 acres was laid at Kandla, the port city. The figures he cited during his address were all the more staggering making one wonder about the source of resources. For instance, the smart city would provide employment to about 50000 people. The Blue Revolution would be initiated through the Government’s flagship Sagarmala Project attracting an investment to the tune of Rs. 8 lakh crore and creating industrial and tourism development along the coast line of the entire country. Not just content with such figures already, he also promised that 400 ports and fishing sites would be developed under the project, of which the state of Gujarat along would account for 40 port projects with an investment of about Rs. 45000 crore.

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The Government, moreover plans to help the fishermen buy fishing boats at 50% subsidized rates, where five poor fishermen could form a cooperative and avail 50% subsidy and Rs 1 crore loan from Mudra scheme1. Fishermen can buy a fishing trawler with cold storage facility and increase their income (emphasis mine).

One would obviously wonder at how tall are these claims? Clearly Modi and his cohorts are no fan of Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” due to their obsession with “Bigger is Better”. What’s even more surprising is that these reckless followers of capitalism haven’t even understood what is meant by “Creative Destruction” both macro- or micro- economically. The process of Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction (restructuring) permeates major aspects of macroeconomic performance, not only long-run growth but also economic fluctuations, structural adjustment and the functioning of factor markets. At the microeconomic level, restructuring is characterized by countless decisions to create and destroy production arrangements. These decisions are often complex, involving multiple parties as well as strategic and technological considerations. The efficiency of those decisions not only depends on managerial talent but also hinges on the existence of sound institutions that provide a proper transactional framework. Failure along this dimension can have severe macroeconomic consequences once it interacts with the process of creative destruction. Quite unfortunately, India is heading towards an economic mess, if such policies are to slammed onto people under circumstances when neither the macroeconomic not the microeconomic apparatuses in the country are in shape to withstand cyclonic shocks. Moreover, these promotional doctrines come at a humungous price of gross violations of human and constitutional rights of the people lending credibility once again to the warnings of Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (emphasis mine). After this pretty long sneak peek via introduction, let us turn to Blue Economy/Blue Revolution.

Blue Economy or Blue Revolution?

What exactly do these terms mean? What is the difference between the ocean economy and the blue or sustainable ocean economy? Is it simply that a sustainable ocean economy is one where the environmental risks of, and ecological damage from, economic activity are mitigated, or significantly reduced? Is it enough that future economic activity minimizes harm to the ocean, or rather, should aim to restore its health? These are pressing questions, and thus a working definition of what blue Economy is, or rather more aptly how Blue Economy is conceived the world over is an imperative.

A sustainable ocean economy emerges when economic activity is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean ecosystems to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy.

The ocean is becoming a new focal point in the discourse on growth and sustainable development, both at national and international levels. The world is in many ways at a turning point in setting its economic priorities in the ocean. How this is done in the next years and decades, in a period when human activities in the ocean are expected to accelerate significantly, will be a key determinant of the ocean’s health and of the long- term benefits derived by all from healthy ocean ecosystems. The idea of the “blue economy” or “blue growth” has become synonymous with the “greening” of the ocean economy, and the frame by which governments, NGOs and others refer to a more sustainable ocean economy – one, broadly, where there is a better alignment between economic growth and the health of the ocean. Increasingly, national ocean development strategies reference the blue economy as a guiding principle, while policy-makers busy themselves filling in the gaps. These gaps are very considerable. Stimulating growth in the ocean economy could be comparatively straightforward; but what is not always clear is what a sustainable ocean economy should look like, and under what conditions it is most likely to develop. It is at this point where the Government and the communities dependent on oceans for life and livelihoods come to friction, and most of the time, it is the communities which find themselves at the receiving end for whenever policies pertaining to oceans and economies thereof are blue-printed, these communities seldom have a representation, or a representational voice. As could be made amply clear from the above description of what Blue Economy entails, it is the financialization of and economics of the ocean, that gets the prerogative over pretty much everything else. Indian schema on the Blue Economy is no different, and in fact it takes the theory into a derailed practice with Sagarmala Project.

What then is Blue Revolution? As has been the customary practice of the Government of India in changing names, this ‘Revolution’ too has come in to substitute ‘Economy’ in Blue Economy. This runs concomitantly with the major principles of Blue Economy in recognizing the potential and possibilities of the fisheries sector by unlocking the country’s latent potential through an integrated approach. In the words of the Government2, the Blue Revolution, in its scope and reach, focuses on creating an enabling environment for an integrated and holistic development and management of fisheries for the socio economic development of the fishers and fish farmers. Thrust areas have been identified for enhancing fisheries production from 10.79 mmt (2014-15) to 15 mmt in 2020-21. Greater emphasis will be on infrastructure with an equally strong focus on management and conservation of the resources through technology transfer to increase in the income of the fishers and fish farmers. Productivity enhancement shall also be achieved through employing the best global innovations and integration of various production oriented activities such as: Production of quality fish seeds, Cost effective feed and adoption of technology etc.

The restructured Plan Scheme on Blue Revolution3 – Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries has been approved at a total central outlay of Rs 3000 crore for implementation during a period of five years (2015-16 to 2019-20)4. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries has restructured the scheme by merging all the ongoing schemes under an umbrella of Blue Revolution. The restructured scheme provides focused development and management of fisheries, covering inland fisheries, aquaculture, marine fisheries including deep sea fishing, mariculture and all activities undertaken by the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB).

The Blue Revolution scheme has the following components:

  1. 1  National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) and its activities
  2. Development of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture
  3. Development of Marine Fisheries, Infrastructure and Post-Harvest Operations
  4. Strengthening of Database & Geographical Information System of the Fisheries Sector
  5. Institutional Arrangement for Fisheries Sector
  6. Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) and other need-based Interventions
  7. National Scheme of Welfare of Fishermen

One cannot fail to but notice that this schema is a gargantuan one, and the haunting accompaniment in the form of resources to bring this to effectuation would form the central theme of this paper. Though, there is enough central assistance, the question remains: where would these resources be raised/generated? Broad patterns of Central funding for new projects broadly fall under four components,

  1. National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) and its activities,
  2. Development of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture,
  3. Development of Marine Fisheries, Infrastructure and Post- Harvest Operations and
  4. National Scheme of Welfare of Fishermen are as below:
  • 50% of the project/unit cost for general States, leaving the rest to State agencies/ organizations, corporations, federations, boards, Fishers cooperatives, private entrepreneurs, individual beneficiaries.
  • 80% of the project/unit cost for North-Eastern/Hilly States leaving the rest to State agencies/Organizations, Cooperatives, individual beneficiaries etc.

  • 100% for projects directly implemented by the Government of India through its institutes/organizations and Union Territories.

Projects under the remaining three components scheme namely (i) Strengthening of Database & Geographical Information System of the Fisheries Sector, (ii) Institutional Arrangement for the Fisheries Sector and (iii) Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) and other need-based interventions shall be implemented with 100% central funding. Individual beneficiaries, entrepreneurs and cooperatives/collectives of the Union Territories shall also be provided Central financial assistance at par and equal to such beneficiaries in General States. As far as the implementing agencies are concerned, such wouldn’t really be an eye-opener.

  • Central Government, Central Government Institutes/Agencies, NFDB, ICAR Institutes etc.
  • State Governments and Union Territories
  • State Government Agencies, Organizations, Corporations, Federations, Boards, Panchayats and Local Urban Bodies
  • Fishers Cooperatives/Registered Fishers Bodies
  • Individual beneficiaries/fishers, Entrepreneurs, Scheduled Castes(SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) Groups, Women and their Co-operatives, SHG’s and Fish Farmers and miscellaneous Fishermen Bodies.

But, there is more than meets the eye here, for Blue Revolution isn’t all about fisheries, despite having some irreparable damages caused to the fisher community inhabiting the coastline for centuries. This revolution is purported to usher in industrialization, tourism and eventually growth through a criss-cross of industrial corridors, port up gradations and connectivities, raw material landing zones, coastal economic zones through what the adversaries of Blue Economy/Revolution refer to as Ocean Grabbing.5 In order to understand the implications of what ‘Ocean Grabbing’ refers to, one must look at it in tandem with Sagarmala Project, the flagship project of the Government of India, and a case study of instantiation of Blue Economy/Revolution. Here is where we turn to in the next section.

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Sagarmala

The contours of Sagarmala Project were laid out in the April 2016 perspective plan of the Ministry of Shipping. The plan involves a four-pronged approach that includes port modernization, port connectivity and port-led industrialization. It identifies Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) and industrial clusters to be developed around port facilities mirroring the Chinese or European port infrastructure. The ambitious programmes spread across 14 ports is aimed to make domestic manufacturing and EXIM sector more competitive.

The project falls in line with Blue Revolution’s coastal community development. By “improving and matching the skills” of coastal communities, the plan seeks to ensure “sustainable development”. The plan seeks to improve the lives of coastal communities, implying that there is no contradiction between these objectives of port-led development and that of enhancing the lives of coastal residents. This seemingly win-win agenda is also endorsed by NITI Aayog’s mapping of schemes that are to help India achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sagarmala is one of the ways Goal 14 will be met by 2030. Goal 14 is to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources.

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The Kutch coast of Gujarat tops the list of potential coastal economic zones (CEZs)6 in the 2016 perspective plan. The region is not unaccustomed to the consequences of this vision of port-centred development. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a large port development project in Mundra, Kutch, described the lands on which the SEZ was to be set up as “non-agricultural, waste, barren or weed infested land.” But that was far from the truth. These statements have been contested by local residents through endless administrative complaints and court cases. The litigation challenging projects in coastal Gujarat have brought up elaborate arguments regarding the complex web of valuable land uses that were blotted out to make this transformation possible.

Notwithstanding the contestations over such plans for coastal land use transformation in several regions like in Kutch, the Sagarmala plan document lays out its goals as if the coast has been an empty or unproductive space, and is now poised to be a “gateway” to growth. India’s coastline currently has about 3200 marine fishing villages. Nearly half of this population (over 1.6 million people) is engaged in active fishing and fishery-related activities. While such statistics may be quoted in the plan, the official proposal views these as mere numbers or as a population that will simply toe the line and play the role assigned to them in the plan.

Port expansions involve massive dredging into the sea that destroys large stretches of fertile fishing grounds and destabilizes jetties. Fishing associations bring out a range of concerns.7 Over the years there is reduced parking space for small artisanal boats, curtailed access to fishing harbours, and unpredictable fish catch. These changes keep them in a state of permanent anxiety or turn them into cheap industrial and cargo handling labour. These families also suffer the impacts of living next to mineral handling facilities and groundwater exhaustion. India has had laws to regulate environmental impacts, but these have been mostly on paper. So, the Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari’s assurances that all air and water pollution norms will be met in the implementation of the Sagarmala plan may not cut any ice with coastal dwellers. Can India afford such an imagination of ‘frictionless development’? After all, we don’t yet have a Chinese model of governance.8 Running after the Chinese model of development9 is a still a dream in the corridors of power in New Delhi.

Late last year, the Minister Nitin Gadkari exuded confidence in promoting the port-led development by confidently asserting that the project would fetch 10-15 lakh crore capital investments, generate direct and indirect employment for around two crore people and provide a huge fillip to the country’s economic growth. Gadkari, when he inaugurated the Sagarmala Development Company, a unit under his ministry, and which would act as a nodal agency for the Project said Rs 8-lakh crore investment is expected as industrial investment while an additional Rs 4 lakh crore might go into port-led connectivity. It must be noted that Sagarmala Development Company10 has Rs. 1000 crore initial-authorized capital and is registered under the Companies Act, 2013. That the Government is going ahead full steam with the implementation of the Project, howsoever ill-conceived and fuzzy it might be could be gauged by the fact that a significant portion of the Project needs to be underway till the General elections of 2019. Gadkari said that projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore under the Sagarmala programme are already under various stages of implementation and by the completion of the present dispensation’s current tenure in 2019, projects worth Rs 5 lakh crore are expected to commence. He further stressed that a national perspective plan under the Sagarmala project has been prepared and projects worth Rs 8 lakh crore have been identified. That there is a lack of transparency in garnering these funds in the public domain could easily be decipherable from what Nitin Gadkari said,

I don’t have any problem with financial resources. We have already appointed an agency to help us raise funds.

What this agency is is anyone’s guess, or maybe locating the coordinates of it is as hard as finding a needle in the haystack. But, probably, here is the clue. In order to have effective mechanism at the state level for coordinating and facilitating Sagarmala related projects, the State Governments will be suggested to set up State Sagarmala Committee to be headed by Chief Minister/Minister in Charge of Ports with members from relevant Departments and agencies. The state level Committee will also take up matters on priority as decided in the National Sagarmala Apex Committee (NSAC)11. At the state level, the State Maritime Boards/State Port Departments shall service the State Sagarmala Committee and also be, inter alia, responsible for coordination and implementation of individual projects, including through Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) (as may be necessary) and oversight. The development of each Coastal economic zone shall be done through individual projects and supporting activities that will be undertaken by the State Government, Central line Ministries and SPVs to be formed by the State Governments at the state level or by Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) and ports, as may be necessary.

