Banks must take firm steps to recover NPAs: FM

Soared to Rs 1.55 lakh cr as of Dec 2012

Banks must take firm steps to recover NPAs: FM

Concerned over the rising bad loans of public sector banks, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said the lenders must take firm steps to recover non-performing assets (NPAs) without hurting industry.

 “While we understand why NPAs have risen and the restructured accounts have risen, we also wish the banks to take strong steps to recover their dues, I think the promoters have a duty to bring in additional money and the companies have a duty to pay their dues to banks. We cannot have an affluent promoter and a sick company,” Chidambaram told reporters after meeting heads of PSU banks and financial institutions.

Slow economic growth and inability of companies to payback their loans have contributed to increase in non-performing assets of the banks. This has also given rise to large scale debt-restructuring by banks.

Gross NPAs of PSU banks have risen from Rs 71,080 crore as on March 2011, to Rs 1.55 lakh crore as on December 2012. Chidambaram also said that as many as 215 infrastructure projects across five sectors worth Rs 7 lakh are facing delays, underscoring the slow pace of implementation of industrial projects in the country.

He, however, said that certain projects in iron and steel and coal sector have started moving of late. The real problem exists in road and power projects. There are about 68 new projects in the road sector while 40 in power sector are either not moving or moving at a slow pace. “We have to get them going,” he added.

Such projects usually face hurdles due to delay in clearance from multiple authorities, leading to time and cost overruns. Analysts estimate that poor infrastructure facilities in the country remove about two percentage points from gross domestic product growth. The government has set up a ministerial panel to fast-track such projects.

 Chidambaram also said that the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India are investigating the money laundering allegations made against three private-sector banks, but no such complaint has been made against any state-run banks. On the tight cash situation of banks, the finance minister said that he was in talks with the RBI governor D Subbarao and that he expected the RBI to take steps to address the liquidity shortage in the banking system when it meets to review its monetary policy on Tuesday.

 Chidambaram's remarks have renewed hopes among investors that the RBI will also cut the cash reserve ratio of banks to help them with adequate cash in hand.

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