Friday, July 13, 2007

India’s Equity Market Reform Article by John Echeverri-Gent

Ajay Shah has uploaded this article by John Echeverri-Gent on the Politics of market microstructure [pdf] about the reforms of the Indian equity market. It is forthcoming in a book: India's Economic Transition: The Politics of Reform, edited by Rahul Mukherji, Oxford, 2007.
Some excerpts out of the 30 odd pages:
  • He examines the politics of equity market microstructure in India. It argues that officials in the Ministry of Finance generated much of the impetus for reform. Three factors motivated these officials to become agents of change. First, their experience made them acutely aware that public sector resources were inadequate to meet India’s developmental needs. Second, as the 1990s progressed they were increasingly aware of the global best practices that developedin the wake of technological change. Finally, the legal infrastructure that regulated Indian equity markets provided them tremendous authority over the exchanges. Under the Securities Contracts (Regulation Act) 1956, the Ministry of Finance enjoyed the power to grant or withdraw recognition to any stock exchange. It also had the power to direct the exchanges to make or amend their rules, supersede the governing body of any exchange, and suspend the business of an exchange.
  • By 2001, reforms brought India up to par with the global standards for virtually every aspect of its equity market microstructure. The ‘open outcry’system that restricted trading to the floors of stock exchanges in India’s metropolises was replaced by screen-based, electronic order-book systems that instantaneously linked traders across the country through the world’s first satellite trading system. Virtually all trading took place on a dematerialized basis through a central depository. The deeply flawed account period settlement system was replaced by a T+2 rolling settlement that is one of the most efficient systems in the world, and badla or carry-forward trading gave way to a rapidly developing derivatives market. As a consequence of these changes, the total value of transactions in securities has grown dramatically over the last ten years from Rs 1.7 billion in 1994–5 to Rs 50.8 billion in 2003–4.
  • All this is not to suggest that no problems remain. The micromarket structure of the primary market (despite its revival since 2003–4, in part because of the introduction of a screen-based book-building system) is still in need of reform. The share of household savings invested in securities is small and has declined since the early 1990s. The mutual fund industry remains underdeveloped, and the regulatory capacity of SEBI needs enhancement.
  • Nonetheless, the transformation of Indian equity markets is a remarkably successful chapter in the story of India’s economic reform.Three factors help to explain this success. First, technological change in the form of electronic trading systems and the development of new financialproducts created substantial opportunity costs to maintaining the status quo. Second, in the context of India’s balance of payments crisis in 1991, officials in the Ministry of Finance were motivated by their growing awareness of global best practices to use their authority to modernize India’s capital market. Finally,India’s politicians and reformers in the Ministry of Finance had a relatively low ‘political cost-benefit ratio’ for reforming equity markets.
Go read the entire article here
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