Economy
RBI monetary policy panel warns of upside risks to inflation
Citing upside risks to inflation from price pressures as the main reason for keeping its key interest rate unchanged earlier this month, the RBI's monetary policy committee (MPC) said there is room for banks to further cut interest rates, minutes of the MPC meeting on April 5-6, released on Thursday, showed.
 
At its first bi-monthly policy review of the 2017-18 fiscal, the RBI preferred to maintain status quo on its repurchase (repo) rate, or the short-term lending rate it charges on borrowings by commercial banks, saying it awaited further macroeconomic data before deciding on any changes. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
 
"After moderating continuously over the last six months to a historic low, retail inflation measured by year-on-year changes in the consumer price index (CPI) turned up in February to 3.7 per cent," according to the minutes of the MPC meeting. 
 
"While food prices bottomed out at the preceding month's level, base effects pushed up inflation in this category. Importantly, inflation excluding food and fuel has exhibited persistence and has been significantly above headline inflation since September 2016," it said. 
 
Although committe member and RBI Executive Director Michael Patra favoured an increase in the repo rate by 25 basis points as a pre-emptive move to check inflationary pressures, at the end the six-member MPC unanimously decided to maintain status quo.
 
In the monetary policy statement, the RBI said risks are evenly balanced around the inflation trajectory at the current juncture. "There are upside risks to the baseline projection," it said. 
 
"Inflation developments have to be closely and continuously monitored, with food price pressures kept in check so that inflation expectations can be re-anchored. At the same time, the output gap is gradually closing. Consequently, aggregate demand pressures could build up, with implications for the inflation trajectory," it added. 
 
RBI Governor Urjit Patel told the MPC that "the outlook for inflation calls for close vigilance" and there is room for banks to further cut interest rates. 
 
"There is still room for banks to cut lending rates. For efficient transmission, it is important that interest rates on small savings are not out of line with interest rates on other comparable instruments in the financial system," Patel said. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Russia’s Shadow-War in a Wary Europe

As the French prepare to vote Sunday in a presidential election marked by acrimonious debate about Russian influence in Europe, there's little doubt about which candidate Moscow backs.

 

Last month, the combative populist Marine Le Pen of the right-wing National Front flew to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin. It was a display of longtime mutual admiration. The frontrunner in a field of 11 candidates, Le Pen shrugs off allegations of corruption and human rights abuses against Putin, calling him a tough and effective leader. Her hard-line views on immigration, Islam and the European Union win praise from Putin and enthusiastic coverage from Russian media outlets. Her campaign has been propelled by a loan of more than $9 million from a Russian bank in 2014, according to Western officials and media reports.

 

Meanwhile, aides to Emmanuel Macron, the center-left former economy minister who is Le Pen's top rival, have accused Russia of hitting his campaign with cyberattacks and fake news reports about his personal life. Although French officials say the computer disruptions were minor and there is no conclusive proof of links to the Russian state, President François Hollande and other leaders have warned about the risk of interference comparable to hacking operations that targeted the U.S. elections. The French government, aided by briefings from U.S. agencies about their experience last year, has beefed up its cyber defenses.

 

American politics was jolted when 17 intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia had covertly intervened in the 2016 presidential campaign with the aim of electing Donald Trump. Such activity is nothing new in Europe, where Russia has launched a series of clandestine and open efforts to sway governments and exert influence, according to European and U.S. national security officials, diplomats, academics and other experts interviewed by ProPublica in recent weeks.

 

"The Russians have had an aggressive espionage presence here for a long time," a senior French intelligence official said. "The Russians now have more spies, more clandestine operations, in France than they did in the Cold War."

 

European and U.S. security officials say Russian tactics run the gamut from attempted regime change to sophisticated cyber-espionage. Russia has been linked to a coup attempt in Montenegro (the Balkan nation had dared to consider joining NATO); an old-school spy case involving purloined NATO documents and an accused Portuguese double agent; a viral fake news story about a 13-year-old girl in Germany supposedly raped by Muslims, and a caper by suspected Russian hackers who briefly seized control of an entire television network in France.

 

"One of the reasons Russia has been so successful has been its ability to develop tactics and techniques it selectively uses depending on the target country," said Andrew Foxall, director of the Russia Studies Center of the Henry Jackson Society, a London think tank. "There's a nuance to it as well. That's something that in the West we fail to grasp."