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Before getting into the financial ecosystem of Sagarmala, it is necessary to wrap this brief section on introducing Sagarmala with a list of the kinds of development projects envisaged in the initiative. This is also kind of summarizes the Blue Economy/ Revolution, Sagarmala Project and the hunger for infrastructural development by instances: (i) Port-led industrialization (ii) Port based urbanization (iii) Port based and coastal tourism and recreational activities (iv) Short-sea shipping coastal shipping and Inland Waterways Transportation (v) Ship building, ship repair and ship recycling (vi) Logistics parks, warehousing, maritime zones/services (vii) Integration with hinterland hubs (viii) Offshore storage, drilling platforms (ix) Specialization of ports in certain economic activities such as energy, containers, chemicals, coal, agro products, etc. (x) Offshore Renewable Energy Projects with base ports for installations (xi) Modernizing the existing ports and development of new ports. This strategy incorporates both aspects of port-led development viz. port-led direct development and port-led indirect development.

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Table12

What does the Government want to make us believe about this ambitious Project, i.e. raison d’être for undertaking this? The growth of India’s maritime sector13 is constrained due to many developmental, procedural and policy related challenges namely, involvement of multiple agencies in development of infrastructure to promote industrialization, trade, tourism and transportation; presence of a dual institutional structure that has led to development of major and non-major ports as separate, unconnected entities; lack of requisite infrastructure for evacuation from major and non- major ports leading to sub-optimal transport modal mix; limited hinterland linkages that increases the cost of transportation and cargo movement; limited development of centers for manufacturing and urban and economic activities in the hinterland; low penetration of coastal and inland shipping in India, limited mechanization and procedural bottlenecks and lack of scale, deep draft and other facilities at various ports in India.

The Financial Ecosystem of Blue Revolution/Economy and Sagarmala Project

Let us begin with a shocker. In the words of Nitin Gadkari14,

With bank credit drying up for large infrastructure projects, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is exploring a plan to raise Rs 10 trillion from retirees and provident fund beneficiaries15.

The plan aims to raise money in tranches of Rs10,000 crore by selling 10-year bonds at a coupon of 7.25-7.75%. Each tranche will be meant for a specific project. India plans to invest as much as Rs 3.96 trillion in the current financial year to bankroll its new integrated infrastructure programme which involves building of roads, railways, waterways and airports.16 It needs to be recalled that in 2015, the Government set up the National Investment and Infrastructure fund (NIIF) to raise funds for the infrastructure sector with an initial targeted corpus of Rs 40,000 crore, of which Rs 20,000 crore was to be invested by the government. The remaining Rs 20,000 crore was to be raised from long-term international investors, including sovereign wealth funds, insurance and pension funds and endowments.

Using this option is a risky affair, not that it hasn’t been used elsewhere and for a time now, but it still retains the element of risk. The risk factor is cut if the interest rates are high, for then these retiree (pension17) and provident funds are used to buy bonds that would mature when there is a need to payout. But as interest rates fall, which is very much the case with India at the moment with fluctuations and a dip in growth post-demonetization and the banking system under stress due to NPAs, these funds are likely to face up with a dilemma. Staying heavily invested in bonds would force the Government to either set aside more cash upfront or to cut promises pertaining to retiree (pension) and provident funds. If this is the two-pronged strategy of the government on one hand, then on the other, these funds, if they are allowed to raise capital from the international markets (which, incidentally is cashing and catching up in India) radically change their investment strategies by embracing investments that produce higher returns, but are staring at more risks associated with the market. Though, this shift is in line with neoliberal market policies, this has replaced an explicit cost with a hidden one, in that the policy-makers would have to channel more capital into these funds, cut back benefits or both when the stock market crashes18 causing the asset value of these funds to decline.

A project of this magnitude is generally financed using the instrument of Project Finance. So, it becomes necessary to throw light on what exactly is entailed by the term. Project Finance is looked upon as the most viable form of financing that there is with highly mitigated levels of risks, at least, according to the financial worldlings! Although, there are difficulties and challenges/needs/necessities (in short applied/application), these need to be delineated. Additionally, a study on Project Finance leads inherently to a study on Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), another preferred mode in use in India at present. One of the fundamental trade-offs for PPPs designing is to strike a right balance between risks allocations between the public and private sector, risk allocation within the private sector and cost of funding for the PPP company. This again has potentials for points of conflict with specially designed Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) out there to bend inclinations due to lack of disclosure clauses that define Project Finance in the first place. The factorization of PPPs and SPVs is often channeled through what is currently gaining currency the world over: Financial Intermediaries (FIs). Let us tackle these one by one in order to know the financial ecosystem that would be helpful in tracking funds and investments flowing through into the Blue Revolution/Economy and Sagarmala Project.

A project is characterized by major productive capital investment. Now, there are some asymmetric downside risks associated with a project in addition to the usual symmetric and binary ones. These asymmetric risks are environmental risks and a possibility of creeping expropriation (due to the project). Demand, price; input/supply are symmetric risks in nature, while technological glitch and regulatory fluctuations are binary risks. All that a project is on the lookout for is a customized capital structure, and governance to minimize cash inflow/outflow volatility. Project finance aims to precisely do that. It involves a corporate sponsor investing through a non-recourse debt. It is characterized by cash flows, high debt leading to a need for additional support, bank guarantees, and letters of credit to cover greater risks during construction, implementation (commissioning as the context maybe), and at times sustainability. Now funding is routed through various sources, viz. export credits, development funds, specialized assets financing, conventional debt and equity finance. This is archetypal of how the corporate financial structure operates as far as managing risks is concerned from the point of view of future inflow of funds. It has a high concentration of equity and debt ownership, with up to three equity sponsors, syndicate of banks and financial institutions to provide for credit. Moreover, there is an extremely high level of debt with the balance of capital provided by the sponsors in the form of equity, while importantly, the debt is non- recourse to the sponsors.

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The attractiveness of project finance is the ability to fund projects off balance sheet with limited or no recourse to equity investors i.e. if a project fails, the project lenders recourse is to ownership of actual project and they are unable to pursue the equity investors for debt. For this reason lenders focus on the project cash-flow as this the main sources for repaying project debt. The shareholders will invest in the SPV with a focus to minimize their equity contributions, since equity commands a higher rate of return, and thus is a more risky affair compared with a conventional commercial bank debt. Whereas, the bank lenders will always seek a comfortable level of equity from shareholders of SPV to ensure that the project sponsors are seriously committed to the project and have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed.19

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The figure above delineates what Project Finance could do advantageously, but at the same time is a sneak peek into what the disadvantages are.

  1. Project Finance mandates greater disclosure of information on deals and contracts, which happen to be proprietary in nature.
  2. Extensive contracting restricts management decision-making, by looping it into complexities, where decisions making nodes are difficult to make.
  3. Project debt is more expensive.

To turn around the disadvantages of PPPs model, an SPV is introduced. SPV is generally taken as a concessionary authority, where the concession authority is the government itself, and grants a concession to the SPV, a license granting it exclusive ownership of a facility, which, once the term for the license is over is transferred back to the government, or any other public authority. The concession forms the contract between the government and SPV and goes under the name of project agreement. Things begin to get a bit murky here, for the readers be forewarned that this applicability is becoming a commonality in the manner in which infrastructure projects are funded nowadays. Let us try and extricate the knots here.

Consider a Rs. 100 crore collection of risky loan, obligations of borrowers who have promised to repay their loans at some point in future. Let us imagine them sitting on the balance sheet of some bank XYZ, but they equally well could be securities available on the market that the Bank’s traders want to purchase and repackage for a profit. No one knows whether the borrowers will repay, so a price is put on this uncertainty by the market, where thousands of investors mull over the choice of betting on these risky loans and the certainty of risk-free government bonds. To make them indifferent to the uncertainty these loans carry, potential investors require a bribe in the form of 20% discount at face value. If none of the loans default, investors stand a chance to earn a 25% return. A good deal for investors, but a bad one for the Bank, which does not want to sell the loans for a 20% discount and thereby report a loss.

Now imagine that instead of selling the loans at their market price of Rs. 80 crore, the Bank sells them to an Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that pays a face value of Rs. 100 crore. Their 20% loss just disappeared. Ain’t this a miracle? But, how? The SPV has to raise Rs. 100 crore in order to buy the loans from the Bank. Lenders in SPV will only want to put Rs. 80 crore against such risky collateral. The shortfall of Rs. 20 crore will have to be made up somehow. The Bank enters here under a different garb. It puts in Rs. 20 crore as an equity investment so that the SPV has enough money now to buy the Rs. 100 crore of loans. However, there is a catch here. Lenders no longer expect to receive Rs. 100 crore, or a 25% return in compensation for putting up the Rs. 80 crore. SPV’s payout structure guarantees that the Rs. 20 crore difference between face value and market value will be absorbed by the Bank, implying treating Rs. 80 crore investment as virtually risk-free. Even though the Bank has to plough Rs. 20 crore back into the SPV as a kind of hostage against the loans going bad, from Bank’s perspective, this might be better than selling the loans at an outright Rs. 20 crore loss. This deal reconciles two opposing views, the first one being the market suspicion that those Bank assets are somehow toxic, and secondly that the Bank’s faith that its loans will eventually pay something close to their face value. So, SPVs become a joint creation of equity owners and lenders, purely for the purpose of buying and owning assets, where the lenders advance cash to the SPV in return for bonds and IOUs, while equity holders are anointed managers to look after those assets. Assets, when parked safely within the SPV cannot be redeployed as collateral even in the midst of irresponsible buying spree.

Now, this technically might spell out the reasons for why an SPV is even required in the first place. But, enter caveat, for the architecture of an SPV is what lends complexity and a degree of murkiness to it. If one were to look at the architecture of SPV holdings, things get a bit muddled in that not only is the SPV a limited company registered under the Companies Act 2013, the promotion of SPV would lie chiefly with the state/union territory and elected Urban Local Body (ULB) on a 50:50 equity holding. The state/UT and ULB have full onus to call upon private players as part of the equity, but with the stringent condition that the share of state/UT and ULB would always remain equal and upon addition be in majority of 50%. So, with permutations and combinations, it is deduced that the maximum share a private player can have will be 48% with the state/UT and ULB having 26% each. Initially, to ensure a minimum capital base for the SPV, the paid up capital of the SPV should be such that the ULB’s share has an option to increase it to the full amount of the first installment provided by the Government of India. There is more than meets the eye here, since a major component is the equity shareholding, and from here on things begin to get complex. This is also the stage where SPV gets down to fulfilling its responsibilities and where the role of elected representatives of the people, either at the state/UT level or at the ULB level appears to get hazy. Why is this so? The Board of the SPV, despite having these elected representatives has in no certain ways any clarity on the decisions of those represented making a strong mark when the SPV gets to apply its responsibilities. SPVs, now armed with finances can take on board consultative expertise from the market, thus taking on the role befitting their installation in the first place, i.e. going along the privatization of services in tune with the market-oriented neoliberal policies. Such an arrangement is essentially dressing up the Economic Zones in new clothes sewn with tax exemptions, duties and stringent labour laws in bringing forth the most dangerous aspect of Blue Revolution/Economy/Sagarmala Project, viz. privatized governance. In short, this is how armed with finances, the doctrine of privatized governance could be realized, and SPV actually becomes the essence to attain it.

Turning our focus to what is often termed the glue in Project Finance, the instrument widely practiced today and what often joins PPPs and SPVs into a node of financing, Financial Intermediaries. Although, very much susceptible to abuse for the way it has been implemented, these are institutions that provide the market function of matching borrowers and lenders or traders. Financial intermediaries facilitate transactions between those with excess cash in relation to current requirements (suppliers of capital) and those with insufficient cash in relation to current requirements (users of capital) for mutual benefit. Now these take on astronomical importance considering that almost every other Non-Banking Financial Institution or an SPV could potentially be a financial intermediary. For example, insurance companies, credit unions, financial advisors, mutual funds and investment trusts are financial intermediaries. Financial intermediaries are able to transform the risk characteristics of assets because they can overcome a market failure and resolve an information asymmetry problem. Information asymmetry in credit markets arises because borrowers generally know more about their investment projects than lenders do. The information asymmetry can occur “ex ante” or “ex post”. An ex ante information asymmetry arises when lenders cannot differentiate between borrowers with different credit risks before providing loans and leads to an adverse selection problem. Adverse selection problems arise when an increase in interest rates leaves a more risky pool of borrowers in the market for funds. Financial intermediaries are then more likely to be lending to high-risk borrowers, because those who are willing to pay high interest rates will, on average, be worse risks. The information asymmetry problem occurs ex post when only borrowers, but not lenders, can observe actual returns after project completion. This leads to a moral hazard problem. Moral hazard arises when a borrower engages in activities that reduce the likelihood of a loan being repaid. An example of moral hazard is when firms’ owners “siphon off” funds (legally or illegally) to themselves or to associates, for example, through loss-making contracts signed with associated firms.

