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Banking > Policies> Monetary and Credit Policy 2001-2002             Click here for FULL credit policy

Review of Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments: 2000-01

Domestic Developments

4. According to the latest estimates of the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the GDP growth in 2000-01 is likely to be about 6.0 per cent as compared with 6.4 per cent and 6.6 per cent in the previous two years. The growth in agricultural sector was at 0.9 per cent during 2000-01 as against 0.7 per cent in the previous year. The growth in mining and quarrying sector was expected to be significantly higher at 4.5 per cent as compared with 1.7 per cent a year ago. The overall growth performance of the industrial sector during 2000-01 is estimated to be somewhat lower than that in the previous year. Combined with the continued good performance of the services sector, particularly of information technology related services, the economy is expected to show a growth rate of 6.0 per cent or very close to it, despite low agricultural growth.

5. The Gujarat earthquake has caused considerable damage. While the immediate loss of production may not be sizeable, the cost of restoration of infrastructure is expected to cause a fiscal strain on the state reflecting loss of revenue and financing of relief and rehabilitation. Production of principal agricultural commodities from the state such as oilseeds, cotton and tobacco may suffer. While there has not been major damage to large industrial installations, industrial environment could be affected because of infrastructural constraints. Despite these negative factors, on an overall reckoning, the impact of the quake on GDP growth is estimated to be small. In order to enable the state government to deal with the situation, the Reserve Bank has taken several initiatives which are reviewed in the Part III of this Statement.

6. The annual rate of inflation on a point-to-point basis as measured by variations in the wholesale price index (base 1993-94 = 100) worked out to 4.9 per cent in 2000-01 as against 6.8 per cent a year ago. While inflation on account of manufactured products (weight 63.7) at 3.7 per cent was modest, primary articles (weight 22.0) showed a marginal decline of 0.3 per cent. The rise in WPI was mainly due to increase in prices of ‘fuel, power, light and lubricants’ sub-group (weight 14.2) which recorded a substantial increase of 15.3 per cent on top of an increase of 26.9 per cent a year ago. Inflation as reflected in consumer price index (CPI) was much lower at 3.0 per cent (on a point-to-point basis) and 4.0 per cent (on an average basis) up to end-February 2001.

7. During 2000-01, the annual growth in money supply on a point-to-point basis, was higher at 16.2 per cent as against 14.6 per cent a year ago. This overall monetary expansion captured large inflows amounting to about Rs.26,000 crore of India Millennium Deposits (IMDs). Net of IMD inflows, the annual growth in M3 would work out to 13.9 per cent. Among the components, the growth in aggregate deposits of the scheduled commercial banks at 17.8 per cent was higher than that of 13.9 per cent in the previous year. The expansion in currency with the public was lower at 10.8 per cent (about Rs.20,400 crore) as against 11.7 per cent (about Rs.19,800 crore) in the previous year. This could partly be attributed to lower agricultural activity and partly to the larger base in the previous year on account of Y2K uncertainties.

8. The increase in reserve money during 2000-01 at 8.3 per cent (about Rs.23,200 crore) was comparable to that of 8.1 per cent (about Rs.21,000 crore) in the previous year. While the monetisation of Central Government deficit was about Rs.9,000 crore, the expansion in reserve money largely emanated from increase in net foreign exchange assets (NFEA). On the other hand, claims on banks and commercial sector showed a decline of about Rs.5,800 crore reflecting easy liquidity conditions.

9. The year-on-year growth of non-food credit in the range of 19 - 22 per cent during the first three quarters of the year (April-December 2000) was significantly higher than that in the previous year. Expansion in credit during this period partly reflected the increase in stocks of fertilizers, sugar, petroleum and automobiles. Moreover, credit flow to infrastructure sector and retail segment was relatively high. Consumer credit had also expanded in line with accelerated production of consumer durables. The pace of credit growth has, however, decelerated since December 2000 which is in line with subdued industrial activity. For the year as a whole, non-food credit has registered a lower growth of 14.3 per cent (Rs.58,800 crore) as against an increase of 16.5 per cent (Rs.58,200 crore) in the previous year.

