Mumbai: A failure on the part of banks, the government and the regulator till 2014 has got us into the current bad loan mess and the resultant low capital buffers, Urjit Patel, the past Reserve Bank Governor, has said, asking all to resist the temptation of going back to the status quo.
In his first comments after resigning as RBI governor on December 10 last year amid sharp differences with the government, Patel said banks indulged in over-lending, while the government did not “fully play” its role, and also conceded that the regulator should have acted earlier.
Speaking at an event in Stanford University on June 3, Patel listed out areas of concern for the country’s banking sector, including high non-performing assets (NPAs) especially at state-run lenders, and current capital buffers being “overstated” and being insufficient to tackle the huge stress.
“How did we get here? Plenty of blame to go around! Prior to 2014, all stakeholders failed to play their role adequately. Banks, the regulator and government,” he said in the presentation.
It can be noted that after 2014, which saw a change of guard in government and also Patel’s predecessor Raghuram Rajan assuming charge, the RBI started an asset quality review, which led to the recognition of the huge pile of hidden stress in the system and resolution through the introduction of bankruptcy laws. These actions led to a sharp decline in banks’ ability to fund the needs of the economy, where growth has been sagging.
Patel, who spent over five years at the RBI, including his role as the deputy governor, advised to stay on the course even in the face of difficulties.
“Temptation to reset ‘back to the past’ should be eschewed,” Patel said, adding that “episodic concerns” on stability are possible if there is “foot dragging, or, worse, back-pedalling”. “Short-cuts/sweeping the problem under the carpet is unlikely to work; but will only delay unlocking of capital, and come in the way of financing future investment efficiently,” he warned.
In the presentation a copy of speech was not available Patel also said, “After fiscal dominance over monetary policy, are we looking at fiscal dominance over banking regulation now.”
Patel said an asset quality review for the non-banking finance companies is “inevitable” given their interconnectedness in the financial system.
On the Supreme Court striking down the controversial February 12, 2018A circular, which was also a major bone of contention between him and the government, Patel said only time will tell whether a system of “extend and pretend” will make a comeback.
“Issues of ever-greening theA problem may emerge again. Banks may drag their feet on decision making, viz. delayed negotiations/taking haircuts for timely resolution could come back to haunt the sector,” he warned.
It can be noted that four days after this presentation at Stanford, RBI did come out with a revised framework after being forced by the Supreme Court which struck down the February circular.
Patel also went public with his disappointment with the execution under the Insolvency and the Bankruptcy Code, saying it has “thrown up a worrying number of exceptions” and signs of “gaming” are visible as many of the major cases are delayed beyond the 350-day resolution window.
He also sounded peeved at no divestment by the government in joint ventures, special purpose vehicles and asset management companies despite the equity markets overall remaining quite buoyant.
Patel said social sector requirements and an inability to access capital markets have resulted in the government’s stake in many lenders going up as more infusions came from the government despite fiscal constraints.
He also sounded disappointed at the recent government forces bank consolidations, saying such mergers have “eroded” the value of the entity taking over weaker banks and termed IDBI Bank as a “highly problematic” entity, which was forced on LIC.
Patel said the state-run lenders have high ratio of non-operating expenses to earnings compared to their private sector peers.
“High cost structure of government banks is borne by the economy; may be impinging transmission of policy rate changes,” he warned.
Govt should ease law on firing workers, reform labour laws: Panagariya
Mumbai: India should ease norms for hiring and firing workers to make it easier for companies to do business in the country, according to a former adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Easing the rules are crucial for employers, as their primary aim is not to fire workers, Arvind Panagariya, the head of government think-tank NITI Aayog, said in an interview in New Delhi. “You need consistency across labour laws.”
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her maiden budget this month, proposed combining multiple laws governing workers to form four sets of labor codes to improve the ease of doing business. But what’s needed is the reform of labor laws and not just streamlining of existing ones, said Panagariya.
He said the government’s plan to introduce a single minimum wage across the country may hurt businesses in smaller towns considering the wide differences in costs across urban and rural India. It could especially hurt small exporters and erode their competitiveness globally.
Modi’s government, which was re-elected for a second straight five year term in May, can do more to help grow the economy, Panagariya said, adding that some of India’s labor laws are probably more than 100 years old. Almost all of them are more than 30 years old.
Ban cryptocurrencies, consider launching own digital money: Panel to govt
New Delhi: A panel tasked with examining virtual currencies has recommended that the government should ban private cryptocurrencies and could consider launching its own digital money. It has also recommended that to deter the use of private cryptocurrencies, anyone doing so could be punished with imprisonment of up to 10 years.