The problem with imperfect information is that information is a “public good”. If costly privately-produced information can subsequently be used at less cost by other agents, there will be inadequate motivation to invest in the publicly optimal quantity of information. The implication for financial intermediaries is as follows. Once banks obtain information they must be able to signal their information advantage to lenders without giving away their information advantage. One reason, financial intermediaries can obtain information at a lower cost than individual lenders is that financial intermediation avoids duplication of the production of information. Moreover, there are increasing returns to scale to financial intermediation. Financial intermediaries develop special skills in evaluating prospective borrowers and investment projects. They can also exploit cross- sectional (across customers) information and re-use information over time. Adverse selection increases the likelihood that loans will be made to bad credit risks, while moral hazard lowers the probability that a loan will be repaid. As a result, lenders may decide in some circumstances that they would rather not make a loan and credit rationing may occur. There are two forms of credit rationing: (i) some loan applicants may receive a smaller loan than they applied for at the given interest rate, or (ii) they may not receive a loan at all, even if they offered to pay a higher interest rate.

In other words, financial intermediaries play an important role in credit markets because they reduce the cost of channelling funds between relatively uninformed depositors to uses that are information-intensive and difficult to evaluate, leading to a more efficient allocation of resources. Intermediaries specialize in collecting information, evaluating projects, monitoring borrowers’ performance and risk sharing. Despite this specialization20, the existence of financial intermediaries does not replicate the credit market outcomes that would occur under a full information environment. The existence of imperfect, asymmetrically-held information causes frictions in the credit market. Changes to the information structure and to variables which may be used to overcome credit frictions (such as firm collateral and equity) will in turn cause the nature and degree of credit imperfections to alter. Banks and other intermediaries are “special” where they provide credit to borrowers on terms which those borrowers would not otherwise be able to obtain. Because of the existence of economies of scale21 in loan markets, small firms in particular may have difficulties obtaining funding from non-bank sources and so are more reliant on bank lending than are other firms. Adverse shocks to the information structure, or to these firms’ collateral or equity levels, or to banks’ ability to lend, may all impact on firms’ access to credit and hence to investment and output.

This section started with a shocker, and then weaved the plot generically in a deliberate manner to highlight the financial instruments in use for funding the massive Blue Revolution/Economy and Sagarmala Project. From the generic sense, it is time to move on to the specifics, where in the next section, one could easily fathom the generic nature of these instruments in use. this section was indeed technical, but a major collaborator to understanding the contours of Project Finance, and how is it that such instruments govern the polity and the policy of the ruling dispensation. Let us therefore, turn to what engineers the funding of this infrastructural giant.

Engineering Finance for Blue Revolution/Economy and Sagarmala Project

To reiterate, at the Central level, the Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) has been set up under the Companies Act, 2013 to assist the State level/zone level Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVS), as well as SPVs to be set up by the ports, with equity support for implementation of projects under Sagarmala to be undertaken by them. The formation of SDC was approved by the Cabinet on 20th July 2016 and was incorporated on 31st August 2016. It may be clarified that the implementation of the projects shall be done by the Central Line Ministries, State Governments/State Maritime Boards and SPVs and the SDC will provide a funding window and/or take up only those residual projects that cannot be funded by any other means/mode. The SDC will primarily provide equity support to the State-level or port-level SPV. All efforts would be made to implement these projects through the private sector and through the Public Private Participation (PPP) wherever feasible, strictly following the established guidelines and modality of appraisal and sanction of PPP projects. Projects in which SDC will take an equity stake, are expected to start giving returns only after 5-6 years. Therefore, SDC will be supported during initial 5-6 years through budgetary allocation of Ministry of Shipping. SDC will also be raising funds as debt/equity (as long term capital) from multi-lateral and bilateral funding agencies, as per the requirements, in consultation with Department of Economic Affairs. The SPVs in which SDCL will invest may start giving dividends once they become profitable and will constitute a revenue stream. The expenses incurred for project development will be treated as part of the equity contribution of SDC. In case SDCL is not taking any stake or the expenses incurred are more than the stake of SDC, then it will be defrayed by the SPV to SDC. SDC may, in future, want to divest its investment in any particular SPV to recoup its capital for future projects. At the State level, the State Maritime Boards/State Port Departments shall service the State Sagarmala Committees and also be, inter alia responsible for coordination and implementation of individual projects, including through SPVs and oversight. The State Governments/State Maritime  Boards (SMBs) shall implement such identified projects either from their own budgets or through SPVs wherein the SDC may provide equity support, as may be required and necessary. Funds will be sought for the implementation of residual projects from time to time in the budgets of the respective ministries/departments which will be implementing the projects. The Ministries/State Governments/Maritime Boards shall implement such identified either from their own budgets or through SPVs wherein the SDC may provide equity support, as may be required and necessary. Projects considered for funding (other than equity support) under Sagarmala’s budget shall be appraised and approved under the extant instructions and guidelines of the Ministry of Finance. Road and rail connectivity projects, already appraised and approved by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and Ministry of Railways respectively, will be considered as appraised projects. A representative of Ministry of Shipping could be a member of the project appraisal committee, set up by the relevant Ministries. Projects considered for equity support under Sagarmala and to be financed by SDC, will be independently appraised and approved by SDC as per its procedure. One can see that even if the title of the section is engineering, it is actually the architecture of who gets to fund what that is slowly building up the complexity of Sagarmala. Let us take a brief look at the numbers before getting back to engineering of funding.

As of March 2017, under Sagarmala, 415 projects, at an estimated investment of approximately Rs. 8 lakh crore, have already been identified across port modernization & new port development, port connectivity enhancement, port-linked industrialization and coastal community development for phase wise implementation over the period 2015 to 2035. As per the approved implementation plan of Sagarmala, these projects are to be taken up by the relevant Central Ministries/Agencies and State Governments preferably through private/PPP mode.

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Some of the key projects are:

  • Rs. 58.5 Crore released for capital dredging for Gogha-Dahej RO-Pax Ferry Services project
  • Rs. 50 Crore released for construction of RoB cum Flyover at Ranichak level crossing at Kolkata Port
  • Rs. 43.76 Crore released for RO-RO Services Project at Mandwa
  • Rs. 20 Crore released for setting up second rail line from Take-off Point A cabin atDurgachak (Haldia Dock Complex)
  • Rs. 20 Crore released for Vizag Port road connectivity to NH5
  • Rs. 10 Crore released for development of a full-fledged Truck Parking Terminal adjacent to NH7A (VOCPT)

As part of the Sagarmala Programme, 6 new port locations have been identified, namely – Vadhavan, Enayam, Sagar Island, Paradip Outer Harbour, Sirkazhi and Belekeri. The current status of each of the proposed new port locations is as follows:

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Increasing the share of coastal shipping and inland navigation in the transport modal mix is one of the key objectives of Sagarmala. In order to equip ports for movement of coastal cargo, the scope of coastal berth scheme has been expanded and merged with Sagarmala. Under the scheme, the financial assistance of 50% of project cost is provided to Major Ports/State Governments for construction of Coastal Berths, Breakwater, mechanization of coastal berths and capital dredging. Rs. 152 Cr has been released for 16 projects under this scheme. To augment transshipment capacity in the country, Vizhinjam (Kerala) and Enayam (Tamil Nadu) are being developed as transshipment ports. Vizhinjam is being developed as transshipment hub under PPP mode by Government of Kerala with Viability Gap Funding22 from Government of India.

Switching back to engineering, projects considered for funding under Sagarmala will either be provided equity support (SPV route) from SDC or funded (other than equity support) from the budget of Ministry of Shipping. Port projects will be primarily funded through the SPV route. Once the project is funded after due appraisal and approval, to the extent and limits prescribed under the guidelines, funds shall be released once all the clearances are in place. Most importantly, no other guarantees23 will be provided to the projects considered for funding.

The fund contribution from Sagarmala (from the budget of Ministry of Shipping) in any project will be limited to 50 per cent of project cost as per the Detailed Project Report (DPR) or tendered cost, whichever is lesser. 50 per cent is the cap of assistance from all sources/schemes of Government of India and will be provided in three tranches24 based on project milestones, In case of UTs, where no other sources of funding are available, the limit of 50 per cent could be relaxed. The fund released for a project being implemented in convergence mode with the schemes of other Central Line Ministries will not be higher than the approved ceiling of financial assistance under the concerned Central Sector Scheme (CSS). Projects having high social impact but with no return or low Internal Rate of Return (IRR)25 (e.g. fishing harbour projects, coastal community skill development projects, coastal tourism infrastructure projects etc.) may be provided funding, in convergence with the schemes of other Central Line Ministries, for implementation under Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode. EPC mode is an interesting digression from PPP model as the former has a slight edge over the latter. In an EPC mode, the Government bears the entire financial burden and funds the project by raising capital through issuing bonds. In PPP, private entity would do cost-benefit analysis and would bid for project. Cheapest bid would be selected. So incentive is to reduce bid price. But as construction starts, there are local protests against land acquisition, and thus work halts. That means now costs would go up. Project faces market risk. Private entity will suffer loss and would refuse to work on pre-agreed bid. He would ask for more funding from Government. Government machinery, lethargic or may be skeptic of bidder’s intentions, would also make counter-arguments. And so there would be litigations. In EPC, it is government who is going to take up engineering. But, does government has engineering expertise? No, so government would call for bids for engineering knowledge. Thereafter, the government would give out calls for procurement of raw material and construction expertise. Under an EPC contract, the contractor designs the installation, procures the necessary materials and builds the project, either directly or by subcontracting part of the work. In some cases, the contractor carries the project risk for schedule as well as budget in return for a fixed price, called lump sum or LSTK26 depending on the agreed scope of work. So here, if project halts due to say local protests, government will deal with it. The private entity is saved from political questions. Anyway private entities are there merely for bottomline, whereas government is there for political tussle and governance. Thus EPC makes more sense and is an alternative for PPP. But, barring a few exceptions, the Government is still holding on to PPP as the preferred mode.

The equity contribution from SDC, in any project SPV, will be decided based on the project equity as per its DPR and will generally not exceed 49 per cent of the project equity. SDC can take equity contribution in existing or newly incorporated SPVs formed by State Governments/Maritime Boards/Ports etc. provided that these SPVs have projects which are ready for implementation. SDC can take equity in an existing or newly incorporated umbrella SPVs formed by State Governments/Maritime Boards/Ports etc. provided the same has been duly approved by the competent authority. SDC’s participation in the umbrella SPV would not restrain SDC from taking part in any other project SPV created by the same State Governments/Maritime Boards/Ports. SDC shall take only token equity to initiate/assist the process of project development in those SPVs which are scouting for projects or having projects under development stage only. As it would be difficult to ascertain the revenue flow from a particular project, a separate accounting for each project is an important clause in the contract document of the SPV. Continuing in line with equity-based funding, the question then arises as to what would be the recommended monitoring parameters for funded projects for equity and for those other than equity? Projects which are provided equity support (SPV route) by SDC will be monitored by the SPVs as well as SDC and Ministry of Shipping through an appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanism. For projects which are provided funding (other than equity support), the fund recipients/project proponents will submit monthly progress report (physical and financial) of projects as per the electronic format/ MIS prescribed by SDC. SDC along with the fund recipients/project proponents will monitor the progress of projects based on the same. Additionally, the fund recipients/ project proponents will submit the utilization certificate for the fund released in the previous tranche for claiming release of subsequent installments/tranches. Wherever possible, the fund recipients/project proponents will submit a completion certificate, issued by an independent 3rd party agency, along with the final utilization certificate to claim the final tranche of fund. The 3rd party agency is to be appointed by the Ministry of Shipping from the approved panel maintained by the Indian Ports Association (IPA) for this purpose. The cost of appointing and functioning of the 3rd party agency will be borne by the Ministry of Shipping. The fund recipients/project proponents will maintain financial records, supporting documents, statistical records and all other records, to support performance of the project.

Although the monitoring mechanisms look neat on paper, there is absence of any transparency and accountability of whether these are in existence, or are these to be invoked at a stage when funds reach a point of questionability either in the sense of non- repayment, or by stressed assets, the consequent of which are the Non-Performing Assets. Still, what is not very clear is who are the funders involved apart from Government of India and State Governments. It is absolutely clear though, that both these entities would be taking recourse to National Financial Institutions (NFIs) and Non-Banking Financial Institutions (FIs) in addition to packing coffers in the budgets (both at the central and at the state levels) towards the massive investments in point. But, what of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), or bi-lateral development institutions? This question is slightly jumping the gun, and would be understood in the perspective of what has now come to be called Blue Growth Initiative (BGI). Let us park this for a section and turn to looking at Sagarmala with some of its humungous initiatives that would give an idea behind numbers and figures.