10. The total flow of funds from scheduled commercial banks to the commercial sector including banks’ investments in bonds/debentures/shares of public sector undertakings and private corporate sector, commercial paper, etc., are estimated at about Rs.71,500 crore (15.1 per cent) as against Rs.71,600 crore (17.9 per cent) in the corresponding period of the previous year. Total flow of resources to the commercial sector, including capital issues, global depository receipts (GDRs) and borrowing from financial institutions are placed at about Rs.1,49,000 crore as compared with Rs.1,38,000 crore in the previous year.

11. The increase in food credit was much higher at Rs.14,300 crore as compared with Rs.8,900 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year reflecting larger scale of procurement operations. The buffer stock of foodgrains peaked to 46.8 million tonnes at end-February 2001. The opportunity costs arising from fiscal and monetary perspectives of such large buffer stock operations need to be carefully considered. As the gap between the procurement and issue prices widen, the large buffer stock tends to result in the food subsidy assuming the nature of producers’ subsidy rather than benefiting the targeted consumers. In this context, the reforms in the management of the food economy announced in the Union Budget 2001-02 such as enlarging the role of state governments in both procurement and distribution of foodgrains for Public Distribution System (PDS), review of the operations of the Essential Commodities Act (1955) to facilitate free inter-state movement of foodgrains and reduction in the list of essential commodities are meant to enhance the efficiency of the food procurement and distribution system.

12. As per the revised estimates in the Union Budget, the fiscal deficit of the Central Government for 2000-01 was placed at Rs.1,11,972 crore as against budget estimate of Rs.1,11,275 crore. This containment of fiscal deficit facilitated the task of monetary and debt management as the market borrowing programme of the Central Government (Rs.1,15,183 crore gross and Rs.73,787 crore net) could be put through without undue pressure on interest rates. The state governments' net market borrowings of Rs.12,880 crore were almost the same as Rs.12,886 crore in the previous year. The estimated reduction in fiscal deficit to 4.7 per cent of GDP for 2001-02 and the promise of the Fiscal Responsibility Legislation should provide an enabling environment for smooth conduct of debt management.

13. As emphasised in the previous policy statements, the overall monetary management becomes difficult when a large and growing borrowing programme of the government, year after year, puts pressure on the absorptive capacity of the market. The banking system even now holds government securities of around 35.0 per cent of its net demand and time liabilities as against the minimum statutory requirement of 25.0 per cent. In terms of volume, such holdings above the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) amounted to as much as Rs.1,00,000 crore, which is substantially higher than the net annual borrowings of the government. In this context, the effort towards fiscal consolidation aimed at in the Union Budget for 2001-02 is a very welcome development. The reduction in fiscal deficit coupled with lowering of interest rates on contractual savings would facilitate a move towards a favourable interest rate regime. This should also help in releasing government resources for much needed investment in physical and social infrastructure, which in turn could stimulate private investment. Further gains from a sustained fiscal consolidation will be realised over a period of time through stabilisation of inflationary expectations in the economy.

14. The average cost of primary issuance of Government of India (GOI) dated securities came down to 10.95 per cent during 2000-01 from 11.77 per cent in the previous year, a decline in interest cost of over 80 basis points. There was also a perceptible downward shift in secondary market yields on government securities across the maturity spectrum during the second half of the year. The yield on government securities with one-year residual maturity which had peaked to 10.82 per cent in August 2000 from 9.23 per cent in April 2000 has subsequently moderated to 9.05 per cent by March 2001. Thus, there has been a reduction in yield of as much as 180 basis points (or 1.8 percentage points) in these securities since August 2000. Similarly, the yield on government securities with 10-year residual maturity which had risen from 10.37 per cent in April 2000 to 11.57 per cent in September 2000 fell to 10.36 per cent by March 2001.

