Monday, September 21, 2015

Ending Debt Cycle Suicides in Telangana

The State government can take a leaf out of Kerala’s book and enact a law against usury
Recently, the Telangana Agricultural Advisory Forum, consisting of a few university professors and scientists, deliberated on the causes and consequences of the drought and farmer ‘suicides’ in the State. The unofficial number of suicides attributed to farm families is 1,152.
An inquiry into some of the recent suicides reveals an interesting picture. The farmers were not indebted to cooperative credit societies or commercial banks. The case of a farmer in Nalgonda district is typical. He took on lease ten acres of land, dug five bore wells — none of which hit water — incurring huge private debt in the process. On top of this, he cultivated cotton. The crop failed without water, and the debts pushed him to suicide.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Loan Melas Land Again


‘Disasters never come singly but in bundles’. This seems to be the position of PSBs in this country at the moment. They are already in the melting pot of nearly Rs. 6lakh crores. Loan melas seem to have come back with a bang – the Mudra Loan melas. It was mid 1970s that Pujari the then Congress Minister started with the loan melas having seen that this is the greatest opportunity to get crowds at no expense of either the party or the government.

It all started when one of the then enthusiastic regional managers of a public sector bank organized such mela at Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. The Minister was given an elephant ride with the buglers financed under the DRI scheme walking in front to reach the big maidan for distributing agricultural loans, if I recall right in the year 1979. He could see huge crowds in the ground waiting for his honour to arrive. He was amazed for he knew what it meant: loans and votes without the party having to spend for a single vote. Having tasted the meat would the tiger leave it? He ordered such melas throughout the country.  After the banking sector reforms such melas became history. Several of us thought that those dark days would not revisit the financial sector.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Our Decrepit Debt Recovery System

A consolidation of laws and legal processes is called for at the earliest

India’s debt recovery apparatus is an alarming mess. Consider this: we have four Acts, two sets of tribunals, ₹2 trillion worth of debt recovery tribunal (DRT) cases and ₹6 trillion in NPAs. These NPAs are a subject of labyrinthine discussions, appraisals and reappraisals – carried out by the RBI, Finance Ministry and even TV channels. None of all this seems to be getting us anywhere.
To get a fix on the debt problem, we need to understand the tangle of laws dealing with it and the system of courts and tribunals responsible for the implementation of these laws. The four Acts in question are: Sick Industrial Companies Act, 1985 (Act 1 of 1986), Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDDBFA), 1993, The SICA Repeal Act, 2003, Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interests Act (Sarfaesi), 2002.
Apart from Debt Recovery Tribunals we also have the National Company Law Tribunal under Companies Act (Second Amendment) 2002 to settle BIFR cases.

Monday, August 3, 2015

NPAs - the perpetrators go scot free

If the RBI and MoF representatives on the Boards of Banks had prevented approvals of some corporate loans and brought collective wisdom to do due diligence, NPAs would not have reached the current unsustaining levels. Otherwise, how could one explain the debacle like that of King Fisher sanctioned on the basis of Brand as collateral thousands of crores on the instance of the then Chairman of the SBI. And this Chairman goes scot free royal. The successors have to cool their heels. 

It is important that the regulators get out of Boards of PSBs. Government of India, as owner, would do well to provide equity and discipline by sending more qualified representatives on the PSB boards and not the persons who are trying to learn the alphabets of banking. By being in the MoF for donkey years does not make one an expert in banking and finance!!

This is my response to Mrs Usha Thorat's article on the subject in Live Mint dated 15th july 2015.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Limited Liability Partnership no good for banks

Last six months have been harrowing for a few SMEs who registered as Limited Liability Partnerships with the hope that they would sail more comfortably in their financials with equity and debt in good balance. But all of them faced the wall when they approached the financing banks for working capital loan. They advised these entrepreneurs to convert into private limited companies or partnership companies where the liability is not limited.

You can find the edited version of the article in the Hindu Business Line of 17th July.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Banks threatened with huge NPAs

There is a report in First Line that a Collector from Amravati threatened action against bankers for not reaching agricultural loan targets in a quarter under IPC. This is sheer arrogance on the part of the District Collector who does not know his job. There is another report of the UBS on the mounting NPAs in the Live Mint of 7th July 2015. Reading together becomes necessary.
UBS Report has been contested by 'Yes Bank.' while the other banks chose to ignore. The fact remains that the corporate debt today occupies major portfolio of banks. There is excessive interference from the administration in public sector banks.
Take for instance, the story of Maharashtra Government where one of the district collectors audaciously threatened the banks for not achieving the targets in farm lending as per his dictate just a couple of days ago. The news appeared in First Line. The banks in the coordination forums - District level Consultative Committees of which the Collector/DM is the chairman, have never pulled up the district administration for failing to provide reliable land records, for failing to provide the credit related infrastructure for farm schemes to succeed and they mention in their Annual Credit Plans and NABARD in its PLP for the administration to respond adequately. The Administration never adequately responded.

When the 20-point programme was introduced initially, District Collector, Guntur reacted similar to that of Maharashtra District Collector threatening with criminal action for failing to reach the targets under the programme in 1979. The entire banking community walked out of the DCC asking the Collector to go ahead. The then Secretary Planning Govt of AP had to counsel the Collector to behave!!
Thanks to the Live Mint for the chart.

Such interferences do not mean so much as unseating the top executives for not lending to the corporates or for taking any action on the NPAs of delinquent corporates that today reached unsustaining levels. The action on the top executives range from transfer from the portfolio handling to transfer out of place. These are taken without demur as no person would like to be at the risk of his career. The obliging top executives and Chairmen get the plum posts. Such games from the Banking Department should stop. Narasimham Committee -1 recommended in 1991 in its maiden report itself, that the time had come for the banking department of the GoI be wound up and stop regulating banks. This recommendation should be revisited by the GoI in the interest of healthy reforms to the financial sector. .

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Slashing Centrally Sponsored Schemes

Different states have different poverty levels. Prudence and diligence in spending on social sector schemes would emerge with the centre taking minimum share and allowing states to carve out their budgets in a manner that their poorer citizens require. 

One thing that baffles me is the enormity of social expenditure budgets by states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana with the percentage of poor in total population in the range of 10-12 percent spending more than 50 percent of their budget on populist schemes. They are not focusing even at that expenditure levels on giving free education to the poor by improving infrastructure in all the government schools on a mission mode and providing health care at the door step by improving the primary health care centres in villages.

Small, marginal farmers and lease holders should get protection from the wild market fluctuations through price buffering, beyond the horticulture crops.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Growth of the economy at 8%?

250mn poor of India are being ruled by over 500 crorepatis in the Parliament and thousands of such legislators in states. Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman NITI AAYOG would like to believe that the growth of the economy would hit 8% by the end of this year.

AGriculture with its 13.7% share in GDP providing sustenance to about 50% of population still is posing risks to growth. So is the MSME sector, not still the darling of credit agencies. Exports did not rise significantly during the first quarter.

One consolation is that on the external front we seem to be doing fine.Watch this in the backdrop of one week's closure of Greece Banking and Stock Markets.

 In fact, while one would very much like to be optimistic, the dreams of make in India being still in the dark, uncertainties on the farm front, manufacturing yet to gain, the buoyancy of tax collections still to surface, the sovereign debt continuing to rise, and the hidden inflation at embarrassing level, the hope of 8% for 2015-16 that too from the Aayog Vice Chairman is really fond. Adding fuel to fire is the current Greek Debt Crisis impacting on our engineering exports and rising exports is the hope of Arvind Panagariya.