Sitharaman to meet heads of PSBs on Saturday

Last Updated 27 December 2019, 11:30 IST

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday will hold a meeting with heads of public sector banks to discuss various issues including the recently announced government measures to prop up the economy, sources said.

The finance minister's meeting with chief executives and managing directors of banks ahead of the Union Budget assumes significance in view of the critical role the banking sector plays in boosting consumer demand across sectors.

Sitharaman is expected to present her second Budget on February 1, 2020.

According to sources, she will also review the Budget announcement on the absorption of Merchant Discount Rate charges by banks, overdraft facility to PM Jan Dhan Yojana account holders through RuPay debit Card.

"I, therefore, propose that the business establishments with annual turnover more than Rs 50 crore shall offer such low-cost digital modes of payment to their customers and no charges or Merchant Discount Rate shall be imposed on customers as well as merchants.

"RBI and banks will absorb these costs from the savings that will accrue to them on account of handling less cash as people move to these digital modes of payment," she had said in her Budget speech in July.

Performance review of an online platform for auction of secured assets under SARFAESI Act is also one of the agenda for the meeting, sources added.

The meeting is also expected to take up discussion on non-performing asset recovery through both NCLT and in-NCLT means, the sources said.

Banks have recovered Rs 4,01,393 crore over the previous four financial years, including record recovery of Rs 1,56,702 crore during 2018-19.

The meeting is expected to take stock of the banking sector and pushing loan growth, the sources said adding that the banks may be nudged to further cut interest rates to fully pass on transmission of the repo rate cut.

Despite the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) making credit cheaper, lending rates are rising for borrowers after accounting for inflation and falling economic growth.

Economic growth has fallen to an over six-year low of 4.5 per cent in the September quarter and is widely expected to slip further with almost all key components of the economy contracting.

The RBI has responded by cutting rates by 110 basis points to a nine-year low of 5.40 per cent.

As bad loan recognition process nears completion, gross non-performing loans of banks improved to 9.1 per cent as of end-September 2019, compared to 11.2 per cent in 2017-18, says an RBI report.

However, the numbers indicate major improvement on a full-year basis, as in 2017-18, the ratio stood at a high of 11.2 per cent and slipped to 9.1 per cent in 2018-19, the RBI said in its annual report on trends and progress of banking in 2018-19.

(Published 27 December 2019, 11:30 IST)

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