Banks have all powers to deal with wilful defaulters: FM Arun Jaitley

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New Delhi | Updated: November 23, 2015 5:07:51 PM

Concerned over "unacceptable" NPA levels, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today discussed with PSU bank chiefs the issue of wilful defaulters and said that the lenders have all the powers and autonomy to deal with them.

arun jaitleyArun Jaitley said the health of PSBs is a key issue, as the carried over problem of the past continues to persist and relates to unacceptable level of NPAs and impaired assets. (Image: PTI)

Concerned over “unacceptable” NPA levels, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today discussed with PSU bank chiefs the issue of wilful defaulters and said that the lenders have all the powers and autonomy to deal with them.

In the second quarterly performance review in six months, Jaitley brainstormed with SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya and other PSU bank heads as well as RBI officials over the rising bad loans in different sectors including steel, credit offtake, health of the lenders and status of social security schemes.

The gross Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of Public Sector Banks rose to 6.03 per cent at the end of June, as against 5.20 per cent in March this year.

The meeting had secretaries of various departments making presentations on the credit requirements for projects in the sectors under them.

“When we took assessment of certain sectors which had a higher level of NPAs, some particular defaulters which are common thread running across several banks did crop for discussion,” he told reporters after the meeting.

The public sector banks, he said, “have all the powers… Banks today have full authority and autonomy to take action against them (defaulters)”.

Jaitley was replying to a question on State Bank of India declaring Vijay Mallya a ‘wilful defaulter’ for not paying nearly Rs 7,000 crore loans to the long-grounded Kingfisher Airlines.

While the Reserve Bank has empowered the banks to deal with defaults, a bankruptcy law in the offing will help redress the problem to a large extent.

“These are all a part of those steps which are going to continuously empower the banks so that they can undertake their effective banking,” Jaitley said.

Referring to the problems faced by the steel and aluminium sector due to global slump, he said: “Secretary, Department of Financial Services, would be coordinating further discussions between the banks and Department of Revenue as to what other proactive policy steps are required”.

Major stress of the banks will ease once the sectoral issues are sorted out and economy improves, he said.

Arun Jaitley said the health of PSBs is a key issue, as the carried over problem of the past continues to persist and relates to unacceptable level of NPAs and impaired assets.

“We did have a discussion almost in relation to certain specific banks also. The overall health of the economy and how various sectors are doing because part of the stress was also caused on account of factors which are attributable to certain sectors,” he said.

The minister said that the banks are conscious of the fact that they have to sort out “account by account” issues relating to a certain category of their own debtors.

“Now that the growth rates are somewhat picking up and therefore the pressures of the past need to be removed as far as possible,” he said.

Exuding confidence that situation is going to improve for the better within a reasonable time, Jaitley said the pick up in credit off take and the recoveries of bad loans would help.

Besides, the series of steps announced by RBI, which some of the bank have been implementing, will certainly improve on the quality of those assets.

“The govt also has been extremely proactive in responding to each of the sectors. Results of these don’t come overnight. Once the process has been set into motion which was staggering for a reasonable period of time, I think the situation will improve significantly in a reasonable time,” he said.

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