 

The French elections are the latest front in what is likely to be a conflict for years to come. Officials say France and Europe are vulnerable because of converging crises: immigration, terrorism, structural economic inequities, the Brexit vote in Britain last year, the rise of populism and extremism. The French election offers a particularly tempting target to the Kremlin, which wants to weaken and divide the West and multinational institutions such as the European Union and NATO, according to Western officials and experts.

 

Le Pen's proposed policies align closely with Moscow's geopolitical goals. She promises to reinstate national borders, abandon the euro currency and hold a referendum on whether France — which will be the EU's remaining nuclear power after Britain's departure — should remain in the 28-member bloc.

 

"For Russia, there is a desire to display power," said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations, a think tank in Paris. "They have openly chosen their candidate. It's very serious. If Le Pen is elected, which is not impossible, that would be part of a chain of events including the Brexit and the election of Trump that would amount to a spectacular reconfiguration of the Western political family. The Russians want to weaken Europe, and to break NATO. The stakes are very high."

 

Pre-election polling in France shows that no candidate has enough support to receive the required 50 percent, which means the likely result of Sunday's vote will be a May 7 runoff pitting Le Pen against Macron or another strong challenger. Experts worry about a potential Russian spy operation, such as a Wikileaks-style disclosure of compromising information about a candidate, intended to tip the scales during that showdown.

 

No such direct intervention has been detected to date, and Russian officials reject allegations that they are trying to manipulate elections in France or elsewhere.

 

The Putin government has "no intention of interfering in electoral processes abroad," said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, in February. He complained about "a hysterical anti-Putin campaign in certain foreign countries."

 

Intelligence operations — especially in the high-tech realm — are difficult to pin conclusively on a state. Moreover, Russian spy agencies have developed sophisticated capabilities in the gray areas of information warfare and political influence.

 

"We don't see cyberattacks for the moment here affecting the campaign," the senior French intelligence official said. "There are Russian influence efforts, news coverage by Russian media, the standard activity. But most of it is not illegal."

 

Even some Western intelligence officials concerned about Moscow's aggressiveness think there is a tendency to exaggerate the problem. Although European experts generally agree with the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered with the presidential race last year, those interviewed did not think it had a decisive impact on the victory of President Trump.

 

"Russia's impact has been greatly underestimated, but it shouldn't be overestimated either," Gomart said.

 

As far as European spy-catchers are concerned, the Cold War is back — if it ever ended. An early sign came in 2006 with the assassination of Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko in London.

 

Litvinenko was an outspoken foe of Putin and a veteran of the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB), which Putin once led. In 2000, Litvinenko fled to London. He spent the next few years helping British and Spanish intelligence and law enforcement investigate ties among Russian mafias, politicos and security services.

 

In November 2006, Litvinenko died after three weeks of agony as the result of being poisoned with polonium-210, a rare radioactive toxin, by two Russian agents at a luxury hotel in London, according to a British court inquiry. The probe that ended last year confirmed the conclusions that Western governments and Russian dissidents reached long ago. The presiding judge, Sir Robert Owen, found that the FSB killed Litvinenko on orders from the highest levels of the Russian state, "probably" including Putin himself, according to Owen's report.

 

The 329-page report detailed the extremes to which Russian spies were capable of going in the heart of the West. The killers used a devastatingly lethal poison of a kind that is manufactured in secret Russian government labs, according to the report. The physical effect on the victim was comparable to ingesting a tiny nuclear bomb. The symbolic effect was to send a mocking message to the world about the impunity of the masterminds, since there was a good chance that the cause of death would be discovered and connected to Moscow.

 

Because the brutish assassins apparently did not know they'd been given polonium, they left radioactive trails across Europe during three separate missions to London, failing in their first attempt to kill Litvinenko by slipping the poison into his drink, according to the report. Although British prosecutors charged the duo with murder and sought extradition, the suspects remain free in Russia. One of them, KGB veteran Andrei Lugovoi, was elected to the Russian parliament in 2007. (Both men, and the Kremlin, deny the charges.)