Multi-headed Hydra (Projects envisaged under Sagarmala)

That the Government is going full steam on infrastructure cannot be fathomed by looking at Sagarmala in isolation. This has to be looked in tandem with industrial corridors, coastal economic zones, inland waterways, and tourism among a host of infrastructural stressed-upon points. Though, much of that is largely outside the scope of this chapter, it nevertheless is crucial to hover the compass of analysis in a loci around these allied infrastructures.

Starting with port modernization and new port development, Sagarmala is a gamut of 189 projects tipped at a whopping 1.42 lakh crore. Of these, the masterplans have already been finalized for 12 major ports; 142 projects at a cost of Rs. 91, 434 crore identified for implementation till 2035; and 42 projects worth Rs. 23, 263 crore are already under implementation.

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Port modernization along with new port development and major port operational efficiency improvement is to be integrated into what is now referred to as promotion of cruise tourism, foe which a task force has already been constituted and where now foreign flag vessels with passengers on board would be allowed to call at Indian ports without obtaining a license from director General of Shipping. Well, isn’t this what globalization is all about? Yes, largely, and more concertedly if the operating procedures effectuating these get standardized, and this is what has precisely happened for promoting cruise tourism in consultation with Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, Central Board of Excise and Customs, Central Industrial Security Force and Port Authorities. The collaborative efforts of these authorities have led to the constitution of port-level committees to address manpower, coordination and logistical support. It is under the aegis of Sagarmala that cruise terminals are under development at Chennai and Mormugao in Goa.

Under the umbrella of port connectivity enhancements, 170 projects are either approved or in the pipeline at a cost of Rs. 2.3 lakh crore comprising of rail connectivity projects, road connectivity projects, multi-modal logistics parks and coastal shipping. Rail and road connectivity are precisely the components of freight corridors also launched under the name of industrial or economic corridors. Coastal shipping on the other hand is closely amalgamated with inland waterways. On a project-wise scale, there are plans to implement road projects under Sagarmala including 10 freight friendly expressways (E.g. Expressway from Ahmedabad to JNPT). Other proposals include awarding implementation of Heavy Haul Rail Corridor project between Talcher & Paradip in coordination with Ministry of Railways, proposing Cabotage relaxation for 2 years subject to level playing field for Indian flag ships, and bringing out a modal shift incentive scheme for Inland Water Transport sector by developing 37 prioritized National Waterways.

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On the port-led industrialization front, 33 projects are either approved, or in the pipeline at a cost of Rs. 4.2 lakh crore with perspective plans prepared for 14 coastal economic zones (CEZs). Moreover, 29 potential port-linked industrial clusters identified across Energy, Materials, Discrete Manufacturing and Maritime sectors are identified. The futuristic plans for port-led industrialization involves developing master plans for the 14 coastal economic zones in a phased manner with the first phase covering the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The proposals also include developing detailed project reports (DPRs) for maritime clusters in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Crucially, the integration of smart cities with Sagarmala would be the implementation of Kandla & Paradip Smart Port Industrial Cities. What the Government has achieved through the New Shipbuilding Policy is granting shipyards infrastructure status, thus helping avail cheap working capital. The policy also has provided exemptions on taxes and duties, and made recommended arrangement for financial assistance to the tune of Rs. 20 crore of the initial cost flowing in from the center.

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The Coastal Community Development could be looked at under two broad categories, viz. skill development and fisheries development. Under the category of skill development, Rs. 30 crore have been sanctioned, of which Rs. 10 crore are already released towards safety training for workers in Alang-Sisoya shipyard. For the Coastal Districts Skill Training Project under Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Kaushal Yojana (DDU-GKY), Rs. 13.77 crore have been sanctioned & Rs. 6.9 crore are already released. The Ministry of Shipping is undertaking skill gap analysis in 21 coastal districts, and the action plan for 6 districts in Gujarat, Maharashtra & AP are already prepared with projects from the same to be implemented under DDU-GKY. Under fisheries development, the Ministry of Shipping is part-funding select fishing harbour projects under Sagarmala in convergence with Department of Animal Husbandry Dairying & Fisheries (Ministry of Agriculture). On a more specific project-wise data, Rs. 52.17 crore is sanctioned for modernization & upgrading of Sassoon Dock. Upgradation of Kulai, Veraval and Mangrol fishing harbours are in the pipeline. For the Ministry of Shipping, this would support development of deep sea fishing vessels and fish processing centers in convergence with Department of Animal Husbandry Dairying & Fisheries.

The scale is massive and thus makes the moot question of who is financing Sagarmala all the more pressing. The disclaimer is: not much is known as there is a tremendous lack of transparency and accountability as regards this. But, information from discrete sources that are in the public domain at least gives a fair enough idea of who could be behind this gigantic infrastructure? At the same time, one needs to look at the intricate knot between the financiers and Blue Growth Initiative to draw out a clear message, which shouldn’t be shocking anymore, and that being the policies and funds are internationally-oriented. It is this section, the penultimate one in the chapter that we now turn to.

Who possibly could be driving the impetus for Blue Revolution/Economy and Sagarmala?

Are there International Financial Institutions involved? Hopefully by the end of this section, there would be some clarity to the muddied waters. Shipping ministry is roping in global multilateral agencies to extend a helping hand to entrepreneurs looking to explore Rs 3.5 lakh-crore of investment opportunities under the Sagarmala project, which was aimed at port-led development along 7,500-km coastline. Devendra Kumar Rai, Director at the Ministry of Shipping, said Sagarmala Development Company, with an equity base of Rs 1,000 crore, would chip in for investments and viability gap funding to help entrepreneurs achieve viable returns on their investments. He also said that the company was also seeking the support of Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other multilateral agencies for program loans to various initiatives under the Sagarmala project.27 Admitting that not all the projects being contemplated under the Sagarmala project would offer attractive returns on investments, Rai said, “The shipping ministry views that unless there is at least 13 per cent IRR, no private investor would come forward to invest.” To address the issue of not so attractive returns, the ministry would encourage some projects under the public-private partnership model and even extend the viability gap funding (VGF) up to 40 per cent of the project cost to turn the projects viable, Rai said. MT Krishna Babu, chairman of Visakhapatnam Port Trust, said various development projects will be thrown open for private participation. “The five greenfield ports alone would involve investments of around Rs 25,000 crore each in phases.” Babu said it will mobilise funds from government and global agencies like ADB and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and decide on the nature of funding to the unviable projects – whether equity or VGF.28

Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been giving boosters to India’s infrastructure development program from time to time, and injected yet another towards the end of June this year, when it promised the country its commitment to investing $10 billion over the next five years. Half the sum, or $5 billion were to be used for developing the 2,500 km East Coast Economic Corridor, which will ultimately extend from Kolkata to Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. ADB had last year approved $631 million to develop the 800-km industrial corridor between Visakhapatnam and Chennai.29 The East Coast Economic Corridor also aligns with port-led industrialization under Sagarmala initiative and Act East Policy by linking domestic companies with vibrant global production networks of east and southeast Asia.

The World Bank, on the other hand, might not seem to have a direct hand in the funding of Sagarmala, but thinking it thus would be like missing the woods for the trees. Though the Bank is heavily investing in industrial corridors with a significant share in Amritsar-Kolkata Industrial Corridor, and seed capital along with creating conditions ripe for Viability Gap funding along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor, its involvement in Sagarmala is like an advisory to the Government of India. The World Bank, which has been advising the shipping ministry on the development of the inland waterways and the Clean Ganga mission, has approved an assistance of Rs 4,200 crore for the development of the existing five national waterways. Incidentally, India has jumped 19 places in the latest World Bank ranking in the global logistics performance. The World Bank in its latest once-in-two-year Logistics Performance Index (LPI) said India is now ranked 35th as against the 54th spot it occupied in the previous 2014 report. Such rise in position on the global logistics performance is the policy shot in the arm for India, thus making it conducive for investments to flow in.

But, to understand the policy initiatives behind Blue Revolution/Economy and Sagarmala, one needs to keep a tab on what is known as the Blue Growth Initiative, which happens to be the climate initiatives platform of the United Nations Programme on Environment. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Blue Growth Initiative (BGI) aims at building resilience of coastal communities and restoring the productive potential of fisheries and aquaculture, in order to support food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable management of living aquatic resources. Promoting international coordination is crucial to strengthen responsible management regimes and practices that can reconcile economic growth and food security with the restoration of the eco-systems they sustain. The initiative works towards two major goals, viz.

  1. Enabling environment (capacity building, knowledge platform, and improved governance) established within 2 to 3 years in 10 target countries.

  2. 10% reduction of carbon emissions in the 10 target countries in 5 years and 25% in 10 years.
  3. 3. Reduction of overfishing by 20% in the target countries in 5 years and 50% in 10 years.
  4. 4. “Blue communities” established in 5 target countries and resource stewardship ownership with 30% improved livelihoods.
  5. 5. Ecosystem degradation reversed in the target countries and 10% ecosystems restored in 4 target countries within 5 years.

These goals are to be attained by improving the evaluations of ecosystem services in Large Marine Ecosystems including coastal zones and Lakes for local and regional integrated and spatial planning. Also, strengthened fisheries and aquaculture governance and institutional frameworks would augment clear objectives and development paths for the sector; by increasing contributions from the small-scale fisheries and aquaculture sectors – through improved fisheries management, aquaculture development and improved post-harvest practices and market access. The initiative plans to attain increased resilience to climate change, extreme events and other drivers of change through improved knowledge of vulnerability and adaptation and disaster risk management options specific to fisheries, aquaculture and dependent communities who are at the front line of change and thereby providing technical and financial support to transitioning the sector to low-impact and fuel/energy efficiency and Blue Carbon enhancements30. for the medium and long term, the BGI is being promoted as an important vehicle for mobilizing resources and advocacy in international fora. In the global arena, the Initiative is enabling FAO to align with major global initiatives such as the Green Economy in a Blue World (UNEP/IMO/FAO/UNDESA/IUCN/World Fish), the Global Partnership for Oceans GPO (World Bank), the Coral Triangle Initiative, the Oceans SDG, Fishing for the Future (World Fish/FAO), the World Ocean Council and GEF6, as well as commitments stemming from the Rio+20 Conference. The oceans with a current estimated asset value of USD 24 trillion and an annual value addition of US$2.5 trillion, would continue to offer significant economic benefits both in the traditional areas of fisheries, transport, tourism and hydrocarbons as well as in the new fields of deep-sea mining, renewable energy, ocean biotechnology and many more, only if integrated with sustainable practices and business models. With land-based resources depleting fast, there are renewed attempts to further expand economic exploitation of the world’s oceans. However, if not managed sustainably, growing economic engagement with the oceans could risk further aggravation of their already strained health with serious impact on their natural role as the single most important CO2 sink and replenisher of oxygen. This in turn could accelerate global warming with catastrophic effects on fish stocks, climatic stabilization, water cycle and essential biodiversity. With arguments like these, UNFAO sure needs voices from the communities who would be severely impacted by these policies slapped on them.

So, even if India is not officially a participating nation in the Blue Growth Initiative (BGI), it could easily be drawn that the whole rationale for the Blue Revolution has sprung up from UNFAO. So, what is the viability of Blue Revolution/Economy and Sagarmala? It is to this section we turn now by way of conclusion.

Conclusion

Even while this chapter was being written, another mega infrastructure project in the form of country’s first bullet train was inaugurated to be laid between the Financial Capital Mumbai and Ahmedabad. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lay the foundation stone for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project in Gujarat, tribals in Maharashtra and Gujarat will meet tehsildars of tribal areas that will be impacted by the project and submit letters of protest.31 Criticisms of the kind are expected and are already taking shape across the coastline.32 But, since this chapter is geared towards understanding the financial and economic ecosystem of Blue Revolution/ Economy and Sagarmala, let us divert our attention to financial critiques of mega infrastructural development projects.

The corporates and multinational Companies have joined together with the intention to grab the ocean and the coast. State and Central governments have become agents of the corporates and are permitting the foreign trawlers in the India deep seas, constructing atomic thermal power stations, disastrous chemical industries, hotels and big resorts and coastal industrial corridors at the coasts. These projects have several illegalities in formulation, approval, sanction and implementation. The livelihood of the fishworkers has not been considered by the elected government.33 The corporates have freedom to pour toxic affluent in the coastal area and sea soar. As a result fishes died and disappeared. So far more than twenty commercial species of fish have been disappeared from the sea at Kachchh, Gujarat. Similar is the case in other sea areas. Mangroves have been destroyed and land are being used by corporates. Solid toxic wastes and inflatable toxics dumped in forest and other empty threatens human and animal lives in the coastal area.34 This is not a mirror into the post-apocalyptic, run over by hungry capitalism scenario, but a reality that is very much brewing across the coastline of the country from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the east.

