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Greater interest rate cuts by banks in offing: Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Public sector banks today gave an assurance that they will make “greater” cuts in interest rates in the coming days and weeks, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.He disclosed this after a meeting with
PTI June 12, 2015 23:00 IST
PTI

New Delhi: Public sector banks today gave an assurance that they will make “greater” cuts in interest rates in the coming days and weeks, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

He disclosed this after a meeting with the chiefs of PSU banks to review their financial performance and other parameters, including transmission of the RBI rate cuts so far this year.

“Some part of it (rate cut) have been passed on to customers, while some banks have not passed on. I feel over the next few days ... some of the bankers felt that over the next few weeks, they would be in a position to work out greater cuts,” the Minister said.

Some of the banks, Jaitley said, have expressed their inability to pass on the rate cuts on account of problems with their respective balance sheets and higher rates on small savings schemes.

However, he said that “the environment was optimistic.  Since the movement in the banking sector appears to be for the better, this gives up a further hope of a greater recovery as far as economy is concerned.

A number of banks, including the largest public sector lender SBI, have cut their minimum lending rates after RBI reduced its policy rates by 0.25 per cent on June 2.

Since January, RBI has reduced repo (lending) rate by a total of 0.75 per cent in three tranches. The repo rate now stands at 7.25 per cent.

As regards the bad loans, Jaitley said it has come down in the January-March quarter and hoped that the situation would improve further with pick up in economy and higher public spending, especially in infrastructure sector projects.

“In quarter ending March 2015, NPAs had come down from 5.64 per cent to 5.2 per cent. One quarter does not indicate a pattern. So I would wait for some more time before realising what the pattern is. Banks are themselves of the assessment that it would take them 2-3 quarters to reach a somewhat more greater comfort level,” he said.

On demands of PSU banks for greater capital infusion, Jaitley said there is a “merit” in their case and the government will seriously look into it. The final decision to this effect will be taken by the Cabinet, he said.

Government has earmarked Rs 7,900 crore in the 2015-16 Budget towards capital infusion in PSU banks. The RBI had said that the amount is inadequate and needed to be enhanced.

On projects stalled for want of funds, Jaitley said the Financial Services Secretary will prepare a list of such projects and try to resolve the issue.

“Both the Secretary and if necessary at my level, we will be calling for a meeting of the representatives of the state governments, those projects and concerned departments, over the next few days and try to resolve the issues,” he said.

Jaitley said that the banks which has higher NPA levels were asked to explain the reasons. “Over the next few months, this is something which the government is going to seriously look at.”

Observing that the economy is recovering from the serious challenges it has faced in past few years, Jaitley said, “We can take some satisfaction of the fact that even though international agencies are rating us as perhaps the fastest growing among emerging economies, but our own level of ambition is higher”.

He said the basic fiscal data looks good and the economy is on a roadmap for much higher growth.

“Government, in terms of policy initiatives, in terms of expediting the execution of stalled projects, will continue to play a very important role. Government spending in infrastructure has increased,” Jaitley said.

As regards rainfall, Jaitley said: “We are keeping our fingers crossed as far as the monsoon is concerned. We are in the midst of monsoon”.

Two social sector security schemes—Jan Suraksha Bima and Jeevan Jyoti Bima—Jaitley said 10.17 crore policies have been sold in a month's time.

The broad issues which were discussed in today's meeting include the state of the credit growth, education and housing loans, roadmap for implementation to MUDRA Bank.