July 28, 2019 / 5:44 AM / 21 days ago

Indian minister says no rethink on overseas sovereign bonds: report

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s finance minister has ruled out reconsidering a plan to issue foreign currency overseas sovereign bonds, she was quoted as saying in an interview published on Sunday, despite warnings of long-term risk for the economy.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) wanted the finance ministry to reassess the idea of issuing foreign currency overseas sovereign bonds and seek wider consultation.

“I am not doing any review. I have not been asked by anybody to do a review,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Economic Times.

This month, Sitharaman, presenting the budget for the fiscal year 2019/2020 that began on April 1, said India would look to issue overseas foreign currency sovereign bonds in addition to raising funds from the domestic market.

The proposal has been criticized by former heads of the Reserve Bank of India, economists and allies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who argue it could create long-term economic risks by exposing the government’s liabilities to currency fluctuations.

“The government would start raising a part of its gross borrowing program in external markets in external currencies. This will also have a beneficial impact on the demand situation for government securities in domestic market,” Sitharaman told the Economic Times.

The government plans to borrow nearly $10 billion from the foreign overseas market, out of total planned borrowing of about $103 billion in 2019/20.

Sitharaman told the newspaper that details such as timing of the issue and the exact size had not been worked out.

Reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel

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