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Report blames Reserve Bank of India for bad loans

The committee has criticised RBI’s revised definition for recognising NPAs that saw a spike in the bad loans on the books of banks and said this could hit economic growth.

business Updated: Aug 28, 2018 18:25 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Reserve Bank of India,Bad loans,NPA
The committee believes that RBI’s requirements of the so-called Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (the extent to which a bank’s capital can cover its loans, adjusted for risk) is far too stringent, especially for some state owned banks that do not operate overseas at all. (Reuters file photo)

A committee of lawmakers thinks the Reserve Bank of India’s policies have accentuated the problem of non-performing assets of state-owned banks, and reduced amount at their disposal to lend; that banks do not have what it takes to fund long-gestation projects; and that it is important to remove the environment of fear in which bankers operate today, worrying that even a legitimate loan approval could engender an investigation.

According to a senior lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity, the committee is likely to recommend in its report that India’s central bank relax some of these rules, thereby increasing the amount at the disposal of some state-owned banks to lend by around Rs5 lakh crore, and earning them additional interest income of around Rs45,000 crore.

Specifically, the committee has criticised RBI’s revised definition for recognising NPAs that saw a spike in the bad loans on the books of banks and said this could hit economic growth. The lawmaker who asked not to be identified said that the committee will recommend that the central bank ease its rules.

The lawmaker also said that the committee believes that RBI’s requirements of the so-called Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (the extent to which a bank’s capital can cover its loans, adjusted for risk) is far too stringent, especially for some state owned banks that do not operate overseas at all. The new International Finance Reporting Standards place a further restriction on banks in this context, the lawmaker said, and the committee is hoping RBI will defer this.

Abhizer Diwanji, head of financial services and restructuring with Ernst & Young, however, felt that such measures will lead to a poorer rating for banks and perceived to be more risk prone. “Irrespective of the international exposure of our banks, the CRAR should be kept high as they face certain other risks. Also, our banks like SBI and Bank of Baroda has a lot of international exposure even if it forms a small part of their balance sheet.”

The report of the committee, to be submitted by the end of this month, is likely to suggest that RBI ensure that there is no atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty among the bankers and that the regulator itself avoid knee-jerk reactions. The lawmaker added that the committee believes that one such was the halting of letters of undertaking in the aftermath of the fraud perpetrated by jewellers Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi’s who misused this instrument (essentially a guarantee from the bank).

The rising NPAs of banks have escalated to a major political row between the ruling NDA and the opposition. While the NDA government blames the previous regime for giving loans out of extraneous considerations, the opposition has slammed the NDA of financial mismanagement. NPAs in public sector banks increased by around ₹6.2 lakh crore between March 2015 and March 2018, leading to a substantial provisioning of ₹5.1 lakh crore.

The committee also plans to ask the government to see if RBI needs more power as a regulator.

According to the lawmaker, the committee also recognises the importance of bankruptcies being resolved before the National Company Law Tribunal and is worried that some of these are taking more than the 270-day timeline prescribed under the rules. This person added that the committee will recommend that the tribunal be strengthened so that it can meet its workload.

Diwanji welcomed the suggestion and said, “This is justified. We need stronger and decisive benches. Currently, there are just 13 or 15 NCLT benches and just one appellate tribunal,” he said.

The lawmaker said the committee has met various stakeholders while preparing its report and added that while it is aware of the situation in state-owned banks, it would not like the current crisis to lead to any opportunity to privatise some of these banks.

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 08:06 IST