The committee on virtual currency is headed by Finance Secretary Subhash Garg. The other members are Ajay Prakash Sawhney, secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology; Ajay Tyagi, chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi); and B P Kanungo, deputy governor, Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The committee submitted its report — after a delay of a year. A piece of draft legislation, Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019, was also put in the public domain.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear a challenge to a ban on cryptocurrencies by the central government and the Reserve Bank of India.
In its report, the committee has recommended that distributed ledger technology (DLT), the most common use of which is blockchain, can be of great benefit to the country in several financial and non-financial areas, such lowering costs of the Know Your Customer process and improving access to credit.
Ban cryptocurrencies, consider launching own digital money: Panel to govt “There is no underlying intrinsic value of private cryptocurrencies. These… lack all the attributes of a currency. There is no fixed nominal value of these private cryptocurrencies. They neither act as any store of value nor they are a medium of exchange,” the panel said in its report, noting that since their inception, cryptocurrencies had demonstrated extreme fluctuations in their prices.
The draft Bill states: “Whoever directly or indirectly mines, generates, holds, sells, deals in, transfers, disposes of or issues cryptocurrency or any combination thereof… shall be punishable with fine or with imprisonment which shall not be less than one year but which may extend up to ten years, or both.”
The panel said policymakers and regulators should have an open mind regarding the introduction of an official digital currency in India. “It may be possible to visualise some models of future official digital currencies but as of date it is unclear whether there is clear advantage in the context of India to come up with an official digital currency.”
The panel also recommended if required, a group can be constituted by the finance ministry’s department of economic affairs, with participation of the representatives of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY), and the department of financial services for examination and development of an appropriate model of digital currency in India. If one is launched, the RBI should regulate it.Technology experts, however, were not very happy with the recommendations of the panel.
“The definition of cryptocurrency in the report is reasonably vague and may not cover something like Facebook’s libra or even bitcoin if one were to read it too technically. The drafting needs to be better,” said a lawyer who did not want to be named.Experts said it might be possible to develop a distributed ledger with nodes kept only in India.
“As a venture capitalist, I find… the suggestion of a ban quite disappointing because they did not engage with start-ups or domain experts,” said Nitin Sharma, technology investor and founder, Incrypt Blockchain.
Maruti, Hyundai skip rural slump, manage to increase sales in FY19
Chennai: The country’s largest two carmakers, Maruti and Hyundai, managed to increase their rural sales in 2018-19. This took place despite the rural economy being under pressure.
Both companies are optimistic about 2019-20, too, with the raising of rural allocations in the Union Budget and higher Minimum Support Prices. That means more of rural disposable income.
Maruti Suzuki’s (the country’s largest car maker) rural sales in 2018-19 rose to 205,000 units or 39 per cent of sales. A year before, it was around 165,000 units or 37 per cent of sales. This year’s outcome will depend on the monsoon, farm output and how rural sales pick up.
Hyundai’s rural sales were 17.3 per cent of its FY19 total, as against 15.6 per cent a year before. In FY20, the contribution is expected to be around 20 per cent.
Both companies — they address most of the spectrum — have said they are optimistic on the future, despite the overall industry having slowed. According to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations, passenger vehicle sales dropped by 4.6 per cent in FY19, to 224,755 units.
Shashank Srivastava, executive director for marketing and sales at Maruti, estimates growth of 4-8 per cent for the current financial year. However, he adds, a good monsoon and a satisfactory (for sales) festival season would be important, he adds.
With car penetration of around 22 per 1,000 population, India continues to be a big opportunity to sell cars, especially in rural areas. Srivastava says the rate of growth in the rural market has invariably been higher in recent years.
“Today, with booming internet users and a strong millennial population, rural markets are emerging as growth engines for sales,” he says.
Further, rural infrastructure has improved significantly. Motorability has seen sharp improvement there, resulting in exponential increase of two-wheeler sales and offering similar potential for cars.
Vikas Jain, national sales head at Hyundai Motor India, says customers of urban and rural markets might have differing needs but similar aspirations. In the latter, owning a car is a big aspiration.
Urban markets are experimenting with mobility solutions such as subscription and leasing. Hyundai has a partnership with self-drive car rental firm Revv and another with mobility solutions firm ALD Automotive India.
The company believes there is huge aspiration among youth in tier-1 and tier-II cities to own a vehicle. Rising disposable income and the expanding presence of financial institutions in rural markets, to offer credit at attractive rates, will enable ownership of cars.