 

The relationship between Moscow and London has never recovered, according to officials and experts in Britain and elsewhere. The scope of Russian spying in Europe has escalated steadily and dramatically, Western security officials and diplomats say. After shifting much of their energy to fighting Islamic terrorism in the early 2000s, European counterintelligence agencies have been forced to redeploy personnel and resources to confront the Russian threat.

 

"The spy-versus-spy activity with the Russians is very intense," the senior French intelligence official said. "And occasionally we expel them, or give them a tap on the shoulder and tell them to cut it out. These matters are often resolved service to service, rather than through prosecuting people. The FSB still cooperates well with us on antiterrorism, even if we know their partner agencies are trying to pick our pockets and steal secrets."

 

The cloak-and-dagger duel occasionally has an old-school air. Last May, a plainclothes team of Italian police detectives arrested two men meeting in a small café in the riverfront Trastevere area of Rome. The two had been under surveillance by Portuguese counterintelligence officers and other Western spy services for some time.

 

One suspect was Frederico Carvalho Gil, then 57, a veteran of Portugal's spy agency. The other was identified as Sergey Nicolaevich Pozdnyakov, 48, described by European national security officials as a senior officer in the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service. He had once been stationed in Italy, but was allegedly operating as an "illegal" — a spy without diplomatic cover — when he was caught. He was accused of serving as a handler for Carvalho, paying him to obtain secret intelligence related to NATO, according to Italian and Portuguese authorities.

 

The investigation indicated the Portuguese intelligence officer had drifted into a "double life" after a difficult divorce, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Carvalho allegedly had relationships with Eastern European women and posted references on social media about his travels in Russia, according to the Corriere.

 

Italian police say Carvalho went to Rome to slip his handler NATO documents in exchange for 10,000 euros in cash, one of a series of such meetings in Italy and elsewhere. Still, the contents of the secret papers confiscated in Rome seemed relatively "banal" for a Russian spy to expose himself to possible capture, an Italian national security official told ProPublica.

 

Carvalho, who has denied the charges, awaits trial in Portugal. Italian authorities held the Russian, then sent him back to Moscow after an appeals court rejected an extradition request from Portugal.

 

Russian operatives take surprising risks, according to European and U.S. officials. The attempted coup in Montenegro last year is a case in point.

 

Montenegro, a strategically situated Balkan nation with a population of only 600,000, applied to join NATO last May. Russia lobbied strenuously against the impending membership, using diplomatic and non-governmental resources including the Orthodox Church. Russian agents stirred up protests against NATO and funded busloads of demonstrators.

 

Then came an uproar. Montenegro prosecutors charged that two Russian spies and two Serbian nationalists plotted last October to deploy a band of gunmen to assassinate the prime minister, storm Parliament and install an anti-NATO government. The accused spies, one of whom had previously been expelled from Poland, eluded capture. The Serbians are being prosecuted. A complex investigation continues, but Western officials say they have obtained information confirming Montenegro's charges that Russian spies attempted the overthrow of a European government.

 

"The thesis is they escalated to that level because the Russian government was not happy with the way Montenegro was going," a U.S. official said. "They were unhappy with the inability of their people operating on the ground to influence politics."

 

If the Montenegro plot showed a willingness to resort to brute force, Russia-watchers say the larger strategy features more high-tech methods, such as the mix of cyberattacks and information leaks during the U.S. elections.

 

"Hacking is another tool in the toolbox," the U.S. official said. "This appears to be trending toward state sponsorship and involvement. This is what worries us. The use of state power, intelligence and other methods, to affect the democratic process in European nations."

 

Russia is not alone in using cyberwarfare, but it is the only nation to have combined it with conventional warfare, according to Foxall, the scholar at the London think tank. Such hybrid offensives took place during Russia's war with Georgia in 2008 and its annexation of Crimea in 2014, he said.

 

Nations outside Russia's buffer zone have not been immune, according to experts and Western officials. During the past few years, experts and officials say, suspected Russian hackers have penetrated targets including the Italian foreign ministry; the Warsaw stock exchange; a German steel mill; the European Parliament; and the computer files of a Dutch air safety team investigating a missile attack by pro-Russian fighters that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people.

 

"If you think of all these incidents as a whole, you reach a worrisome conclusion," Foxall said.