Economically and financially, there are three major challenges that are encountered in infrastructural mega-projects. In one influential study, Bent Flyvbjerg35, an expert in project management at Oxford’s business school, estimated that nine out of ten go over budget. Second challenge is the time overrun, which directly leads to cost escalation. Finally, the premise that projects need to work on two levels – in the short term for recovering financial outlays and the longer term for creating social impact – often becomes a barrier to taking action. Even projects that are needed do not get executed, especially in places where revenues from a project are unlikely to cover its cost. the enormity of Sagarmala leaves it vulnerable to unviability. In addition to three reasons cited above as to what could challenge a mega-project, these three reasons are most likely to be attributable to why Sagarmala could remain an unfinished dream, and in a dire attempt to realizing it could have enormous adverse effects of the socio-environmental and economical life of the communities coming under its fire.

  1. Overoptimism and overcomplexity. In order to justify a project, sometimes costs and timelines are systematically underestimated and benefits systematically overestimated. Flyvbjerg argues that project managers competing for funding massage the data until they come under the limit of what is deemed affordable; stating the real cost, he writes, would make a project unpalatable. From the outset, such projects are on a fast track to failure. One useful reality check is to compare the project under consideration to similar projects that have already been completed. Known as “reference-class forecasting,” this process addresses confirmation bias by forcing decision makers to consider cases that don’t necessarily justify the preferred course of action. But, sadly, India does not have any avenues to a “reference-class forecasting”, for the country has hitherto not known anything on this scale.

  2. Poor execution. Having delivered an unrealistically low project budget, the temptation is to cut corners to maintain cost assumptions and protect the (typically slim) profit margins for the engineering and construction firms that have been contracted to deliver the project. Project execution, from design and planning through construction, is riddled with problems such as incomplete design, lack of clear scope, ill-advised shortcuts, and even mathematical errors in scheduling and risk assessment. In part, execution is poor because many projects are so complex that what might seem like routine issues can become major headaches. For example, if steel does not arrive at the job site on time, the delay can stall the entire project. Ditto if one of the specialty trades has a problem. Higher productivity will not compensate for these shortfalls because such delays tend to ripple through the entire project system. Another challenge is low productivity. While the manufacturing sector in India is languishing, raw materials for such mega-projects would always be hindered through supply lines, thus leading to either stalling of the projects, or an exponential cost escalation.
  3. Weakness in organizational design and capabilities. Many entities involved inbuilding megaprojects have an organizational setup in which the project director sits four or five levels down from the top leadership. The following structure is common:

    Layer 1: Subcontractor to contractor

    Layer 2: Contractors to construction manager or managing contractor

    Layer 3: Construction manager to owner’s representative

    Layer 4: Owner’s representative to project sponsor

    Layer 5: Project sponsor to business executive

This is a problem because each layer will have a view on how time and costs can be compressed. For example, the first three layers are looking for more work and more money, while the later ones are looking to deliver on time and budget. Also, the authority to make final decisions is often remote from the action. Capabilities, or lack thereof, are another issue. Large projects are typically either sponsored by the government or by an entrepreneur with bold aspirations, where completion times are most often than not compromised.


Notes:

1 Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd. (MUDRA) is an institution set up by Government of India to provide funding to the non-corporate, non-farm sector income generating activities of micro and small enterprises whose credit needs are below ₹10 Lakh. Under the aegis of Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY), MUDRA has created three products i.e. ‘Shishu’, ‘Kishore’ and ‘Tarun’ as per the stage of growth and funding needs of the beneficiary micro unit. These schemes cover loan amounts as below:

  1. a  Shishu: covering loans up to ₹50,000
  2. b  Kishore: covering loans above ₹50,000 and up to ₹5,00,000
  3. c  Tarun: covering loans above ₹5,00,000 and up to ₹10,00,000

All Non-Corporate Small Business Segment (NCSBS) comprising of proprietorship or partnership firms running as small manufacturing units, service sector units, shopkeepers, fruits/vegetable vendors, truck operators, food-service units, repair shops, machine operators, small industries, food processors and others in rural and urban areas, are eligible for assistance under Mudra. Bank branches would facilitate loans under Mudra scheme as per customer requirements. Loans under this scheme are collateral free loans.

2 Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture. Mission Fingerling with a total expenditure of about Rs. 52000 lakh to achieve Blue Revolution. 11 Mar 2017 <http://pib.nic.in/ newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=159159>

3 Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries. Central Sector Scheme on Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries. Jun 2016 <http://dahd.nic.in/sites/default/files/ Guidelines.BR-30616.Fisheries.pdf>

4 Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries – a Central Sector Scheme on Blue Revolution. 22 Dec 2015

5 The term “ocean grabbing” has been used to describe actions, policies or initiatives that deprive small- scale fishers of resources, dispossess vulnerable populations of coastal lands, and/or undermine historical access to areas of the sea. Rights and access to marine resources and spaces are frequently reallocated through government or private sector initiatives to achieve conservation, management or development objectives with a variety of outcomes for different sectors of society. For a reallocation to be considered ocean grabbing, it must: (1) occur by means of inadequate governance, and (2) be implemented using actions that undermine human security and livelihoods, or (3) produce impacts that reduce social- ecological well-being.

6 The Sagarmala initiative would also strive to ensure sustainable development of the population living in the Coastal Economic Zone (CEZ). This would be done by synergising and coordinating with State Governments and line Ministries of Central Government through their existing schemes and programmes such as those related to community and rural development, tribal development and employment generation, fisheries, skill development, tourism promotion etc. In order to provide funding for such projects and activities that may be covered by departmental schemes a separate fund by the name ‘Community Development Fund’ would be created.

7 In the words of T Peter, General Secretary, National Fish Workers Forum (NFF), “Governments support corporates and no one is concerned about the livelihood of the people. Now, the Union government is bent on supporting Adani group on the pretext of developing ports across the country. The Sagarmala project, which proposes setting up industrial corridors, 52 new ports and petrochemical region will deplete the vulnerable coastline and will leave the survival of the fishermen community at stake. It will only support real estate majors and industrialists.” Fishermen oppose Sagarmala project. Times of India. 23 Dec 2016 <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/fishermen-oppose-sagarmala- project/articleshow/56140852.cms>

8 Kohli, K. & Menon, M. Of a frictionless development : Ports have the potential to endanger the environment. Daily News and Analysis (DNA), 21 May 2017 <http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/ column-of-a-frictionless-development-2445597>

9 India has around 7,500-km long coastline, but the country transports only 6 per cent of its cargo through the waterways compared with around 55 per cent on roadways and 35 per cent by the railways. As a result, India’s logistics costs as percentage of its GDP is as high as 19 per cent compared with 12.5 per cent in China. According to the echoes in New Delhi, India’s exports would go up by one and a half times if the country was able to reduce its logistics costs to 12 per cent. India’s cargo traffic growth is expected to increase to 2,500 MT in 2024-25 from 1,072 MT in 2015-16. In India, share of coastal and inland water transport is 2-3 per cent compared to China’s 25 per cent.

10 Sagarmala Coordination and Steering Committee (SCSC) is constituted under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary with Secretaries of the Ministries of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Tourism, Defence, Home Affairs, Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Departments of Revenue, Expenditure, Industrial Policy and Promotion, Chairman, Railway Board and CEO, NITI Aayog as members. This Committee will provide coordination between various ministries, state governments and agencies connected with implementation and review the progress of implementation of the National Perspective Plan, Detailed Master Plans and projects. It will, inter alia, consider issues relating to funding of projects and their implementation. This Committee will also examine financing options available for the funding of projects, the possibility of public-private partnership in project financing/construction/ operation.

11 A National Sagarmala Apex Committee (NSAC) is geared for overall policy guidance and high level coordination, and to review various aspects of planning and implementation of the plan and projects. The NSAC shall be chaired by the Minister in-charge of Shipping, with Cabinet Ministers from stakeholder Ministries and Chief Ministers/Ministers in-charge of ports of maritime states as members. This committee, while providing policy direction and guidance for the initiative’s implementation, shall approve the overall National Perspective Plan (NPP) and review the progress of implementation of these plans.

12 Ray, S. S. Infrastructure: How Sagarmala project can be a shot in the arm for the economy. Financial Express. 21 Nov 2016 <http://www.financialexpress.com/economy/infrastructure-how-sagarmala-project- can-be-a-shot-in-the-arm-for-the-economy/450802/>

13 Indian ports handle more than 90 percent of India’s total EXIM trade volume. However, the current proportion of merchandize trade in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India is only 42 percent, whereas for some developed countries and regions in the world such as Germany and European Union, it is 75 percent and 70 percent respectively. Therefore, there is a great scope to increase the share of merchandising trade in India’s GDP. With the Union Government’s “Make in India” initiative, the share of merchandise trade in India’s GDP is expected to increase and approach levels achieved in developed countries. India lags far behind in ports and logistics infrastructure. Against a share of 9 percent of railways and 6 percent of roads in the GDP the share of ports is only 1 percent. In addition high logistics costs make Indian exports uncompetitive. This is another of the reasons from the economic front that the government wants to drill into the populace as a justification for the launch of the initiative.

14 Sood, J. Govt mulls Rs10 trillion public financing for infrastructure projects. LiveMint. 12 Sep 2017 <http://www.livemint.com/Home-Page/G63KRD11vfvag0lOWJtBIN/Govt-mulls-Rs10-trillion-public- financing-for-infrastructure.html>

15 As there are limited options available to raise funds for infrastructure finance, the plan to raise money from retirees and provident fund beneficiaries comes as Indian banks, loaded with bad debt, have turned averse to funding infrastructure projects. With many large conglomerates and infrastructure companies weighed down by debt, the onus of creating infrastructure has fallen on the government.

16 India needs funds for its ambitious plans such as Sagarmala (ports) and Bharatmala (roads) to improve its transport infrastructure. While the total investment for the Bharatmala plan is estimated at Rs10 trillion – the largest ever outlay for a government road construction scheme – the country has envisaged Rs8 trillion of investment until 2035 under the Sagarmala programme.

17 We should have more to talk about Financial Intermediaries in a while, but is is important to note that pension funds belong to this category. Pension funds may be defined as forms of institutional investor, which collect pool and invest funds contributed by sponsors and beneficiaries to provide for the future pension entitlements of beneficiaries. They thus provide means for individuals to accumulate saving over their working life so as to finance their consumption needs in retirement, either by means of a lump sum or by provision of an annuity, while also supplying funds to end-users such as corporations, other households (via securitized loans) or governments for investment or consumption.

18 The volatility of stock returns is why pension funds invested in bonds in the first place. The theory with alternatives is that they earn a premium return in exchange for the difficulty of investing in them. Small investors lack easy access to these asset classes, and the investments are often illiquid. As a result, by investing in alternatives, pension funds should be able to get either returns similar to those of equities at a lower risk, or higher returns at a similar level of risk. That’s the theory. The evidence on alternative investments is considerably more mixed. Hedge funds are supposed to pursue equity-like returns with lower levels of risk. Hedge funds don’t have to report their performance to public databases, and are more likely to do so when returns are good. They often engage in strategies that produce modest regular returns at the expense of rare catastrophic losses, which may make their track records look misleadingly strong.

19 This could be acted upon, with a specific case study that underlines the knowledge-base requisite for any understanding of financials involved in the project. Knowledge-base could encompass: issues for the host government/legislative provisions, public/private infrastructure partnerships, public/private financial structures, credit requirement of lenders, and analytical techniques to measure the feasibility of the project. In case of Project Finance, the financier principally looks to the assets and revenue of the project in order to secure and service the loan. In contrast to an ordinary borrowing situation, in a project financing the financier usually has little or no recourse to the non-project assets of the borrower or the sponsors of the project. In this situation, the credit risk associated with the borrower is not as important as in an ordinary loan transaction; what is most important is the identification, analysis, allocation and management of every risk associated with the project.

20 This might sound like an argument from a Devil’s Advocate, for financial intermediaries are nowadays increasingly used as markets for firms’ assets. Financial intermediaries appear to have a key role in the restructuring and liquidation of firms in distress. In particular, financial intermediaries play an active role in the reallocation of displaced capital, meant both as the piece-meal reallocation of assets and, more broadly, as the sale of entire bankrupt corporations to healthy ones. A key part of reorganization under main bank supervision or management is the implementation of a plan of asset sales with proceeds typically used to recover bank loans. Knowing possible synergies among firms, banks can suggest solutions for the efficient reallocation of assets and of corporate control and that in several countries there is widespread anecdotal evidence, though not quantitative one, on this role of banks. Healthy firms search around for the displaced capital of bankrupt firms but matching is imperfect and firms can end up with machines unsuitable for them. Financial intermediaries arise as internal, centralized markets where information on machines and buyers is readily available, allowing displaced capital to migrate towards its most productive uses. Financial intermediaries can perform this role by aggregating the information on firms collected in the credit market. The function of intermediaries as matchmakers between savers and firms in the credit market can support their function as internal markets for assets. Intuitively, by increasing the number of highly productive matches in the credit market, intermediaries increase the share of highly productive second hand users in the decentralized resale market. This improvement in the quality of the decentralized secondary market reduces the incentive of firms to address financial intermediaries for their ability as re-deployers. However, by increasing the number of highly productive matches in the credit market, intermediaries create also wealthy buyers without assets and contribute to decrease the thickness of the decentralized resale market. This makes the decentralized market less appealing and increases the incentive of firms to use intermediaries as resale markets. When the quality improvement in the decentralized market is not too big and the second effect prevails, better matchmaking in the credit market supports the function of intermediaries as internal markets for assets.

