Millennium Post

Bad loans’ dip cannot yet be termed turnaround: Jaitley

Terming NPAs at 5.2 per cent as high, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said it’s too early to consider the improvement in the bad loan situation last quarter as a “turnaround” and was keeping his fingers crossed. “I would take it (drop in March quarter NPAs) only as an initial indicator. At times, when you try to revive the economy, some indicators can always be patchy...I am not drawing any final conclusion from this,” Jaitley said.

“If this pattern continues over 2-3-4 quarters, then I will draw a conclusion that there is a pattern. I am keeping my fingers crossed,” he said. Addressing a press meet on one year of the Modi government, he said: “A good signal has emerged that the quarter that ended in March 2015, NPAs have started coming down... This is the first quarter, NPAs in banks were increasing, they have started coming down.”

Non-performing assets or bad loans of the total advances had reached a high of 5.64 per <g data-gr-id="74">cent</g> but period ending March “it has come down to 5.2 per cent...these (5.2 <g data-gr-id="75">per cent</g> NPA) are also high”, he said. From the decline in <g data-gr-id="72">one quarter</g> it cannot be concluded that this was a turnaround, he said. As of December 2014, gross NPAs of PSU banks were at Rs 2,60,531 crore or 5.6 per cent of the total advances. Echoing similar views the Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan had said last week that there was no danger of any financial <g data-gr-id="71">crisis</g> but it may be early to declare that the worst was over on the NPA front. The Governor said <g data-gr-id="70">resolution</g> of NPAs will be possible only with higher economic growth, which he termed as “slow” and the actions which the banks take. The Finance Minister too said that when <g data-gr-id="68">economy</g> picks up, a “turnaround has to take place” in the banking sector.

“Therefore, the steps in the direction of economic growth is one...we have to do the recapitalisation (of banks) fast,” Jaitley said. He also said steps are being taken to professionalise the banks’ boards as appointments would be made through bank bureau. He also said the vacancies at the top posts in the three banks will be filled by next month. These banks are PNB, Bank of Baroda and Canara Bank where posts of MD and CEO are lying vacant for many months. However, two more vacancies will be created this month- end as CMD of Bank of India and IDBI are retiring.

Moreover, days ahead of the monetary policy review, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley  said it’s time for RBI to cut <g data-gr-id="54">rate</g> in view of moderation in inflation and subdued industrial growth. When asked if it’s time for RBI to cut interest rate, Jaitley replied in the affirmative. “My views are well-known. It is (the time),” he said at a press conference on completion of one year of the government. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is scheduled to announce its monetary policy on June 2. The central bank has lowered its policy rate twice so far in <g data-gr-id="64">2015,</g> but maintained status quo at the recent policy meet on April 7 in the wake of unseasonal rains impacting food prices. The repo, the rate at which the RBI lends to banks, is currently 7.5 <g data-gr-id="67">per cent</g> and the cash reserve ratio (CRR), the amount of deposits that lenders park with the central bank, 4 per cent.

According to analysts, the mix of slowing inflation and a weaker-than-expected growth is building the case for a softer policy. While a rate cut on or before June 2 is most likely, beyond that, any room for additional rate cuts depends on structural reforms of the government. However, there is <g data-gr-id="51">risk</g> of monsoon being lower than average, potentially affecting crop production. Retail inflation eased to a 4-month low of 4.87 <g data-gr-id="55">per cent</g> in April while industrial output slowed to a 5-month low of 2.1 <g data-gr-id="56">per cent</g> in March. 
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