RBI's Raghuram Rajan against banks seeking artificial fixes for NPAs

Written by PTI | Pune | Updated: Apr 5 2014, 01:49am hrs
RajanLet's not try to find artificial fixes. Let us go about fixing it the right way: Raghuram Rajan.
Strongly disapproving requests for "regulatory forbearance" in cases of asset quality stress made by lenders and corporates, Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan told bankers today not to find "artificial fixes" for the problem.

Rajan said the RBI had received requests from lenders and corporates requesting for postponing recognition of stressed assets as "bad loans", even though it may not have been serviced for three years.

"Let's not try to find artificial fixes. Let us go about fixing it the right way. Postponing recognition will not help. If it is not paid today, it won't get paid tomorrow," Rajan said, adding that the best way out is to make sure that the asset itself becomes viable.

It may be noted that NPAs of banks touched an all-time high of over 5 per cent as of the December quarter, while FY14 saw banks recasting as many as Rs 1 trillion worth of loans, taking the overall corporate debt restructuring loan book to close to Rs 4 trillion. NPAs and CDR loans put together is over 10 per cent of the system as on last December.

"Borrowing at 6 per cent and lending at 8 per cent to 10 per cent, net interest margins (NIMs) of three per cent to four per cent is easy, but it is when bad loans start hitting when you have to clean up the balance sheets. In fact you have to rise to the task. You have to clean up balance sheets, you have to clean up expenses and bring down costs. That's the way to do it," he said, conceding that it is very hard to do.

Rajan was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual convocation of the RBI-run National Institute of Bank Management here.

He had declared a war on willful defaulters in his inaugural speech itself, saying that there cannot successful promoters despite failed companies and that such promoters have no "divine right" to be managing their failed companies.

He said that rather than asking for special concessions, bankers should focus on getting an asset back on stream through interventions on the payments and management side, or finding an alternative use for the asset.

Rajan said cleaning up balance sheets would placate investors and help lenders raise the required capital from markets and devote resources to needy sectors.

"We have enormous infrastructure needs coming up in the next few years. It is mindboggling. Our capacity to finance those projects has to be upgraded. We have a long way to go," he said, adding that it's infrastructure loans itself which have gone bad recently.

He pointed out that there are financial entities which are capable of cleaning up their finances, but still deal with bad loans that have emerged from the past financing of infrastructure. So it is extremely important for them to clean up their balance sheets, he said.

The government has set a USD 1 trillion investment target for the infrastructure sector in the ongoing five-year plan period.