15. In view of the easy liquidity conditions and softer interest rate environment, the overall monetary conditions are at present reasonably comfortable. However, last year’s experience once again confirms that monetary management has now become much more complex than was the case even a few years ago. This is because of several factors, such as the on-going integration of financial markets across the world, the phenomenal increase in financial turnover, liberalization of the economy, and the rapidity with which unanticipated domestic and international tremors get transmitted to financial markets across the world because of the new technology. It will be recalled that at the beginning of the last financial year, the Reserve Bank had taken steps to ease monetary policy. However, these measures had to be quickly reversed (in July 2000), in view of unfavourable international developments, particularly successive increases in interest rates in major industrial economies. The need to quickly change the policy stance in the light of emerging situation has also been the experience of other monetary authorities including the US and European central banks. It is important to emphasise this, as, in case the present economic circumstances change, it may again become necessary to take appropriate monetary measures which may not be in consonance with the present easy conditions. Keeping these realities in view, it is particularly important for banks and financial institutions to make adequate allowances for unforeseen contingencies in their business plans, and fully take into account the implications of changes in the monetary and external environment on their operations.

16. A factor which further complicates the conduct of monetary policy during certain periods is the difficulty in the correct assessment of the potential inflationary pressures based on the latest available data for the current period. While the WPI and CPI inflation rates generally move in tandem, there were periods in which one rate widely differed from the other in opposite directions. For instance, during the period 1995-96 to 1998-99, the CPI inflation ruled significantly higher than the WPI, while during 1999-2000 and 2000-01, the reverse is true. Secondly, while there is little disagreement that in the medium to long-run, inflation is largely caused by monetary expansion, in the short-run inflation could be affected by non-monetary and supply side factors. It may be recalled that during the early part of 1998-99, the headline inflation rate as measured by variations in WPI had shown a sharp increase following substantial rise in prices of certain food items such as fruits and vegetables and in October 1998, a conscious decision was taken, not to tighten the reins of monetary policy, since such an increase in prices emanated from temporary supply problems. The inflation rate reversed itself as the supply situation improved, and the monetary policy stance taken earlier proved to be correct. (However, the position could have turned out to be different if inflationary pressures had persisted or accelerated due to emergence of unexpected demand or supply side pressures.)

17. We faced a similar situation in most part of 2000-01 when the increase in the overall inflation rate emanated from the sharp increase in international crude prices. If the increase in prices on account of petroleum related sub-group is excluded from the WPI, the inflation rate which peaked to 4.8 per cent in mid-January 2001, has since come down to 2.6 per cent by end-March 2001. It, therefore, becomes extremely important to appreciate the underlying inflation rate from different angles before building up an appropriate policy stance. The Reserve Bank will continue its on-going work on further refinement of the methodology for assessment of the inflationary outlook based on different indices and a set of monetary indicators which could best guide the formulation of monetary policy in a changing environment.

18. In the Statement of April 1999, a mention was made about the need for developing a robust short-term operational model for better understanding of the transmission mechanism of the monetary policy. In line with this, a liquidity assessment model is being structured, on the basis of available data, so as to assess both the mechanism and inter-linkages among different segments of the financial system.

External Developments

19. There were significant changes in the external environment after April 2000 when the last annual Policy Statement was presented. It may be recalled that during the year 1999-2000, despite a sharp increase in oil prices, foreign currency assets of India had increased by US $ 5.5 billion and forex market was generally stable. This position changed markedly during the first half of the year 2000-01, particularly during the period mid-May to mid-August 2000. In view of the continued high oil prices, combined with successive increases in interest rates in the US and Europe and lower capital inflows, there was a decline in India’s foreign currency assets by US $ 2.5 billion in the first six months of the year. Forex markets also witnessed considerable instability with rupee depreciating against US dollar by 5.3 per cent between April and September 2000. During this period, US dollar also appreciated against other major currencies, such as the Euro and the Pound Sterling.

20. The second half of the year, however, saw a sharp turnaround in the forex market. India’s foreign currency assets increased by about US $ 7.0 billion, and exchange rate movements were generally orderly and range-bound. This favourable development was largely due to restoration of confidence in India’s external prospects in view of the highly successful launch of the India Millennium Deposits (IMD) scheme by the State Bank of India, which attracted deposits of US $ 5.5 billion. It is significant that, excluding the effect of IMD scheme, there was actually an increase of US $ 1.5 billion in India’s foreign currency assets during the second half of the year (as against a decline of US $ 2.5 billion during the first half of the year on a comparable basis).