 

The crippling hack of France TV5 Monde sent a clear message. It took place in April 2015 amid tension in Europe about the intertwined threats of Islamic terrorism and an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants into Greece, many of them refugees fleeing Russian-backed military onslaughts in Syria.

 

On the day of the cyberattack, two French government ministers visited the headquarters of the network, which airs 11 channels and broadcasts in Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and other Francophone nations, to celebrate the launch of a new channel. The hackers took over the network's programming and social media accounts, filling screens with Islamic jihadi propaganda. It took the network hours to regain control of its broadcasts and prevent its systems from being destroyed.

 

The hackers had breached TV5's defenses via its email messaging networks months earlier, according to Nicolas Arpagian, a French cybersecurity expert affiliated with government think tanks. Although the hackers claimed allegiance to a "CyberCaliphate," the investigation points at culprits linked to the Russian state, according to Arpagian and Western officials.

 

"The goal seems to have been destabilization," Arpagian said. "A demonstration of capability, of the potential to disrupt."

 

Definitive proof of Russian state involvement is elusive, however. Experts say the Kremlin's 21st century approach to what the Soviets once called "active measures," combines cyber-operations with the overt continuum of fake news, internet "trolling," and state-controlled media.

 

The strategy emerged in response to the anti-Kremlin "color revolutions" of the early 2000s, when throngs of ordinary citizens took to the streets to demand the ouster of Moscow-backed leaders in Ukraine and Georgia, experts say. Russian leaders believed the United States was using "soft power" means, such as the media and diplomacy, to cause trouble in Russia's domain. The Russians decided to develop a comparable capacity. But the result wasn't soft very long, especially as the Kremlin became concerned that events such as the Arab Spring could spark unrest in Russia, experts say.

 

"The logic of influence and projection overseas was replaced by the concept of 2018confrontation with the West' and the image of a 2018besieged fortress,'" wrote Céline Marangé of France's Institute for Strategic Research at the Military Academy, in a study this year. "Without completely disappearing, the notion of soft power has been eclipsed by that of "information war," whose acceptance is literal and extensive in Russia. In Russian defense and security circles ... and in numerous prime-time television debates, there is an almost unanimous thesis: a worldwide 2018information war' at the global level pits Russia, like the Soviet Union in its day, against the West."

 

The combatants range from teams of "trolls" in warehouses who bombard selected targets on social media to provincial journalists who concoct wild tales following general directives rather than explicit orders, according to experts and intelligence officials. Putin's government is presented as the lone guardian of traditional Christian values fighting barbaric Muslim hordes and a soft, decadent West. The relentless narrative: Europe is under assault by crime, Muslims, terrorism, immigration, homosexuality, political correctness and effete bureaucrats.

 

Occasionally, fake news stories go viral and flood into the venues such as the Russian-backed RT television network and the Sputnik news agency, whose slick content reaches an increasing audience in Europe and the United States.

 

One example: the horrifying tale of "Lisa," a Russian-German teenager who told police she was kidnapped and raped by three men resembling Muslim immigrants. The case erupted in January of last year. Europe was on edge because of the very real and ugly spate of sexual assaults on women by groups of men, many of them of Muslim descent, during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne, Germany.

 

The German authorities insisted from the beginning that there was no proof of the girl's allegations. But the Lisa story gained momentum, driven by heavy, sometimes inaccurate coverage on Kremlin-backed and pro-Russian outlets as well as social media. The frenzy reached the point that Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said at a news conference that German authorities appeared to be hushing up the incident out of political correctness, according to news reports.

 

Soon, however, the teenager admitted to lying. She had stayed overnight at the home of a 19-year-old male friend without permission and invented the rape story to explain her disappearance, according to media reports.

 

There is no evidence Russian operatives played a role in creating the initial story. But the German government and other critics have rebuked the Kremlin and the Russian media, saying they amplified and distorted the case even after it was shown to be untrue.

 

"The story was totally fake," Foxall said. "This is a well-established pattern. Other stories have travelled such a path, but without the same kind of success."

 

Nonetheless, Russian influence campaigns find a more welcoming political atmosphere in Europe than in the United States. After all, leftist parties in France, Italy and other nations had strong ideological and financial ties to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. There is also a pro-Russian tradition, often fomented by anti-Americanism, among some rightist and nationalist parties.

