India has a history of bringing in reforms during the periods of crisis and following the pandemic, the Reserve Bank Of India is making unprecedented monetary and regulatory banking reforms to provide relief and ensure liquidity funds flow to the affected sectors.
RBI reduced the repo rate by 40 basis points or 0.4% to 4%. The reverse repo rate stood at 3.35%. Moreover, it extended the moratorium on term loans by 3 more months till 31st August. RBI has announced other measures in four broad categories: Measures to Improve the Functioning of Markets, Measures to Support Exports and Imports, Measures to Ease Financial Stress, and Debt Management.
Firstly, a refinancing facility for Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) for funding requirements of the MSME and secondly, Investments by Foreign Portfolio Investors under the Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) shall offer operational flexibility in terms of instrument choices and certain regulatory exemptions. These market improvement measures are intended to ease constraints on market participants and channel liquidity to various sectors of the economy.
Under the second category, the RBI has increased the Export Credit from 9 months to 15 months and also provided an extension of time for payment for imports. Along with that, RBI will also be providing additional assistance and liquidity facility for Exim Bank Of India in order to promote international trade.
The third category is the most important as it will mitigate the burden of debt servicing, prevent the transmission of financial stress to the real economy, and ensure the continuity of viable businesses and households. RBI has permitted a 6-month moratorium on all term loan installments and it has also allowed a deferment of interest on Working capital facilities. The RBI will also undertake Long Term Repo Operations (LTRO) which will allow additional liquidity with the banks.
The central bank has further brought in changes in the Asset Classification, Resolution Timeline, and the Group Exposures under the Large Exposures Framework to ease financial stress. Finally, for effective debt management: guidelines have been relaxed in the Consolidated Sinking Fund (CSF) of state governments.
Global Financial Crisis of 2008
The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in the US unfolded the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. It was understood that there is a high amount of risks involved when banks give loans of the entire value for a property assuming that the cost will rise and it will be easily repaid. When a number of banks did so, the banking sector and the economy saw the consequent effects leading to the global crisis.
The Indian banking sector remained largely unaffected but India was compelled to shift its credit demand from external sources to the domestic banking sector. Even though India’s financial system was less developed at that time; it did face serious consequences as the crisis led to the sharp decline in exports and fall of GDP to 6.72% in 2008-09 from 9.32% in 2007-08, giving rise to the expansion of fiscal deficit and extensive Public sector lending.
Due to lack of a framework for bankruptcy, India faced a risk of a large private sector bank going bankrupt with no legal way of dealing with it other than to force a public sector bank to buy it out, an approach that generally weakens the banking system. A number of expert committees recommended banking reforms, changes in regulations, and new frameworks like the Indian Bankruptcy Code. However, following different political scenarios and the legislative framework they could not be brought in which lead to the crisis of NPAs.
The 2008 crisis laid the foundation for much of today’s non-performing loans which have plagued the Indian banking sector. A loan given by a bank is classified as a Non-Performing Asset (NPA) if the borrower has stopped making interest or principal repayments for over 90 days. As of 2018, the gross value of NPAs stands at Rs. 10.35 lakh crores, out of which 85% is of Public sector banks.
Post-crisis the public sector banks were under tremendous pressure to lend large amounts to steel, power, and infrastructure projects and the euphoric lending led to a rise in bad loans and the NPA crisis. A number of scams came to the forefront wherein businesses borrowed under shell companies to execute projects in other countries; later the foreign banks invoked guarantees and domestic banks were obligated to pay and they could never recover their money.
NPAs have lowered the bank’s profitability and made them vulnerable to adverse economic shocks and consequently put consumer deposits at risk. This also led to India’s Twin Balance Sheet problem, wherein both the borrower and lender i.e. corporate sector and banking sector come under financial stress.
Thus, to avoid the snowballing effects leading to insolvency and NPA crisis, liquidity management has been given a priority by the RBI while bringing back normalcy in financial markets post Covid-19.