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Loan Waivers Affect Credit Culture: Das

Says liquidity infusion should be need-based, idle cash in the system won’t be encouraged
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Shaktikanta Das struck a note of caution on farm loan waivers, saying open-ended forgiveness would affect credit culture and the behaviour of borrowers. He also said the central bank is open to taking more steps to infuse liquidity if the need arises but it doesn’t want too much cash sloshing around in the banking system. “Liquidity needs of the economy are regularly monitored and whatever steps are required will be taken,” Das said at a press briefing in Delhi. “RBI would not like a situation where liquidity becomes a kind of loose money.” Any infusion of liquidity will have to be based on requirements.
Das met representatives of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the capital on Monday and will meet executives of nonbanking finance companies (NBFCs) in Mumbai on Tuesday to get a perspective on liquidity needs. He said MSME representatives made suggestions that will be examined internally. North Block has over the past few months sought the easing of lending and capital rules for banks and providing more liquidity to NBFCs following the default by Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS). “Liquidity issue has been mentioned time and again. I have got several inputs over the last one month. I have had interaction with several stakeholders and we have a sense of the current liquidity situation,” he said.
‘Liquidity Needs Being Met’
The central bank has announced additional open market operations to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore. The central bank believes that the liquidity requirements of the economy and financial institutions are being met to a great extent, he said.
States should think hard before announcing farm loan waivers, Das said. The statement assumes significance in the wake of three newly elected state governments implementing waivers following poll promises. “Elected governments have the constitutional mandate to take decisions with regard to their finance but every state government, before taking decisions on any kind of farm loan waivers, has to very carefully examine its fiscal space,” Das said. “It’s also for the individual governments to examine whether they have the fiscal space to meet the requirements and release the money to the banks immediately. Any generalised kind of write-off obviously has an adverse effect on the credit culture and the future credit behaviour of the borrowers.”
About Rs 1.47 lakh crore of agricultural loans is outstanding in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, which announced waivers recently. In 2017, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab announced they would write off loans. Earlier this year, the coalition government in Karnataka also announced a farm loan waiver.
Bank nonperforming assets (NPAs) have declined as per the RBI’s Financial Stability Review that was released last week. “There is considerable amount of improvement, which has to be sustained if banks have to fulfil their responsibility and if some of the banks have to become healthy,” Das said, adding that the RBI is also looking at governance reforms in state-owned banks. “We do not want to create a framework which imposes restriction or throttle the functioning of banks. Governance reforms are an important component of the revival of public sector banks.”
Asked about reports that the RBI will transfer Rs 40,000 crore as interim dividend to the government, he said: “As and when RBI takes any decision on any matter, you will come to know about it.” He said a lot of correspondence goes on between the government and the central bank. “Lot of discussions do take place,” he said. “Whether there is an individual letter or not, that is not really relevant. As and when any decision is taken RBI will not delay in announcing the decision.”
When asked about the RBI’s loanrestructuring window for MSMEs that was announced last week, Das declined to say whether such a move was retrograde or not. “It’s a value judgement. I don't want to go into the value judgement, whether it is retrograde or progressive. These are adjectives, I don’t want to go into that,” he said.
The Economic Times, 8th January 2019


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