21 Economies of scale is an economics term that describes a competitive advantage that large entities have over smaller entities. It means that the larger the business, non-profit or government, the lower its costs. For example, the cost of producing one unit is less when many units are produced at once. This is confusingly used with economies of scope. It is worthwhile to differentiate the two here. Economies of scope occur when a company branches out into multiple product lines. When companies broaden their scope, they benefit by combining complementary business functions, product lines or manufacturing processes. For example, most newspapers diversified into similar product lines, such as magazines and online news, to diversify their revenue from declining newspaper sales. They achieved some economies of scope by taking advantage of their advertising sales teams, who could sell advertising in all three product lines.

22 Viability Gap Funding (VGF) is a special facility to support the financial viability of those infrastructure projects, which are economically justifiable but not viable commercially in the immediate future. It involves upfront grant assistance of up to 20% of the project cost for state or central PPP projects implemented by the private sector developer who is selected through competitive bidding. An Empowered Committee has been set up for quick processing of cases. Sectors shortlisted for availing Viability Gap Funding Assistance include Roads and bridges, railways, seaports, airports, inland waterways, Power, Urban transport, water supply, sewerage, solid waste management and other physical infrastructure in urban areas. Infrastructure projects in Special Economic Zones and International convention centers and other tourism infrastructure projects.

23 The use of guarantees offers extra security to the lender or business who is providing the finance. For an SME with only one director in the company, the lender relies heavily on their ability to pay it back. But with another person or company to back up the loan agreement, there is extra security that the lender will be able to recover their funds. In particular, for those companies or directors with an adverse credit record, they may rely on the use of a guarantor in order to secure the funds they need. Every extra guarantee added gives the lender more confidence, especially when guaranteed by individuals or firms with strong credit records and reputations. Guarantees are primarily of two types: (1) A pure guarantee ensures that the third party meets their financial obligations. They are legally obliged and responsible to be a guarantor. (2) A conditional payment guarantee means that they are liable to pay any amounts outstanding.

24 Tranches are pieces, portions or slices of debt or structured financing. Each portion, or tranche, is one of several related securities offered at the same time but with different risks, rewards and maturities. For example, a collateralized mortgage obligation CMO offering a partitioned mortgage-backed securities MBS portfolio might have mortgage tranches with one-year, two-year, five-year and 20-year maturities, all with varying degrees of risk and returns. A tranche is a common financial structure for debt securities such as mortgage-backed securities. These types of securities are made up of multiple mortgage pools that have a wide variety of mortgages, from safe loans with lower interest rates to risky loans with higher rates. Each specific mortgage pool also has its own time to maturity, which factors into the risk and reward benefits. Therefore, tranches are made to divide up the different mortgage profiles into slices that have financial terms suitable for specific investors.

25 Internal rate of return (IRR) is the interest rate at which the net present value of all the cash flows (both positive and negative) from a project or investment equal zero. Internal rate of return is used to evaluate the attractiveness of a project or investment. If the IRR of a new project exceeds a company’s required rate of return, that project is desirable. If IRR falls below the required rate of return, the project should be rejected. IRR does not measure the absolute size of the investment or the return. This means that IRR can favor investments with high rates of return even if the dollar amount of the return is very small. For example, a $1 investment returning $3 will have a higher IRR than a $1 million investment returning $2 million. Another short-coming is that IRR can’t be used if the investment generates interim cash flows. Finally, IRR does not consider cost of capital and can’t compare projects with different durations. IRR is best-suited for analyzing venture capital and private equity investments, which typically entail multiple cash investments over the life of the business, and a single cash outflow at the end via IPO or sale.

26 LSTK stands for Lump Sum Turn Key. This is a contractual agreement in which a fixed price is agreed for the execution of a project or part of a project. Once the final development is completed a finished functioning asset is handed over to the client, hence the term “Turn Key” which effectively means ready to operate.

27 The Economic Times. Government roping in multilateral agencies for Rs 3.5 lakh crore Sagarmala project. 12 Feb 2016 <http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/infrastructure/government- roping-in-multilateral-agencies-for-rs-3-5-lakh-crore-sagarmala-project/articleshow/50956475.cms>

28 ibid.

29 Bhaskar, U. ADB to invest $10 billion over five years in Indian infrastructure. LiveMint. 30 Jun 2017 <http://www.livemint.com/Politics/CTTTI4B5VWYVdkh6qOnV4J/ADB-to-invest-10-billion-over-five- years-in-Indian-infrastr.html>

30 The idea of blue economy was argued during the Rio+20 preparatory meetings, where several Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) observed that ‘Green Economy’ had limited relevance for them; instead, ‘Green Economy in a Blue World’ was a good concept and most suitable for the sustainable development and management of ocean resources.

31 Phadke, M. Tribals, farmers in Gujarat and Maharahshtra who will lose land protest bullet train project. The Hindustan Times. 14 Sep 2017 <http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/tribals-and- farmers-in-gujarat-and-maharahshtra-who-will-lose-land-to-the-bullet-train-project-protest-against-it/ story-AWbl8Z6VR3EOdOTP73twtI.html>

32 Thozhilalar koodam. Sea is for the fishing communities – Coastal Yatra by NFF in Tamil Nadu. 15 Jul 2017 <http://tnlabour.in/fish-workers/5654&gt;

33 The proposed Enayam International Container Transhipment Terminal (EICTT), a port to be developed at Enayam, Kanyakumari, has witnessed a lot of opposition from the fishing community over the last year. The port, which was earlier proposed to be established at Colachel, was shifted 10 km away to Enayam last year. There has also been criticism over the proximity of the proposed Enayam port to the upcoming Vizhinjam port in Trivandrum and Vallarpadam port at Cochin. The National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) has also raised concern about Idinthakarai, which has been the epicentre for protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), since 2012. Fishermen and environmentalists have been opposing the nuclear power plant as it could have drastic impact on the livelihood of the fishing community.

34 Sagarmala project: Serious concerns being raised about environmental effects on coastal areas. counterview.org. 21 Nov 2016 <https://counterview.org/2016/11/21/sagarmala-project-serious-concerns- being-raised-about-environmental-effects-on-coastal-areas/>

35 Flyvbjerg, B. What You Should Know About Megaprojects, and Why: An Overview. 2014 <https:// arxiv.org/pdf/1409.0003.pdf>

Private Equity and Corporate Governance. Thought of the Day 109.0

The two historical models of corporate ownership are (1) dispersed public ownership across many shareholders and (2) family-owned or closely held. Private equity ownership is a hybrid between these two models.

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The main advantages of public ownership include giving a company the widest possible access to capital and, for start-up companies, more credibility with suppliers and customers. The key disadvantages are that a public listing of stock brings constant scrutiny by regulators and the media, incurs significant costs (listing, legal and other regulatory compliance costs), and creates a significant focus on short-term financial results from a dispersed base of shareholders (many of whom are not well informed). Most investors in public companies have limited ability to influence a company’s decision making because ownership is so dispersed. As a result, if a company performs poorly, these investors are inclined to sell shares instead of attempting to engage with management through the infrequent opportunities to vote on important corporate decisions. This unengaged oversight opens the possibility of managers potentially acting in ways that are contrary to the interests of shareholders.

Family-owned or closely held companies avoid regulatory and public scrutiny. The owners also have a direct say in the governance of the company, minimizing potential conflicts of interest between owners and managers. However, the funding options for these private companies are mainly limited to bank loans and other private debt financing. Raising equity capital through the private placement market is a cumbersome process that often results in a poor outcome.

Private equity firms offer a hybrid model that is sometimes more advantageous for companies that are uncomfortable with both the family-owned/closely held and public ownership models. Changes in corporate governance are generally a key driver of success for private equity investments. Private equity firms usually bring a fresh culture into corporate boards and often incentivize executives in a way that would usually not be possible in a public company. A private equity fund has a vital self-interest to improve management quality and firm performance because its investment track record is the key to raising new funds in the future. In large public companies there is often the possibility of “cross-subsidization” of less successful parts of a corporation, but this suboptimal behavior is usually not found in companies owned by private equity firms. As a result, private equity-owned companies are more likely to expose and reconfigure or sell suboptimal business segments, compared to large public companies. Companies owned by private equity firms avoid public scrutiny and quarterly earnings pressures. Because private equity funds typically have an investment horizon that is longer than the typical mutual fund or other public investor, portfolio companies can focus on longer-term restructuring and investments.

Private equity owners are fully enfranchised in all key management decisions because they appoint their partners as nonexecutive directors to the company’s board, and some- times bring in their own managers to run the company. As a result, they have strong financial incentives to maximize shareholder value. Since the managers of the company are also required to invest in the company’s equity alongside the private equity firm, they have similarly strong incentives to create long-term shareholder value. However, the significant leverage that is brought into a private equity portfolio company’s capital structure puts pressure on management to operate virtually error free. As a result, if major, unanticipated dislocations occur in the market, there is a higher probability of bankruptcy compared to either the family-owned/closely held or public company model, which includes less leverage. The high level of leverage that is often connected with private equity acquisition is not free from controversy. While it is generally agreed that debt has a disciplining effect on management and keeps them from “empire building,” it does not improve the competitive position of a firm and is often not sustainable. Limited partners demand more from private equity managers than merely buying companies based on the use of leverage. In particular, investors expect private equity managers to take an active role in corporate governance to create incremental value.

Private equity funds create competitive pressures on companies that want to avoid being acquired. CEOs and boards of public companies have been forced to review their performance and take steps to improve. In addition, they have focused more on antitakeover strategies. Many companies have initiated large share repurchase programs as a vehicle for increasing earnings per share (sometimes using new debt to finance repurchases). This effort is designed, in part, to make a potential takeover more expensive and therefore less likely. Companies consider adding debt to their balance sheet in order to reduce the overall cost of capital and achieve higher returns on equity. This strategy is sometimes pursued as a direct response to the potential for a private equity takeover. However, increasing leverage runs the risk of lower credit ratings on debt, which increases the cost of debt capital and reduces the margin for error. Although some managers are able to manage a more leveraged balance sheet, others are ill equipped, which can result in a reduction in shareholder value through mismanagement.

Accelerating the Synthetic Credit. Thought of the Day 96.0

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The structural change in the structured credit universe continues to accelerate. While the market for synthetic structures is already pretty well established, many real money accounts remain outsiders owing to regulatory hurdles and technical limitations, e.g., to participate in the correlation market. Therefore, banks are continuously establishing new products to provide real money accounts with access to the structured market, with Constant proportion debt obligation (CPDOs) recently having been popular. Against this background, three vehicles which offer easy access to structured products for these investors have gained in importance: CDPCs (Credit Derivatives Product Company), PCVs (permanent capital vehicle), and SIVs (structured investment vehicles).

A CDPC is a rated company which buys credit risk via all types of credit derivative instruments, primarily super senior tranches, and sells this risk to investors via preferred shares (equity) or subordinated notes (debt). Hence, the vehicle uses super senior risk to create equity risk. The investment strategy is a buy-and-hold approach, while the aim is to offer high returns to investors and keep default risk limited. Investors are primarily exposed to rating migration risk, to mark-to-market risk, and, finally, to the capability of the external manager. The rating agencies assign, in general, an AAA-rating on the business model of the CDPC, which is a bankruptcy remote vehicle (special purpose vehicle [SPV]). The business models of specific CDPCs are different from each other in terms of investments and thresholds given to the manager. The preferred asset classes CDPC invested in are predominantly single-name CDS (credit default swaps), bespoke synthetic tranches, ABS (asset-backed security), and all kinds of CDOs (collateralized debt obligations). So far, CDPCs main investments are allocated to corporate credits, but CDPCs are extending their universe to ABS (Asset Backed Securities) and CDO products, which provide further opportunities in an overall tight spread environment. The implemented leverage is given through the vehicle and can be in the range of 15–60x. On average, the return target was typically around a 15% return on equity, paid in the form of dividends to the shareholders.

In contrast to CDPCs, PCVs do not invest in the top of the capital structure, but in equity pieces (mostly CDO equity pieces). The leverage is not implemented in the vehicle itself as it is directly related to the underlying instruments. PCVs are also set up as SPVs (special purpose vehicles) and listed on a stock exchange. They use the equity they receive from investors to purchase the assets, while the return on their investment is allocated to the shareholders via dividends. The target return amounts, in general, to around 10%. The portfolio is managed by an external manager and is marked-to-market. The share price of the company depends on the NAV (net asset value) of the portfolio and on the expected dividend payments.

