India weighs capital controls as high rates push rupee up

NEW DELHI, May 2, 2010 (AFP) – India’s government is weighing capital controls with the rupee on the rise amid fears of “hot money” flowing into the country as investors pile back into Indian assets. Unlike fellow emerging market giant China, India allows its currency to float freely and the central bank has warned of the dangers of “sharp and volatile” exchange rate movements that could hurt India’s economy.

With the rupee riding at 18-month highs against the dollar, one idea Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao is airing to curb sudden big movements in the currency’s value is a tax on foreign exchange transactions, known as a Tobin tax, similar to one Brazil introduced last year.

“Depending on what flows come in, we would employ measures, including if necessary something like the Tobin tax,” Subbarao said last week, referring to a proposal first aired in the 1970s by Yale economics professor James Tobin.

“We prefer long-term flows to short-term flows,” he told a Washington audience Monday in a speech posted on the bank’s web site.

Tobin, a Nobel laureate for his work on financial markets, proposed a small levy on every sum changed from one currency into another to curb