Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Jaitley defends loan write-offs, says they don’t lead to waiver

Recovery of loans continues rigorously by banks, defaulting managements of most insolvent companies have been removed: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday defended loan write-offs by public sector banks, saying these did not lead to loan waivers and the exercise helped lenders clean up their balance sheets and achieve taxation efficiency.

He said public sector banks had recovered 36,551 crore of bad loans, or non-performing assets, during the April-June quarter of the current financial year as compared to 74,562 crore of recoveries made in 2017-18.

Commenting on reports that the country’s 21 state-owned banks wrote off 3.16 lakh crore of loans in four years of the National Democratic Alliance government and made recoveries of 44,900 crore in written-off loans, Jaitley in a Facebook blog said “technical write-offs" were resorted to by banks in accordance with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines.

“This, however, does not lead to any loan waiver. Recovery of loans continues rigorously by banks," he said. “In fact, the defaulting managements of most insolvent companies have been removed under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)."Congress President Rahul Gandhi has used the reports to attack the government, saying demonetisation converted black money into white and 3.16 lakh crore of loans were written off.

“Modi’s India - For Common Man: Notebandi-line up and put your money in banks. All your details into Aadhar. You can’t use your own money. For Crony capitalists: Notebandi-convert all your black money to white. Let’s write off 3.16 lakh crore using common man’s money," Gandhi said in a tweet.

Jaitley, however, defended loan write-offs, saying these were done for “tax benefit and capital optimisation"."Writing-off of non-performing assets is a regular exercise conducted by banks to clean up their balance sheets, and achieving taxation efficiency," he said. “Borrowers of such written-off loans continue to be liable for repayment."

Recovery of dues, he said, was taking place on an ongoing basis under legal mechanisms, which included the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act (SARFAESI Act) and Debts Recovery Tribunals (DRTs).

Stating that public sector banks (PSBs) were making concerted efforts in the recovery of NPAs, Jaitley said they had already recovered 36,551 crore during the first quarter of 2018-19 against the total recoveries of 74,562 crore in financial year 2017-18.

“The cash recovery target for PSBs for financial year 2018-19 is 1,81,034 crore. NPAs have peaked and have declined by 21,000 crore during quarter ending June 2018, over March 2018," he said.

Jaitley said when the BJP government came to power in 2014, it inherited the problem of large-scale NPAs in the banking sector.

“The main reason for this spurt in NPAs is that gross advances of PSBs increased rapidly as a result of aggressive lending from 2008 to 2014. Total loans outstanding of PSBs, which were about 18 lakh crore till March 2008, increased to about 52 lakh crore till March 2014," he said.

The Narendra Modi government, he said, decided to ensure transparent recognition of stressed assets and NPAs.

“The Asset Quality Review initiated by the RBI in 2015, and subsequent transparent recognition by banks, revealed high NPAs. NPAs of PSBs increased from 2.26 lakh crore in March 2014 to 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018.

“Aggressive lending coupled with laxity in credit risk appraisal and loan monitoring, wilful defaulters inter alia led to a spurt in stressed assets," he said.

The finance minister said stressed accounts were treated as non-NPA through flexibility in loan classification, evergreening and often repeated restructuring, under the previous government. “This means NPAs were put under the carpet, disguised as stressed assets. Now even one-day default is to be reported," he said.

“As per RBI guidelines and policy approved by bank boards, non-performing loans, including, inter-alia, those in respect of which full provisioning has been made on completion of four years are removed from the balance-sheet of the bank concerned by way of write-off," he said.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.