Sunday, November 1, 2015

Capital Infusion in PSBs – Need and the Deed

Capitalization of Public Sector Banks has been incorporated as one of the seven items in ‘Indra Dhanush’, dubbed as part of Banking Sector Reforms.  Before addressing the issue of such capitalization it is important to understand some of the historical developments in banking globally and the way different countries responded to addressing the issue of refurbishing capital in the banks.

As part of the global financial system, Reserve Bank of India made us to believe that banks in India have to fall in line with capital adequacy norms under Basel regulations. Even prior to the embrace of capital regulations of Basel India had CRR and SLR as regulatory instruments to safeguarding the financial stability of banks. 70 percent of the Banks’ assets in India are in the public sector.

A Consensual Agenda for Labour Reforms

‘Creating an ambience where both workers and managements understand their rights and duties is no tall order’.

The Centre is engaged in serious discussions with trade unions over the new labour code, with a view to improving the ease of doing business. But missing from the debate is the issue of the obligations of workers. During the 1960s and 1970s, workers’ education, aided by the government, provided them with the opportunity to know their rights. But the whole campaign was on rights and not obligations. Once rights are conferred on any group, and they become binding, it becomes difficult to reduce or deprive such rights.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mergers and Acquisitions among Indian Banking?

Banking Sector Reforms Committee in 1998 itself suggested consolidation of banks –the SBI and Associates into a big state-owned bank and five or six such big banks through consolidation of other PSBs, mergers of private banks and even FIs with NBFCs. There were noises of consolidation in the UPA-1 government too. And now, the Working Group on mergers and acquisitions set up by the Union Ministry of Finance again called for a similar action.  The major issues relating to capital, assets and human resources need to be looked at from the points of view of growth, financial stability and global experiences. Chairman SBI Arundhati Bhattacharya recently strongly fielded the arguments for large scale consolidation. Is the Indian financial system ripe for the call?

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.