In general, an SIV invests in the top of the capital structure of structured credits and ABS in line with CDPCs. In addition, SIVs also buy subordinated debt of financial institutions, and the portfolio is marked-to-market. SIVs are leveraged credit investment companies and bankruptcy remote. The vehicle issues typically investment-grade rated commercial paper, MTNs (medium term notes), and capital notes to its investors. The leverage depends on the character of the issued note and the underlying assets, ranging from 3 to 5 (bank loans) up to 14 (structured credits).

Open Market Operations. Thought of the Day 93.0

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It can be argued that it would be much more democratic if the Treasuries were allowed to borrow directly from their central bank. By electing a government on a program, we would know what deficit it intends to run and thus how much it will be willing to print, which in the long run is a debate about the possible level of inflation. Instead, it has been argued that decisions made on democratic grounds might be unstable as they are affected by elections. However, the independence of central banks is also serving the interest of commercial bankers as we argue now.

In practice, the central bank buys and sells bonds in open market operations. At least it is always doing so with short term T-bonds as part of the conventional monetary policy, and it might decide sometimes to do it as well with longer maturity T-bonds as part of the unconventional monetary policy. This blurs the lines between a model where the central bank directly finances the Treasury, and a model where this is done by commercial banks since they result in the same final situation. Indeed, before an open market operation the Treasury owes central bank money to a commercial bank, and in the final situation it owes it to the central bank itself, and the central bank money held by the commercial bank has been increased accordingly.

The commercial bank has accepted to get rid of an IOU which bears interest, in exchange of a central bank IOU which bears no interest. However the Treasury will never default on its debt, because the state also runs the central bank which can buy an infinite amount of T-bonds. Said differently, if the interest rates for short term T-bonds start to increase as the commercial banks become more and more reluctant to buy these, the central bank needs to buy as many short-term bonds as necessary to ensure the short term interest rates on T-bonds remain at the targeted level. By using these open market operations a sovereign state running a sovereign currency has the means to ensure that the banks are always willing to buy T-bonds, whatever the deficit is.

However, this system has a drawback. First when the commercial bank bought the T-bond, it had to pretend that it was worried the state might never reimburse, so as to ask for interests rates which are at least slightly higher than the interest rate at which they can borrow from the central bank, and make a profit on the difference. Of course the banks knew they would always be reimbursed, because the central bank always stands ready to buy bonds. As the interest rates departed from the target chosen by the central bank, the latter bought short term bonds to prevent the short term rate from increasing. In order to convince a commercial bank to get rid of a financial instrument which is not risky and which bears interest, the only solution is to pay more than the current value of the bond, which amounts to a decrease of the interest rate on those bonds. The bank thus makes an immediate profit instead of a larger profit later. This difference goes directly into the net worth of the banker and amounts to money creation.

To conclude, we reach the same stage as if the Treasury had sold directly its bond to the central bank, except that now we have increased by a small amount the net worth of the bankers. By first selling the bonds to the commercial banks, instead of selling directly to the central bank, the bankers were able to realize a small profit. But this profit is an immediate and easy one. So they have on one side to pretend they do not like when the Treasury goes into debt, so as to be able to ask for the highest possible interest rate, and secretly enjoy it since either they make a profit when it falls due, or even better immediately if the central bank buys the bonds to control the interest rates.

The commercial banks will always end up with a part of their assets denominated directly in central bank money, which bears no interest, and T-bonds, which bear interest. If we adopt a consolidated state point of view, where we merge the Treasury and the central bank, then the commercial banks have two types of accounts. Deposits which bear no interests, and saving accounts which generate interests, just like everybody. In order to control the interest rate, the consolidated state shifts the amounts from the interest-less to the interest-bearing account and vice-versa.

Credit Bubbles. Thought of the Day 90.0

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At the macro-economic level of the gross statistics of money and loan supply to the economy, the reserve banking system creates a complex interplay between money, debt, supply and demand for goods, and the general price level. Rather than being constant, as implied by theoretical descriptions, money and loan supplies are constantly changing at a rate dependent on the average loan period, and a complex of details buried in the implementation and regulation of any given banking system.

Since the majority of loans are made for years at a time, the results of these interactions play out over a long enough time scale that gross monetary features of regulatory failure, such as continuous asset price inflation, have come to be regarded as normal, e.g. ”House prices always go up”. The price level however is not only dependent on purely monetary factors, but also on the supply and demand for goods and services, including financial assets such as shares, which requires that estimates of the real price level versus production be used. As a simplification, if constant demand for goods and services is assumed as shown in the table below, then there are two possible causes of price inflation, either the money supply available to purchase the good in question has increased, or the supply of the good has been reduced. Critically, the former is simply a mathematical effect, whilst the latter is a useful signal, providing economic information on relative supply and demand levels that can be used locally by consumers and producers to adapt their behaviour. Purely arbitrary changes in both the money and the loan supply that are induced by the mechanical operation of the banking system fail to provide any economic benefit, and by distorting the actual supply and demand signal can be actively harmful.

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Credit bubbles are often explained as a phenomena of irrational demand, and crowd behaviour. However, this explanation ignores the question of why they aren’t throttled by limits on the loan supply? An alternate explanation which can be offered is that their root cause is periodic failures in the regulation of the loan and money supply within the commercial banking system. The introduction of widespread securitized lending allows a rapid increase in the total amount of lending available from the banking system and an accompanying if somewhat smaller growth in the money supply. Channeled predominantly into property lending, the increased availability of money from lending sources, acted to increase house prices creating rational speculation on their increase, and over time a sizeable disruption in the market pricing mechanisms for all goods and services purchased through loans. Monetary statistics of this effect such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for example, are however at least partially masked by production deflation from the sizeable productivity increases over decades. Absent any limit on the total amount of credit being supplied, the only practical limit on borrowing is the availability of borrowers and their ability to sustain the capital and interest repayments demanded for their loans.

Owing to the asymmetric nature of long term debt flows there is a tendency for money to become concentrated in the lending centres, which then causes liquidity problems for the rest of the economy. Eventually repayment problems surface, especially if the practice of further borrowing to repay existing loans is allowed, since the underlying mathematical process is exponential. As general insolvency as well as a consequent debt deflation occurs, the money and loan supply contracts as the banking system removes loan capacity from the economy either from loan repayment, or as a result of bank failure. This leads to a domino effect as businesses that have become dependent on continuously rolling over debt fail and trigger further defaults. Monetary expansion and further lending is also constrained by the absence of qualified borrowers, and by the general unwillingness to either lend or borrow that results from the ensuing economic collapse. Further complications, as described by Ben Bernanke and Harold James, can occur when interactions between currencies are considered, in particular in conjunction with gold-based capital regulation, because of the difficulties in establishing the correct ratio of gold for each individual currency and maintaining it, in a system where lending and the associated money supply are continually fluctuating and gold is also being used at a national level for international debt repayments.

The debt to money imbalance created by the widespread, and global, sale of Asset Backed securities may be unique to this particular crisis. Although asset backed security issuance dropped considerably in 2008, as the resale markets were temporarily frozen, current stated policy in several countries, including the USA and the United Kingdom, is to encourage further securitization to assist the recovery of the banking sector. Unfortunately this appears to be succeeding.

Asset Backed Securities. Drunken Risibility.

Asset Backed Securities (ABS) are freely traded financial instruments that represent packages of loans issued by the commercial banks. The majority are created from mortgages, but credit card debt, commercial real estate loans, student loans, and hedge fund loans are also known to have been securitized. The earliest form of ABS within the American banking system appears to stem from the creation of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) in 1938 as part of amendments to the US National Housing Act, a Great Depression measure aimed at creating loan liquidity. Fannie Mae, and the other Government Sponsored Enterprises buy loans from approved mortgage sellers, typically banks, and create guaranteed financial debt instruments from them, to be sold on the credit markets. The resulting bonds, backed as they are by loan insurance, are widely used in pension funds and insurance companies, as a secure, financial instrument providing a predictable, low risk return.

The creation of a more general form of Mortgage Backed Security is credited to Bob Dall and the trading desk of Salmon brothers in 1977 by Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street). Lewis also describes a rapid expansion in their sale beginning in 1981 as a side effect of the United States savings and loans crisis. The concept was extended in 1987 by bankers at Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. to corporate bonds and loans in the form of Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs), which eventually came to include mortgage backed securities, and in the form of CDO-Squared instruments, pools of CDO.

Analysis of the systemic effects of Asset Backed Security has concentrated chiefly on their ability to improve the quantity of loans, or loan liquidity, which has been treated as a positive feature by Greenspan. It has also been noted that securitization allowed banks to increase their return on capital by transforming their operations into a credit generating pipeline process. Hyun Song Shin has also analysed their effect on bank leverage and the stability of the larger financial system within an accounting framework. He highlights the significance of loan supply factors in causing the sub-prime crisis. Although his model appears not to completely incorporate the full implications of the process operating within the capital reserve regulated banking system, it presents an alternate, matrix based analysis of the uncontrolled debt expansion that these instruments permit.

The systemic problem introduced by asset backed securities, or any form of sale that transfers loans made by commercial banking institutions outside the regulatory framework is that they allow banks to escape the explicit reserve and regulatory capital based regulation on the total amount of loans being issued against customer deposits. This has the effect of steadily increasing the ratio of bank originated loans to money on deposit within the banking system.

The following example demonstrates the problem using two banks, A and B. For simplicity fees related to loans and ABS sales are excluded. It is assumed that the deposit accounts are Net Transaction accounts carry a 10% reserve requirement, and that both banks are ”well capitalised” and that the risk weighted multiplier for the capital reserve for these loans is also 10.

The example proceeds as a series of interactions as money flows between the two banks. The liabilities (deposits) and assets (loans) are shown, with loans being separated into bank loans, and Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), depending on their state.

Initial Conditions: To simplify Bank B is shown as having made no loans, and has excess reserves at the central bank to maintain the balance sheet. The normal inter-bank and central bank lending mechanisms would enable the bank to compensate for temporary imbalances during the process under normal conditions. All deposit money used within the example remains on deposit at either Bank A or Bank B. On the right hand side of the table the total amount of deposits and loans for both banks is shown.

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Step 1: Bank A creates a $1000 Mortgage Backed Security from the loan on its balance sheet.

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Step 2: The securitized loan is sold to the depositor at Bank B. $1000 is paid to Bank A from that depositor in payment for the loan. Bank A now has no loans outstanding against its deposits, and the securitized loan has been moved outside of banking system regulation. Note that total deposits at the two banks have temporarily shrunk due to the repayment of the loan capital at A. The actual transfer of the deposits between the banks is facilitated through the reserve holdings which also function as clearing funds.

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Step 3: As Bank A now has no loans against its deposits, and is within its regulatory capital ratios, it can make a new $1000 loan. The funds from this loan are deposited at Bank B. The sum of the deposits rises as a result as does the quantity of loans. Note that the transfer of the loan money from Bank A to Bank B again goes through the reserve holdings in the clearing system and restores the original balance at Bank B.

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Step 4: Bank A securitizes the loan made in Step 3 repeating Step 1.

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Step 5: Bank A sells the MBS to the depositor at Bank B, repeating Step 2.

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Step 6: Bank A makes a new loan which is deposited at Bank B, repeating Step 3.

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Step 7: Bank A securitizes the loan made in Step 6, repeating Step 4.

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Since the Deposit and Loan positions of the two banks are identical in all respects in Steps (1,4), (2,5), (3,6) and (4,7) the process can continue indefinitely, resulting in expansion of the total commercial bank originated loan supply independent of central bank control.

This is a simplified version of the flows between loans, deposits, and asset backed securities that occur daily in the banking system. At no point has either bank needed recourse to central bank funds, or broken any of their statutory requirements with respect to capitalisation or reserve requirements where they apply.

The problem is the implicit assumption with reserve based banking systems that bank originated loans remain within the banking system. Allowing the sale of loans to holders outside of the regulated banking system (i.e. to entities other than regulated banks) removes these loans from that control and thus creates a systemic loophole in the regulation of the commercial bank loan supply.

The introduction of loans sales has consequently created a novel situation in those modern economies that allow them, not only in causing a significant expansion in total lending from the banking sector, but also in changing the systemic relationship between the quantity of money in the system to the quantity of bank originated debt, and thereby considerably diluting the influence the central bank can exert over the loan supply. The requirement that no individual bank should lend more than their deposits has been enforced by required reserves at the central bank since the 19th century in Europe, and the early 20th century in the USA. Serendipitously, this also created a systemic limit on the ratio of money to bank originated lending within the monetary system. While the sale of Asset Backed Securities does not allow any individual bank to exceed this ratio at any given point in time, as the process evolves the banking system itself exceeds it as loans are moved outside the constraints provided by regulatory capital or reserve regulation, thereby creating a mechanism for unconstrained growth in commercial bank originated lending.

While the asset backed security problem explains the dramatic growth in banking sector debt that has occurred over the last three decades, it does not explain the accompanying growth in the money supply. Somewhat uniquely of the many regulatory challenges that the banking system has created down the centuries, the asset backed security problem, in and of itself does not cause the banks, or the banking system to ”print money”.

