PM Modi’s PSU bank spends beat 45 years’ investments
- The government has been forced to infuse funds after PSU banks reported collective losses from FY16 to FY19 totalling Rs 1,64,474 crore
- These losses put pressure on government finances at multiple levels as the Centre lost out on dividends and tax revenue
The government has been forced to infuse funds after PSU banks reported collective losses from FY16 to FY19 totalling Rs 1,64,474 crore. These losses put pressure on government finances at multiple levels as the Centre lost out on dividends and tax revenue.
While the bulk of the capital infusion came under the NDA II government, the maximum number of bank-delivered social schemes were also announced under this regime. These include Jan-Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Atal Pension Yojana.
Although banks were first nationalised in July 1969 with a second round of nationalisation in 1980, the capital requirement was felt only in the mid-90s. Liberalisation of the economy and financial sector reforms resulted in the RBI adopting global prudential norms for banks.
As a result, immediately after reforms in 1992-93, the profitability of the PSBs as a group turned negative with 12 nationalised banks reporting net losses. Besides recognising bad loans (which triggered the losses), the RBI has also set a deadline of March 1996 for attaining a capital adequacy ratio of 85. With eight banks missing the deadline, the Centre was forced to infuse capital.
After the financial sector reforms, the government ended up spending Rs 20,446 crore in bank capitalisation in the 1990s to enable them to meet global capital standards. The subsequent decade saw banks being net contributors to the government as easing interest rates, capital-raising through listings and a growing economy helped PSBs book record profits.
The latest round of recapitalisation has been triggered by former RBI governor Urjit Patel’s move to clean up PSU banks by scrapping all loan-restructuring schemes and forcing banks to recognise stressed loans as default. However, despite recapitalisation, banks have been losing marketshare to private banks. This is reflected in the market cap of PSU banks, which is only Rs 6 lakh crore as against Rs 17.16 lakh crore for private banks.
In 2014, the RBI had appointed a committee headed by former Axis Bank chairman P J Nayak to review governance of boards of banks in India. The Nayak committee had pointed out that — given the lower productivity, steep erosion in asset quality and demonstrated uncompetitiveness of PSBs over varying time periods — the recapitalisation of these banks will impose significant fiscal costs. The committee had said that unless the governance of PSBs improves, it would impede fiscal consolidation, affect fiscal stability and eventually impinge on the government’s solvency.
“Consequently, the government has two options: Either to privatise these banks and allow their future solvency to be subject to market competition, including through mergers; or to design a radically new governance structure for these banks in order that repeated claims for capital support from the government, unconnected with market returns, are avoided,” the report said