 

Russia spends considerable money and energy wooing sympathetic European politicians and activists. They are often, though not always, populist, nationalist, fascist, far-left, anti-system or just plain disruptive. The most powerful unabashedly pro-Moscow figure is probably Le Pen, whose presidential campaign has thrived partly because of her effort to distance herself from the angry, anti-Semitic image of her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

 

The list also includes Nigel Farage, the brash British politician who oversaw the underdog campaign for the Brexit, and admires both President Putin and President Trump; Nick Griffin of the far-right British National Party, who after observing Russian legislative elections in 2011 pronounced them "much fairer than Britain's"; and Matteo Salvini of the rightist and separatist Lega Nord (Northern League), which along with the populist 5 Stelle party constitutes a large pro-Moscow bloc in Italy.

 

To be sure, more moderate leaders in Europe also favor stronger ties to Russia and have good relationships with President Putin. Among them is former French Prime Minister François Fillon, the center-right presidential candidate competing for a spot in the runoff election.

 

Russian officials and their European allies argue that Moscow's legitimate diplomatic outreach is being demonized. But European government officials worry about activity that crosses the line into funding, recruitment and manipulation by spy agencies.

 

"I think some of our political parties are vulnerable to infiltration," the Italian national security official said. "They don't have the experience, the anti-bodies, to fend off such formidable intelligence services."

 

And there are concerns about wider repercussions. In January, the Center for International Research at Sciences Po, one of France's most prestigious universities, abruptly canceled a scheduled appearance in Paris by David Satter, an American author. Satter is a well-regarded foreign correspondent who has spent four decades covering Russia. In 2013, he became the first U.S. journalist expelled from the country by the Kremlin since the Cold War. His latest book, "The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep," details allegations that Russian intelligence services were covertly involved in mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Russia.

 

The cancellation caused a fierce debate about censorship when a leaked email revealed that administrators made the decision because they feared reprisals against Sciences Po students and researchers in Russia, citing the "current context of tensions," according to Le Monde newspaper.

 

Despite the tensions in Europe and the concerns about interference, recent elections in the Netherlands went off without problems, with the party Moscow favored running well behind. The next test will be Sunday's vote in France, where cybersecurity agencies are on alert. The government has taken precautions such as requiring the estimated 1.8 million French voters living overseas to cast their ballots by mail or proxy, rather than online, according to French officials.

 

"What we have seen so far is enough to conclude that the Russians have carried out an influence campaign," a French diplomat said. "But I don't think it will have a significant impact on the outcome of the election. We have to stay calm."

 

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Will RBI’s new framework help banks struggling with bad loans?
The Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) updated "prompt corrective action" (PCA) framework could suggest a greater willingness to take regulatory action to address problems at struggling banks. However, according to a ratings agency, its implementation is likely to be effective only if it is matched by credible plans to address the significant asset quality issues and capital shortages of banks.
 
In a report, Fitch Ratings says, "The RBI primarily limited itself to restricting bank lending under the previous PCA framework. The scope for possible regulatory actions has been broadened under the amended framework, but it remains uncertain to what extent the RBI will use the tools it has just made available." 
 
"Moreover, the RBI will not be able to address problems in the banking sector on its own. Significant efforts to resolve bad loans, for example, would leave banks in need of recapitalisation, given that haircuts and increased provisions would be required. State banks are generally in a poor position to raise new capital, which makes them largely reliant on the government for recapitalisation," the ratings agency added.
 
The RBI has tightened the thresholds - for capital ratios, non-performing loans (NPLs), profitability and leverage - at which banks enter the PCA framework. Fitch says this appears to be an acknowledgement of the significant asset quality stress in the system and that more banks are in need of regulatory intervention. 
 
PCA was previously viewed as an extraordinary step, which the RBI urged banks to make great efforts to avoid. That now looks likely to change. More than half of state-owned banks would breach at least one of the new thresholds, mainly owing to high NPLs, based on their latest financial reports. The new PCA framework will be invoked on the basis of the banks' FY16-17 financials, which they are still reporting.
 
The RBI has also given itself greater discretion in terms of the measures it can use to intervene in banks once they fall under the PCA framework, which suggests it has recognised a need to take corrective action at an earlier stage when banks run into difficulties. 
 
