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Over optimistic bankers, growth slowdown responsible for bad loans: Rajan

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi :Over optimistic bankers, slowdown in government decision making process and moderation in economic growth mainly contributed to the mounting bad loans, said former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan in a note to Parliamentary panel.
In a note to Chairman of Estimates Committee Murli Manohar Joshi, he said: “A variety of governance problems such as the suspect allocation of coal mines coupled with the fear of investigation slowed down government decision making in Delhi, both in the UPA and the subsequent NDA governments”.
Project cost overruns escalated for stalled projects and they became increasingly unable to service debt, he said, adding the continuing travails of the stranded power plants, even though India is short of power, suggests government decision making has not picked up sufficient pace to date.
He further said a larger number of bad loans were originated in the period 2006-2008 when economic growth was strong, and previous infrastructure projects such as power plants had been completed on time and within budget.
“It is at such times that banks make mistakes. They extrapolate past growth and performance to the future. So, they are willing to accept higher leverage in projects, and less promoter equity. Indeed, sometimes banks signed up to lend based on project reports by the promoter’s investment bank, without doing their own due diligence,” he said.
Citing an example, he said “one promoter told me about how he was pursued then by banks waving chequebooks, asking him to name the amount he wanted”.
This is the historic phenomenon of irrational exuberance, common across countries at such a phase in the cycle, he said.
Unfortunately, he said, that growth does not always take place as expected and the years of strong global growth before the global financial crisis were followed by a slowdown, which extended even to India, showing how much more integrated the country had become with the world.
Strong demand projections for various projects were shown to be increasingly unrealistic as domestic demand slowed down, he said.
He also pointed to loss of promoter and banker interest for rise in NPAs.
Over malfeasance and corruption in the NPA problem, he said, “Undoubtedly, there was some, but it is hard to tell banker exuberance, incompetence, and corruption apart”.
“Clearly, bankers were overconfident and probably did too little due diligence for some of these loans. Many did no independent analysis, and placed excessive reliance on SBI Caps and IDBI to do the necessary due diligence. Such outsourcing of analysis is a weakness in the system, and multiplies the possibilities for undue influence,” the note said.
On steps required to prevent recurrence rising non-performing assets (NPAs), Rajan suggested that there is need for improving governance of public sector banks and process of project evaluation and monitoring to lower the risk of project NPAs.
Besides, he also made a case for strengthening the recovery process and distance public sector banks from the government.
The Parliament’s Committee on Estimates had invited Rajan to brief it on the matter after former Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian praised him for identifying the NPA crisis and trying to resolve it.
Rajan, who was RBI governor for three years till September 2016, is currently the Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at Chicago Booth School of Business.


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WPI inflation eases to near 2-year low at 2.02 per cent in June

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New Delhi: Wholesale price-based inflation declined for the second consecutive month to its 23-month low of 2.02 per cent in June, helped by decline in prices of vegetables as well as fuel and power items, according to official data released on Monday.

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI)-based inflation was at 2.45 per cent in May. It was 5.68 per cent in June 2018. Inflation in food articles basket eased marginally to 6.98 per cent in June, from 6.99 per cent in May.

Vegetable inflation softened to 24.76 per cent in June, down from 33.15 per cent in the previous month. Inflation in potato was (-) 24.27 per cent, against (-) 23.36 per cent in May.

 

However, onion prices continued the rising trend with inflation at 16.63 per cent during the month, as against 15.89 per cent in May. WPI inflation in June is the lowest in 23 months, since July 2017, when it was at 1.88 per cent.

Inflation in ‘fuel and power’ category cooled substantially to (-)2.20 per cent, from 0.98 per cent last month. Manufactured items too saw decline in prices with inflation at 0.94 per cent in June, against 1.28 per cent in May.

WPI inflation data for April has been revised upwards to 3.24 per cent from provisional 3.07 per cent. Data released earlier this week showed that retail inflation spiked to a six-month high of 3.18 pc in June, on costlier food items.

The Reserve Bank, which mainly factors in retail inflation for monetary policy decision, on June 6, lowered its benchmark lending rate to nearly a nine-year low of 5.75 per cent, even as it upped its inflation projection to 3-3.1 per cent for the first half of 2019-20.

Flagging uncertain monsoon, unseasonal spike in vegetable prices, crude oil prices, financial market volatility and fiscal scenario as risks to inflation, the RBI projected upward bias in food inflation in near term.

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China second-quarter GDP growth slows to 27-year low

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Beijing: China`s economic growth slowed to 6.2% in the second quarter, its weakest pace in at least 27 years, as demand at home and abroad faltered in the face of mounting U.S. trade pressure.

While more upbeat June factory output and retail sales offered signs of improvement, some analysts cautioned the gains may not be sustainable, and expect Beijing will continue to roll out more support measures in coming months.

Chinas trading partners and financial markets are closely watching the health of the worlds second-largest economy as the Sino-U.S. trade war gets longer and costlier, fuelling worries of a global recession.

 

Mondays growth data marked a loss of momentum for the economy from the first quarters 6.4%, amid expectations that Beijing needs to do more to boost consumption and investment and restore business confidence.