21. The sharp turnaround in the foreign exchange situation and the behaviour of forex markets during the previous year is highly instructive for management of the external sector. As mentioned above, the behaviour of the forex market was sharply different during the two halves of the year, even though there was no significant change in the ‘real’ economy or important economic variables, such as, the growth rate, trade deficit or oil prices. Reserves in the first half of the year averaged US $ 36.7 billion, which was several times higher than the additional cost of oil imports or even the size of anticipated current account deficit. Exports also did well throughout the year with an average growth (in US dollar terms) of 20.1 per cent in the first half and 16.3 per cent in the second half (up to February 2001). In May 2000, the Reserve Bank had also announced that, as and when necessary, it would directly meet the foreign exchange requirements for imports by the Indian Oil Corporation as well as government debt service payments in order to meet the temporary demand-supply gaps. Yet, forex markets showed considerable instability and anxiety during the first half as compared with the second half of the year. An analysis of the behaviour of the market during these two periods, leads to following broad conclusions.

The day-to-day movements, in the short-run, in foreign exchange markets have little to do with the so-called ‘fundamentals’ or country’s capacity to meet its payments obligations, including debt service. Any adverse news, and ‘expectations’ generated by it tend to play a paramount role. Adverse expectations are also generally self-fulfilling because of their adverse effect on "leads and lags" in export/import receipts and payments, remittances and inter-bank positions.

In view of inter-bank activity, which sets the pace in forex markets, transaction volumes in "gross" terms are several times higher, and more variable, than "net" flows. Exchange rates are more sensitive to "gross" flows, and variability in "gross" flows in turn is sensitive to exchange rate expectations.

Any initial adverse movement, following bad news or unfavourable development may get exacerbated because of greater inter-bank activity. Given the "bandwagon" effect of any adverse movement and the herd behaviour of market participants, the situation can lead to further buying or hedging activity among non-bank participants. The "Daily Earnings At Risk" (DEAR) strategies of risk management tends to reinforce herd behaviour. There is a natural tendency to do what everyone else is doing in the event of any adverse development rather than taking a contra position, particularly in thin and underdeveloped markets dominated by a few leading operators.

Developing countries generally have smaller and localised forex markets where nominal domestic currency values are expected to show a depreciating trend, particularly if relative inflation rates are higher than those of major industrial countries. In this situation, there is a greater tendency among market participants to hold long positions in foreign currencies and to hold back sales when expectations are adverse and currencies are depreciating, than the other way round when currencies are appreciating and expectations are favourable. Thus, market behaviour is not symmetrical in both directions.

The tendency of importers/exporters and other end-users to look at exchange rate movements as a source of return without adopting appropriate risk management strategies, at times, creates severe uneven supply-demand conditions, often based on "news and views". A self-sustaining triangle of supply demand mismatch, increased inter-bank activity to take advantage of it and accentuated volatility triggered by negative sentiments, not in tune with fundamentals can be set in motion, requiring quick intervention/response by authorities.

22. The above realities of the foreign exchange markets make the task of determining appropriate exchange rate and market intervention policies extremely difficult for central banks all over the world. In principle, and in theory, there is a strong case for either freely floating exchange rates (without intervention) or a currency board type arrangement of fixed rates. In practice, however, because of the operational realities of foreign exchange markets, empirical research shows that most countries have adopted intermediate regimes of various types including fixed pegs, crawling pegs, fixed rates within bands, managed floats with no pre-announced path, and independent floats with foreign exchange intervention moderating the rate of change and preventing undue fluctuations. By and large, barring a few, most countries have some variety of "managed" floats and central banks intervene in the market periodically.

23. Part of the reason for concern with exchange rate is also the likely effect of adverse developments in forex market on the real economy, as has been seen in East Asia, Russia, Mexico and Brazil a couple of years ago, and Turkey and Argentina currently. The "contagion" effect is quick, and a sharp change in the currency value can affect the real economy more than proportionately. Exporters may suffer if there is unanticipated sharp appreciation and debtors or other corporates may be affected badly if there is a sharp depreciation, which can also lead to bank failures and bankruptcies.

24. Against this background, India’s exchange rate policy of focusing on managing volatility with no fixed rate target while allowing the underlying demand and supply conditions to determine the exchange rate movements over a period in an orderly way has stood the test of time. Despite several unexpected external and domestic developments, India’s external situation continues to remain satisfactory. RBI will continue to follow the same approach of watchfulness, caution and flexibility in regard to forex market in the current year also.