The previous PCA, in contrast, explicitly reserved the most interventionist actions for banks that had breached more extreme thresholds. It is possible that intervention could involve forcing banks to conserve capital, if other actions do not address problems. The risk of non-performance on bank capital instruments may therefore have risen.
 
According to Fitch Ratings, the actual impact of the new PCA rules will depend on how the RBI uses them. "Two circulars released on Tuesday, which pressure banks to make provisions above the regulatory minimum and require further disclosures on NPLs, point to the RBI's seriousness. These circulars might weigh on bank earnings in the next round of reports. Should the additional disclosures reveal weaknesses that are greater than expected there could be further pressure on the banks' Viability Ratings," it added. 
 
The ratings agency feels that RBI may use the PCA framework to identify weak banks as candidates for mergers. It says, "State Bank of India (SBI) took over five smaller lenders earlier this month, and further consolidation could be part of the overall strategy to clean up the banking system. However, mergers would also require the support of the government."
 

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COMMENTS

B. Yerram Raju

2 months ago

I fully agree with Dr T.V. Gopalakrishnan and Mr K.V.Rao on the Moneylife;s informative blog. Solution should be sought where the problem existed. By threats that are too well known, will the RBI be able to impose lenders' discipline? It should ask the RBI representatives on Boards to take the bull by the horn. RBI should inquire from its own executives sitting on the Boards the reasons for accumulation of NPLs in the non-priority sector and infrastructure sector. Did the Banks do the due diligence of all the directors/partners of the companies they lent for, periodically and called for change of errant directors of such companies? When are the banks noticing the bulging up of NPAs and what action at what point of time has been taken? Has the Bank Board been kept informed of such actions periodically through a note? If the industrial environment due to either domestic or international market failures is vitiated leading to company's failure, whether the concerned banks have taken to systemic corrections suggested by the RBI through various circulars? It is time that the RBI becomes more mundane and cause rectification and not get contented with issuing master directions that are akin to drops of rain on a walking elephant.

Gopalakrishnan T V

2 months ago

The need to give a kick start to the economy by making the PSBs healthy and highly professional in their very business of raising deposits and lending money is paramount and very urgent and any delay in reviving the banks can badly affect their very survival in business leave alone supporting the economy which is otherwise stagnating for want of timely and cheap credit. The banks have to shift all their very badly identified and un provided for NPAs as on 31st March 2017 to an escrow account to be maintained by the Government and they need to be very intensively followed up with all legal and other measures to recover the dues at the earliest..

Since the PSBs are becoming weak by day due to mismanagement of advances portfolio resulting in the accumulation of non performing advances and stoppage of of expansion of fresh credit for productive purposes, there is an equally and urgent need to make them highly professional and commercial in their management of credit and risk to ensure that the fresh formation of NPAs does not occur any more and if at all they recur, they need to be liquidated and taken care of by banks and bad borrowers themselves through some self correcting mechanism in place. A small levy of penalty based on banks and borrowers’ conduct of loan accounts will do the trick. It is rather unfortunate to observe that though the cost of funds for banks has come down considerably thanks to sudden spurt in deposits at low interest rates after demonetization of high denomination notes, banks are finding it extremely difficult to cut the lending rates and find avenues of credit expansion thereby creating a serious uneconomical mismatch of assets and liabilities. The solution for slow pick up of credit lies in changing the business model and to realign the assets side removing the NPAs from the balance sheets and build up of new short term credit and less of infrastructure loans. Long term bonds which can take care of infrastructure finance can also rescue both the banks and the Government to find resources. If these bonds are made tax free, public subscription is also guaranteed without any limit.

What is needed now is that the Government should keep away from banks, make the Banks Boards Bureau more accountable in its expected role of individual bank’s performance, make the RBI to intensify its regulation and supervision over formation of bad debts and improve the quality of loan assets. After all what the economy needs is improvement in its overall performance in terms of better macro economic fundamentals like investment, production, consumption savings, employment and equitable distribution of wealth and for that a strong banking system is sine qua non.