The question of what exactly constitutes money in modern banking systems is a non-trivial one. As the examples above show, bank loans create money in the form of bank deposits, and bank deposits can be used directly for monetary purposes either through cheques or more usually now direct electronic transfer. For economic purposes then, bank deposits can be regarded as directly equivalent to physical money. The reality within the banking system however is somewhat more complex, in that transfers between bank deposits must be performed using deposits in the clearing mechanisms, either through the reserves at the central bank, or the bank’s own asset deposits at other banks. Nominally limits on the total quantity of central bank reserves should in turn limit the growth in bank deposits from bank lending, but it is clear from the monetary statistics that this is not the case.

Individually commercial banks are limited in the amount of money they can lend. They are limited by any reserve requirements for their deposits, by the accounting framework that surrounds the precise classification of assets and liabilities within their locale, and by the ratio of their equity or regulatory capital to their outstanding, risk weighted loans as recommended by the Basel Accords. However none of these limits is sufficient to prevent uncontrolled expansion.

Reserve requirements at the central bank can only effectively limit bank deposits if they apply to all accounts in the system, and the central bank maintains control over any mechanisms that allow individual banks to increase their reserve holdings. This appears not to be the case. Basel capital restrictions can also limit bank lending. Assets (loans) held by banks are classified by type, and have accordingly different percentage capital requirements. Regulatory capital requirements are divided into two tiers of capital with different provisions and risk categorisation applying to instruments held in them. To be adequately capitalised under the Basel accords, a bank must maintain a ratio of at least 8% between its Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital reserves, and its loans. Equity capital reserves are provided by a bank’s owners and shareholders when the bank is created, and exist to provide a buffer protecting the bank’s depositors against loan defaults.

Under Basel regulation, regulatory capital can be held in a variety of instruments, depending on Tier 1 or Tier 2 status. It appears that some of those instruments, in particular subordinated debt and hybrid debt capital instruments, can represent debt issued from within the commercial banking system.

Annex A – Basel Capital Accords, Capital Elements Tier 1

(a) Paid-up share capital/common stock

(b) Disclosed reserves

Tier 2

(a) Undisclosed reserves

(b) Asset revaluation reserves

(c) General provisions/general loan-loss reserves

(d) Hybrid (debt/equity) capital instruments

(e) Subordinated debt

Subordinated debt is defined in Annex A of the Basel treaty as:

(e) Subordinated term debt: includes conventional unsecured subordinated debt capital instruments with a minimum original fixed term to maturity of over five years and limited life redeemable preference shares. During the last five years to maturity, a cumulative discount (or amortisation) factor of 20% per year will be applied to reflect the diminishing value of these instruments as a continuing source of strength. Unlike instruments included in item (d), these instruments are not normally available to participate in the losses of a bank which continues trading. For this reason these instruments will be limited to a maximum of 50% of tier 1.

This is debt issued by the bank, in various forms, but of guaranteed long duration, and controlled repayment. In effect, it allows Banks to hold borrowed money in regulatory capital. It is subordinate to the claims of depositors in the event of Bank failure. The inclusion of subordinated debt in Tier 2 allows financial instruments created from lending to become part of the regulatory control on further lending, creating a classic feedback loop. This can also occur as a second order effect if any form of regulatory capital can be purchased with money borrowed from within the banking system

Why Do Sovereign Borrowers Seek to Avoid Default? A Case of Self-Compliance With Contractual Terms.

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Every form of debt is typically a contractual agreement between a lender and a borrower. The former initially pays a money amount to the latter, the latter promises regular interest payments in the future (ct) for a certain time period (n years) and then return of the whole nominal value of the contract (C). This practically means that the owner of the contract (creditor) acquires a right on a future stream of payments and the contract a present value for the same reason. In a general case, the present value of the contract is given by the following formula (r is the discounting rate):

PV = ∑t=1n ct/(1 + r)t + C/(1 + r)n

Put simply, the equation gives the present value of the liability discounting all future anticipated payments. Default is by definition any ex post change in the stream of current and future payments on the debt contract. This change makes the contract less valuable to the creditor, reducing its present value for non-execution of the agreed payments.

In the case that the borrower is a private firm (or a household), law and related third party enforcers (including but not limited to the courts) guarantee the execution of the contractual terms. If the borrower in the international financial markets is a sovereign state, things are quite different as the third-party enforcement is typically futile. Sovereign borrowers may voluntarily choose to self-comply to the contractual terms; nevertheless, if not, there is no typical third-party enforcement on the international level. Even in the case that the debt contracts are subject to foreign law, the enforcement powers of the foreign courts are limited. The case of Argentina is indicative enough. As it is now well known and widely discussed, the court judgment of Thomas P. Griesa determined that the Argentine government should pay the holdouts pari passu despite the fact that the great majority of creditors had agreed to a restructuring. The decision had its results and triggered a new mini-default, but by no means could typically enforce a policy change to Argentina. In the relevant literature, this is usually called fundamental asymmetry of the sovereign debt market. In the mainstream misleading analytical context (where states, firms, and households are treated as coherent agents acting on a cost/benefit basis and pursuing the optimum position) the key question is the following: why do sovereign borrowers comply with the contractual terms much more often than expected?

Sovereign borrowers avoid default and self-comply with the contractual terms because the strategic benefits from a default do not exceed the anticipated losses. There is truth in this argument. For instance, a sovereign default would heavily affect the domestic financial system, which is usually not only exposed to domestic sovereign debt but would also face serious impediments in its organic connection to the international markets (in the case of a developed capitalist economy, this implies extra financial costs for the private sector and thus serious macroeconomic consequences for employment and growth). One should also take into consideration the economic and political consequences of a default, since negotiations with the creditors take considerable time. The list of cost/benefit analysis can be quite long, but this train of thought misses the crucial factor: the very nature of contemporary capitalist power.

Cost-benefit analysis takes a concrete form only within the contemporary context of capitalist power. International financial markets do not curtail the range of state sovereignty – they reshape the contour of capitalist power. Contemporary capitalism (the term “neoliberalism” is too restrictive to capture all its aspects) amounts to a recomposition or reshaping of the relations between capitalist states (as uneven links in the context of the global imperialist chain), individual capitals (which are constituted as such only in relation to a particular national social capital), and “liberalized” financial markets. This recomposition presupposes a proper reforming of all components involved, in a way that secures the reproduction of the dominant (neoliberal) capitalist paradigm. From this point of view, contemporary capitalism comprises a historical specific form of organization of capitalist power on a social-wide scale, wherein governmentality through financial markets acquires a crucial role. The new condition of governmentality (reproduction of capitalist rule) thus takes the form of a “state-and-market” type of connection. Regardless of the results of cost-benefit calculus, the organic inclusion of the economy in the international markets is a critical premise for the organization of capitalist rule. On the other hand, it is also clear that a recomposition of the relation to international markets (national self-sufficiency) can easily incite the most regressive and authoritarian forms of state governance, if it is not accompanied by a radical shift in the class relations of power.

A Monetary Drain due to Excess Liquidity. Why is the RBI Playing Along

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And so we thought demonetization was not a success. Let me begin with the Socratic irony to assume that it was indeed a success, albeit not in arresting black money for sure. Yes, the tax net has widened and the cruelty of smashing down the informal sector to smithereens to be replaceable with a formal economy, more in the manner of sucking the former into the latter has been achieved. As far as terror funding is concerned, it is anybody’s guess and so let them be with their imaginations. What none can deny is the surge in deposits and liquidity in the wake of demonetization. But, what one has been consciously, or through an ideological-driven standpoint denying is the fact that demonetization clubbed with the governmental red carpet for foreign direct investment has been an utter failure to attract money into the country. And the reason attributed for the same has been a dip in the economy as a result of the idiosyncratic decision of November 8 added with the conjuring acts of mathematics and statistics in tweaking base years to let go off the reality behind a depleting GDP and project the country as the fastest growing emerging economy in the world. The irony I started off with is defeated here, for none of the claims that the government propaganda machine churns out on the assembly line are in fact anywhere near the truth. But, thats what a propaganda is supposed to doing, else why even call it that, or even call for a successful governance and so on and on (sorry for the Žižekian interjections here).

Assuming the irony still has traces and isn’t vanquished, it is time to move on and look into the effects of what calls for a financial reality-check. Abruptly going vertically through the tiers here, it is recently been talked about in the corridors of financial power that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is all set to drain close to 1.5 lakh crore in excess liquidity from the financial system as surging foreign investments forces the central bank to absorb the dollar inflows and sell rupees to cap gains in the local currency. This is really interesting, for the narrative or the discourse is again symptomatic of what the government wants us to believe, and so believe we shall, or shall we? After this brief stopover, chugging off again…Foreign investments into debt and shares have reached a net $31 billion this year, compared with $2.7 billion in sales last year, due to factors including India’s low inflation and improving economic growth. This is not merely a leap, but a leap of faith, in this case numerically. Yes, India is suffering from low inflation, but it ain’t deflation, but rather disinflation. There is a method to this maddening reason, if one needs to counter what gets prime time economic news in the media or passes on as Chinese Whispers amongst activists hell-bent on proving the futility of the governmental narrative. There is nothing wrong in the procedure as long as this hell-bent-ness is cooked in proper proportions of reason. But, why call it disinflation and not deflation? A sharp drop in inflation below the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) 4% target has been driven by only two items – pulses and vegetables. the consumer price index (CPI), excluding pulses and vegetables, rose at the rate of 3.8% in July, much higher than the official headline figure of 2.4% inflation for the month. The re-calculated CPI is based on adjusted weights after excluding pulses and vegetables from the basket of goods and services. The two farm items – pulses and vegetables – have a combined weight of only 8.4% in the consumer price index (CPI) basket. However, they have wielded disproportionate influence over the headline inflation number for more than a year now owing to the sharp volatility in their prices. So, how does it all add up? Prices of pulses and vegetables have fallen significantly this year owing to increased supply amid a normal monsoon last year, as noted by the Economic Survey. The high prices of pulses in the year before and the government’s promises of more effective procurement may have encouraged farmers to produce more last year, resulting in a glut. Demonetisation may have added to farmers’ woes by turning farm markets into buyers’ markets. Thus, there does not seem to be any imminent threat of deflation in India. A more apt characterization of the recent trends in prices may be ‘disinflation’ (a fall in the inflation rate) rather than deflation (falling prices) given that overall inflation, excluding pulses and vegetables, is close to the RBI target of 4%. On the topicality of improving economic growth in the country, this is the bone of contention either weakening or otherwise depending on how the marrow is key up.

Moving on…The strong inflows have sent the rupee up nearly 7 per cent against the dollar and forced the RBI to buy more than $10 billion in spot market and $10 billion in forwards this year – which has meant an equivalent infusion in rupees. Those rupee sales have added liquidity into a financial system already flush with cash after a ban on higher-denomination currency in November sparked a surge in bank deposits. Average daily liquidity has risen to around Rs 3 lakh crore, well above the RBI’s goal of around Rs 1 lakh crore, according to traders. That will force the RBI to step up debt sales to remove liquidity and avoid any inflationary impact. Traders estimate the RBI will need to drain Rs 1 lakh crore to Rs 1.4 lakh crore ($15.7 billion to $22 billion) after taking into account factors such as festival-related consumer spending that naturally reduce cash in the system. How the RBI drains the cash will thus become an impact factor for bond traders, who have benefitted from a rally in debt markets. The RBI has already drained about Rs 1 lakh crore via one-year bills under a special market stabilisation scheme (MSS), as well as Rs 30,000 crore in longer debt through open market sales. MSS (Market Stabilisation Scheme) securities are issued with the objective of providing the RBI with a stock of securities with which it can intervene in the market for managing liquidity. These securities are issued not to meet the government’s expenditure. The MSS scheme was launched in April 2004 to strengthen the RBI’s ability to conduct exchange rate and monetary management. The bills/bonds issued under MSS have all the attributes of the existing treasury bills and dated securities. These securities will be issued by way of auctions to be conducted by the RBI. The timing of issuance, amount and tenure of such securities will be decided by the RBI. The securities issued under the MSS scheme are matched by an equivalent cash balance held by the government with the RBI. As a result, their issuance will have a negligible impact on the fiscal deficit of the government. It is hoped that the procedure would continue, noting staggered sales in bills, combined with daily reverse repo operations and some long-end sales, would be easily absorbable in markets. The most disruptive fashion would be stepping up open market sales, which tend to focus on longer-ended debt. That may send yields higher and blunt the impact of the central bank’s 25 basis point rate cut in August. The RBI does not provide a timetable of its special debt sales for the year. and if the RBI drains the cash largely through MSS bonds then markets wont get too much impacted. This brings us to close in proving the success story of demonetization as a false beacon, in that with a surge in liquidity, the impact on the market would be negligible if MSS are resorted to culminating in establishing the fact that demonetization clubbed with red-carpeted FDI has had absolutely no nexus in the influx of dollars and thus any propaganda of this resulting as a success story of demonetization is to be seen as purely rhetoric. QED.