The April-June pace was in line with analysts` expectations for the slowest since the first quarter of 1992, the earliest quarterly data on record.

“Chinas growth could slow to 6% to 6.1% in the second half," said Nie Wen, an economist at Hwabao Trust. That would test the lower end of Beijings 2019 target range of 6-6.5%.

Cutting banks` reserve requirement ratios (RRR) “is still very likely as the authorities want to support the real economy in a long run,” he said, predicting the economy would continue to slow before stabilising around mid-2020.

China has already slashed RRR six times already since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending and analysts polled by Reuters forecast two more cuts this quarter and next.[ECILT/CN]

Beijing has leaned largely on fiscal stimulus to underpin growth this year, announcing massive tax cuts worth nearly 2 trillion yuan ($291 billion) and a quota of 2.15 trillion yuan for special bond issuance by local governments aimed at boosting infrastructure construction.

The economy has been slow to respond, however, and business sentiment remains cautious.

Trade pressures have intensified since Washington sharply hiked tariffs on Chinese goods in May. While the two sides have since agreed to resume trade talks and hold off on further punitive action, they remain at odds over significant issues needed for an agreement.

Data on Friday showed China`s exports fell in June and its imports shrank more than expected, while an official survey showed factories were shedding jobs at the fastest pace since the global crisis..

Premier Li Keqiang said this month that China will make timely use of cuts in banks` reserve ratios and other financing tools to support smaller firms, while repeating a vow not to use “flood-like” stimulus.

A steady string of weak economic data in recent months and the sudden escalation in the U.S.-China trade war had sparked questions over whether more forceful easing may be needed to get the Chinese economy back on steadier footing, including some form of interest rate cuts.

But June activity data showed industrial production, retail sales and fixed-asset investment all beat analystsforecasts, suggesting that Beijings earlier growth-boosting efforts may be starting to have an effect.

Analysts also say room for more aggressive policy easing is also being limited by fears of adding to high debt levels and structural risks.

Industrial output climbed 6.3% from a year earlier, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed, picking up from May`s 17-year low and handily bearing a forecast for 5.2% growth.

Daily output for crude steel and aluminium both rose to record levels.

Retail sales jumped 9.8% – the fastest clip since March 2018 – and confounding expectations for a slight pullback to 8.3%. Gains were led by a 17.2% surge in car sales.

Some analysts, however, questioned the apparent recovery in both output and sales.

Capital Economics said its in-house model suggested slower industrial growth, while the jump in car sales may have been partly due to a one-off factor.

Car dealers in China are offering big discounts to customers to reduce high inventories that have built up due to changing emission standards. Motor vehicle production actually fell 15.2%, the 11th monthly decline in a row, suggesting automakers don`t expect a sustained bounce in demand any time soon.

“The monthly data were better than expected… (But) we are sceptical of this apparent recovery given broader evidence of weakness in factory activity,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, Senior China Economist at

“Looking ahead, we doubt that the data for June will mark the start of a turnaround.”

Fixed-asset investment for the first half of the year rose 5.8% from a year earlier, compared with a 5.5% forecast and 5.6% in the first five months of the year.

Real estate investment, a major growth driver for the world`s second-largest economy, quickened in June. It rose 10.1% from a year earlier, accelerating from a 9.5% gain in May but still slower than in April, Reuters calculated.

Still, the economy remains in a complex situation, with external uncertainties on the rise, the statistics bureau said, adding China will work to ensure steady growth.

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RBI to come out with mobile app for currency notes identification

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New Delhi: The Reserve Bank of India will come out with a mobile application to help visually challenged people in identifying currency notes as cash still remains a dominant mode of transaction.

At present, banknotes in the denominations of Rs 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 2,000 are in circulation, besides Re 1 notes issued by the Centre.

The RBI said that identification of banknote denomination is key to successful completion of cash-based transactions by visually impaired persons.

 

Intaglio printing based identification marks for helping the visually challenged in identification of banknotes denomination are present in the notes of Rs 100 and above.

After demonetisation of old Rs 500/1,000 notes in November 2016, new banknotes in design and sizes have been put in circulation.

“The Reserve Bank of India has been sensitive to the challenges faced by the visually challenged in conducting their day to day business with Indian banknotes,” said the central bank while scouting for a vendor to develop the mobile application.

The proposed mobile app would be able to identify the denomination of notes of Mahatma Gandhi Series and Mahatma Gandhi (New) series by capturing the image of the notes placed in front of mobile camera, the RBI said while inviting bids from tech firms to develop the app.

The RBI had come out with a similar ‘request for proposal’ from vendors but later cancelled it.

The app will also generate “audio notification” intimating the currency note denomination to the user if image is captured correctly, else intimating the user to try again in case of image is not readable.

There are about 80 lakh blind or visually impaired people in the country, who are likely to benefit from the initiative of the central bank.

In June, 2018 the central bank had declared that it would explore the feasibility of developing a suitable device or mechanism for aiding the visually impaired in the identification of Indian banknotes.

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