Simple Indian

2 months ago

It is high time PSU Banks are given operational autonomy from the Finance Ministry, so that Bank Managements can decide on policies and service levels at their level. Much of the woes of PSU Banks is due to interference by Finance Ministry and others in the top echelons of Govt. It is common knowledge that businessmen like Vijay Mallya manage to get huge loans without adequate collateral, due to phone calls Banks get from FM/Ministries. Such practices must stop and Banks should be free to gauge credit-worthiness of businessmen just as they do for common loan applicants. Bank lending has become a joke in India, as a common citizen will be hounded by goons 'engaged' by Banks to recover even a mere Rs 50k/1L loan, but the likes of Vijay Mallya can swallow thousands of crores from the Banks and still go abroad and continue frolicking at Banks' expense. As with most ills in India, at the basic level, it's political interference in functioning of institutions which must stop. Unless this happens no PCA or RBI guideline to Banks on lending will be of any use. Moreover, what about service levels to common Banking customers, who have been asked by some Banks like SBI to maintain a much higher MAB than they did before ? The SBI Chairperson publicly stated that the Bank needs funds to maintain Jan Dhan Yojana A/cs initiated by the Govt of India. In that case, why shouldn't the Govt forego its meatly dividends from PSU Banks and let them use that money to maintain JDY A/cs ? Why should common Bank customers, who have nothing to do with JDY nor are going to get better services post increase in MAB 'pay' for JDY A/c maintenance ? Unless such unethical practices are stopped, many people will avoid the Banking system and depend on cash economy, which is far more equitable and fair.

Ramesh Poapt

2 months ago

half hearted knock!?

Deepak Narain

2 months ago

Responsibility should be fixed on those who authorized sanction of bad loans. The assets of defaulters should be seized. SBI is already a big loser and needs to be freed from political interference and be placed under the charge of the likes of KV Kamath, Deepak Parekh, N R Narayanamurthy, etc.

K V RAO

2 months ago

Merger with so called strong banks will not solvent he problem."Strong banks" in the context of state-owned banks is an euphesim. None of the SoBs is strong.Ask any of the really strong bank in private sector (read HDFCBank)about its willingness to take over.The answer is quite obvious with a big NO.

REPLY

K V RAO

In Reply to K V RAO 2 months ago

I fully agree with K V Rao's views. Finance players should be handled with gloves.S MOHAN

SRINIVAS SHENOY

2 months ago

The banking staff should be given recovery targets to be achieved, preferably in their Annual Appraisal Reports. Their performance should be considered on their recovery assistance, which at present is the need of the hour.

SuchindranathAiyerS

2 months ago


Bankable Bad Loans!

The More things appear to change, the more they are the same.

India is all about appearance, never about substance. Like RD Parades and Fleet Reviews rather than putting an end to threats to security like the Constitutionally fomented and pervasive incompetence and corruption that has ensured that India cannot even manufacture a reliable and effective rifle or pistol let alone combat aircraft. India is about funeral parades rather than protecting soldiers lives.

Why would RBI be different? How will amalgamations address the source of the problems? Will it address staff competence and integrity that has been severely corroded by unionism, reservations and seventy years of falling National standards? Will it address, or in any way reverse, the Nationalization of Banks in 1969 which turned Banks into Bharath Sarkar ki Sampathi to be plundered by the Politician-Bureaucrat-Police-Judge-Preferred Religions, Chosen Castes, Select Tribes and the rest of the Constitutional Kleptocracy and their cronies for their exclusive privilege, pomp, pleasure, pelf, and perversions?

What are the sources of the problems? Will the RBI dare confess to their own collusion by way of ineffective and inadequate inspections, guidelines and follow through as well as meek surrender to Government's populist, anti- National, uneconomical and non bankable policies since 1949? Will the successive Finance Ministers. including the current President of India, come clean on the methodology, and processes by which Bank Chairmen and Boards of Directors were selected and appointed since 1969?

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

REPLY

K V RAO

In Reply to SuchindranathAiyerS 2 months ago

I strongly agree with S Aiyer's views.Indira Gandhi deserves all the condemnation for transferring banks to the state sector in July 1969 and April 1980.Nothing can be done now except privatisation.As S Aiyer has stated trade unionism will not allow that to happen.No responsibility for all the layers of management &less work with more pay for workmen staff. All are enjoying except the customers.

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24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)