25. Our own experience last year, has highlighted the importance of building up foreign exchange reserves to take care of unforeseen contingencies, volatile capital flows and other developments which can affect expectations adversely. The emerging economies have to rely largely on their own resources during external exigencies (or contagion) as there is no international "lender of last resort" to provide additional liquidity at short notice on acceptable terms. Thus, the need for adequate reserves is unlikely to be eliminated or reduced even if exchange rates are allowed to float freely. Sharp exchange rate movements can be highly disequilibrating and costly for the economy during periods of uncertainty or adverse expectations, whether real or imaginary. These economic costs are likely to be substantially higher than the net financial cost, if any, of holding reserves. The success of the IMD scheme last year, and the confidence generated by it was a crucial factor in stabilizing India’s forex markets and containing risks to the real economy in the second half of the year.

26. The overall approach to the management of India’s foreign exchange reserves in recent years has reflected the changing composition of balance of payments, and has endeavoured to reflect the "liquidity risks" associated with different types of flows and other requirements. The policy for reserve management is thus judiciously built upon a host of identifiable factors and other contingencies. Such factors, inter alia, include: the size of the current account deficit; the size of short-term liabilities (including current repayment obligations on long-term loans); the possible variability in portfolio investments and other types of capital flows; the unanticipated pressures on the balance of payments arising out of external shocks (such as the impact of the East Asian crisis in 1997-98 or increase in oil prices in 1999-2000); and movements in the repatriable foreign currency deposits of non-resident Indians. Taking these factors into account, India’s foreign exchange reserves are at present comfortable. However, there can be no cause for complacency. We must continue to ensure that, leaving aside short-term variations in reserve levels, the quantum of reserves in the long-run is in line with the growth in the economy and the size of risk-adjusted capital flows. This will provide us with greater security against unfavourable or unanticipated developments, which can occur quite suddenly.

27. The developments in respect of India’s balance of payments, particularly exports, also require continuous vigilance. Fortunately, in 2000-01, exports have done well and it is essential to keep up the momentum to ensure that balance of payments do not become a constraint on economic growth. In the past, several measures were introduced to ensure timely delivery of credit to exporters and remove procedural hassles. As indicated in the Mid-term Review of October 2000, the suggestions received from exporters and export trade organisations were examined by RBI and the Bankers' Group and guidelines were issued to banks to further simplify procedures for export credit. These include adopting a flexible approach in negotiating bills drawn against LCs over and above the sanctioned limits, delegating discretionary/higher sanctioning powers to branches, authorisation to branches for disbursing a certain percentage of enhanced/ad-hoc limits pending sanction, to incorporate all sanctions including waiver of submission of order/LC for every disbursal and export credit and submission of a statement of orders/LCs in hand at periodical intervals in the sanction letter and advise ECGC immediately about the terms of sanction to facilitate faster claim settlement.

28. RBI has been arranging seminars at major exporting centres for the benefit of exporters and branch level bank officials for resolving the problems relating to export credit and meeting foreign currency requirements. RBI has also been holding meetings of All India Export Advisory Committee (AIEAC) at quarterly intervals for deliberating on the issues raised by exporter organisations and taking appropriate action. Further, exporters have also been advised that they can call on concerned senior officials of RBI on any working day during a designated time-slot without prior appointment for redressal of their grievances. In order to have a feedback on simplification of procedures by RBI for export credit delivery as also the level of exporters’ satisfaction with bank services, it is proposed to conduct a survey with the help of an independent outside agency.

29. As a step towards simplification of procedures in the field of exports, all status holders (export/trading/super trading houses) and manufacturer exporters who are exporting more than one-half of their production and recognised as such by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), have recently been extended a simplified facility to write off their export outstandings to the extent of 5.0 per cent of their average annual export realisation in the preceding three years.

30. For mitigating the problems of exporters due to the severe earthquake, guidelines have been issued to banks for providing relief/concessions. These include extending the period of packing credit, conversion of dues into short-term loans repayable in suitable instalments and relaxation in NPA classification norms.

31. In the recent period, procedure of financial transactions such as remittances, investments and maintenance of bank accounts, etc., for non-resident Indians (NRIs) has been considerably simplified and the feedback from the NRIs on this count has been very positive. The Reserve Bank would continue to welcome suggestions for further improving various facilities pertaining to NRIs.

32. Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) can invest in a company under the portfolio investment route up to 24.0 per cent of the paid-up capital of the company which could now be increased to 49.0 per cent (40.0 per cent earlier) by the concerned Indian company by passing a resolution by its Board of Directors followed by passing of a special resolution to that effect by its General Body.

33. In order to encourage foreign investment, foreign direct investment (FDI) is permitted under the automatic route for most activities except in certain circumstances and for a very small negative list. New foreign investment proposals in the IT sector have been allowed automatic approval irrespective of whether the investor has an existing joint venture or technical collaboration in the country. No monetary ceilings have been placed on investment under the automatic route. Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) now considers applications for FDI up to 100 per cent for oil refining sector, business-to-business e-commerce and internet service providers (ISPs) subject to certain conditions. FDI under the automatic route has been permitted up to 100 per cent for all manufacturing activities (with certain exceptions) in Special Economic Zones (SEZs). As announced in the Union Budget, FDI in Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) will be put on the automatic route. Foreign equity participation up to 26 per cent has been allowed in the insurance sector subject to issue of necessary licence by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA). The Reserve Bank has given general permission to Indian companies which are eligible under the automatic route or have SIA/FIPB approval to issue shares to their foreign collaborators, subject only to certain reporting requirements.

34. Continuing with the policy of liberalisation of the capital account following the announcement made in the Union Budget in March 2001, a number of steps have been taken to improve liquidity in the ADR/GDR market and to give opportunity to Indian shareholders to divest their shareholding in the ADR/GDR market abroad. Thus, two-way fungibility in ADR/GDR issues of Indian companies has been introduced, subject to sectoral caps, wherever applicable. Stockbrokers in India have now been allowed to purchase shares and deposit these with the Indian custodians for issue of ADRs/GDRs by the overseas depository to the extent of those being converted into underlying shares. Indian companies have been permitted to sponsor ADR/GDR issues with an overseas depository against shares held by a shareholder, who wish to use this option subject to compliance with Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds and Ordinary Shares (through Depository Receipt Mechanism) Scheme, 1993 and guidelines issued by the Government.

35. Indian companies wishing to make acquisitions of foreign companies or direct investment abroad in Joint Ventures/Wholly Owned Subsidiaries can now invest up to US $ 50 million on an annual basis through automatic route without being subject to the three year profitability condition. Additional block allocation of foreign exchange over the limit of US $ 50 million is available to companies with proven track record, subject to certain conditions. Companies may invest 100 per cent of the proceeds of their ADR/GDR issues for acquisitions of foreign companies and direct investments in Joint Ventures and Wholly Owned Subsidiaries. Any Indian company that has issued ADRs/GDRs may now acquire shares of foreign companies engaged in the same area of core activity up to an amount of US dollar 100 million or an amount equivalent to ten times of their exports in the previous year, whichever is higher. Earlier, such stock swap facility was available only to Indian companies in certain sectors. Partnership firms providing certain specified professional services, viz., chartered accountancy, legal services, medical and health care services, information technology and entertainment software related services are allowed to invest abroad in foreign concerns in the same line of activity subject to certain criteria.

36. In order to provide stimulus to the growth of the venture capital industry in India, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has been made the single point nodal agency for registration of both domestic and overseas venture capital funds which are allowed to invest through the automatic route, subject to SEBI regulations. General permission has been granted to SEBI registered Foreign Venture Capital Investments (FVCIs) to invest in Indian Venture Capital Undertakings (IVCUs) or in a Venture Capital Fund (VCF) and divest its investments at any price mutually acceptable to the buyer and the seller.

37. In order to provide appropriate information, "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) on various topics relating to foreign exchange matters have also been made available on RBI’s website. In addition, for queries from public relating to specific transactions, eight dedicated e-mail addresses have been provided on RBI’s website covering different types of transactions.

38. The Reserve Bank will continue with its efforts to simplify procedure, reduce documentation requirements and further liberalise opportunities for productive investment in India by NRIs and others and by Indian corporates abroad. Further suggestions by experts, corporates and market participants in these areas would be welcome.

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