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finance: Finance minister to meet heads of PSBs next week; nudge them for credit expansion to boost economy


NEW DELHI: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is scheduled to meet heads of public sector banks (PSBs) next week to review performance of the lenders and progress made by them to support the economy battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Banks would be urged to sanction loans for productive sectors to accelerate revival of the economy, sources said. According to sources, the two-day meeting would commence on November 17 and undertake a comprehensive review of various segments, progress in government schemes including Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. Apart from bankers, top officials from various ministries would participate to highlight major issues with the banks and suggest ways to smoothen the process. Top officials from infrastructure ministries, agriculture and allied departments would be part of the meeting hosted by the finance ministry. Given the importance of the banking sector in generating demand and boosting consumption, sources said the meeting with the MDs and CEOs of PSBs is considered important. The meeting comes at a time when banks are undertaking outreach programmes to push lending in the productive sectors of the economy. Since the commencement of the government’s nationwide Credit Outreach Programme on October 16, banks have sanctioned 13.84 lakh loans totalling Rs 63,574 crore through 10,580 camps held across the country as of October 31. As per the data shared by the finance ministry, as much as Rs 21,687.23 crore in business loans were sanctioned to about 3.2 lakh beneficiaries, while vehicle loans worth Rs 4,560,39 crore were sanctioned to 59,090 borrowers. The meeting is expected to take stock of the banking sector, progress on restructuring 2.0 scheme announced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), sources said, adding, the revamped Rs 4.5 lakh crore Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) would also be reviewed during the meeting. Besides, the finance minister is expected to take stock of the bad loan or non-performing asset (NPA) situation, and discuss various recovery measures by banks, they said. As a result of the government’s strategy of recognition, resolution, recapitalisation and reforms, NPAs have declined to Rs 7,39,541 crore on March 31, 2019 to Rs 6,78,317 crore on March 31, 2020 and further to Rs 6,16,616 crore as on March 31, 2021 (provisional data). At the same time comprehensive steps were taken to control and to effect recovery in NPAs, which enabled PSBs to recover Rs 5,01,479 crore over the last six financial years, the government informed Parliament recently. To assuage fears among bankers, the finance ministry recently issued a uniform ‘staff accountability framework’ for NPA accounts up to Rs 50 crore. Seeking to protect honest bank employees, the government has come out with the framework under which officers concerned will not be hauled up in case bonafide decisions involving loans up to Rs 50 crore go wrong. The framework will cover only genuine decisions and not those involving malfeasance or malafide intentions, according to the norms issued by the finance ministry. It specifies details and the procedures to be followed for scrutinising such acts of omission and commission on the part of bank officials concerned. To save them from unnecessary hassle, the framework also provides for resolution of such cases against bankers. “Banks must initiate and complete staff accountability exercise within six months from the date of classification of the account as NPA,” the ministry said. In the past, several senior bankers have been arrested in loan default cases.


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