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Growing volume of stressed assets…
With the Union Budget focusing on the rejuvenation of rural India, the banking sector did not receive much attention from the Finance Minister.

There was greater thrust on raising the economic condition of farmers and improving the living conditions in the villages. The total allocation made to the agricultural sector, for the welfare of farmers and irrigation projects is Rs 47,912 crore. This amount is nearly twice the allocation made in the previous budget.  

Recapitalisation of banks

The banking sector’s performance during the third quarter of FY 2016 in maintaining the health of its credit portfolio has been dismal. There has been a sudden spurt in the gross NPA ratios of almost all of the public sector banks. Erosion of their net worth is therefore causing great concern to the government. Hence, in the Union Budget, Rs 25,000 crore is provided for infusing fresh capital into these banks. However, this amount is grossly insufficient.

    In order to increase productive investment in the farm sector, the banking sector has been given a credit target of Rs 9 lakh crore to be achieved during the current financial year. In the previous Budget, the target stipulated was Rs 8.5 lakh crore. According to a Reserve Bank of India source, the total direct agricultural advance made by banks was Rs 6.27 lakh crore as on June 2014, and the banking sector could not reach the stipulated target for farm credit deployment.

Contrary to this, there has been a huge increase in borrowings of farmers from multiple sources in the recent years. Moneylenders still continue to have a major share of rural indebtedness. According to a National Sample Survey report titled Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in India published in December 2014, there has been a substantial increase in the indebtedness of agricultural households. Based on a sample of 35,000 households during 2012-13, the average debt per household was estimated to be Rs 47,000, while average income was Rs 6973 per annum.  An assessment of the pattern of borrowings revealed that the share of institutional agencies was 60 per  cent, and that of non-institutional sources was 40 per cent. Moneylenders were dominant among the non-institutional sources, charging exorbitant interest rates. Increase in the number of farmers’ suicides in the recent years is mainly due to multiple borrowings.  

The farm credit target of Rs 9 lakh crore stipulated in the budget may not be high enough to meet the credit demand of all farm households in rural areas. For facilitating better loan repayment by farmers, a provision for interest subvention has been made in the Budget.  To reduce their interest burden, a provision of Rs 15,000 crore has been made. However, the usurious interest rates charged by moneylenders cannot be curbed, so long as the farmers continue to have multiple borrowings.


Financial sector reforms    


Emphasising that the strength of financial sector depends upon a strong and well-functioning banking system, a reference was made in the Budget speech to the comprehensive ‘Plan for Revamping of Public Sector Banks- Indradhanush,’ which is under implementation. It is proposed to set up a Monetary Policy Committee to provide statutory basis for a Monetary Policy Framework. This committee-based approach is expected to add more value and transparency to monetary policy decisions. Therefore, the RBI Act 1934 would be amended suitably for this purpose.

A Financial Data Management Centre under the aegis of the Financial Stability Development Council (FSDC) is proposed to be set up to facilitate integrated data aggregation and analysis in the financial sector. Besides this, Bank Board Bureau is expected to be operationalised during 2016-17.

Specific reference was made to the growing volume of stressed assets in the banking sector. To strengthen the functioning of Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARC) for reducing such stressed assets, it was proposed to make necessary amendments to the SARFAESI Act 2002 to enable the sponsor of an ARC to hold up to 100 per cent stake in the ARC and to permit non-institutional investors to invest in securitisation receipts.


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