India is going to emerge as the fourth largest economy in the world by 2025 with a GDP of about $5 trillion. With that, India needs to address financial credit access to its rural population that today constitutes about 66% but having an economic contribution of 15%. To achieve a figure like this, the country needs to create 10 million jobs a year, which can be best achieved by meeting the credit needs of small businesses. Moreover, meeting the gap requirements of infrastructure investments, of over US$ 526 billion over the next 20 years is another challenge. Fact scan, check. Problem Statement, check.
Now let’s look at what the parallel banking sector has in store for us
A quick google check tells us that it is a term for the collection of non-bank financial intermediaries that provide services similar to traditional commercial banks but outside normal banking regulations. A simple solution. Empower NBFC’s. Check.
It is likely that the next 5-year period will be marked by corporate CAPEX cycle as well as continued Government spending in the Infrastructure sector. Assuming a steady Credit-GDP ratio of 85% and a nominal GDP CAGR of 10-11% suggests that the banking cum NBFC credit can increase by 12-13% CAGR to touch levels of US$ 2.7 trillion by 2025. The question arises, can our present banking infrastructure support this requirement or do we need more vibrant participation by NBFC’s?
In the last few years, the ratio of Manufacturing & Industry – Credit to GDP has consistently fallen from 79% (2013-14) to 72% (2018-19). Indeed, this was the period marked with NPA’s that fettered the bank’s ability to lend to the manufacturing sector. On the other hand, the NBFC’s share of credit-GDP ratio has gone up substantially from 6.5% in FY-08 to 19.1% in FY-18. Participation of NBFC’s has been across the value chain from high-risk and un-collateralised credit to mortgage financing for salaried class.
Clearly, the approach going forward will require a massive expansion of a banking network, re-tooling the NBFC’s for expansion of credit especially to small businesses, creation of a dedicated Rural banks, specialised NBFC’s for diverse assets, and other measures that would stimulate private investment and provide mechanisms to promote project financing and infrastructure development.
In India, we have the situation that banks finance large businesses, medium and small businesses, home mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, and credit cards, each of which have totally diverse risk management requirements. Should we not adopt the model of the developed economies where there are specialised financial institutions for different assets? While we do have housing finance companies, NABARD for Agri-credit, NBFC’s for auto loans etc, the need is to allow a larger number of NBFC’s specialised in the diverse asset class. This enables focused risk management, relevant to the nature of the asset being financed.
Presently, the NBFC’s balance sheets are pre-dominantly funded from the banking sector. NBFC’s access to public deposits is very tightly regulated by the RBI due to issues of the past.
Moreover, the rising importance and the geographic reach of the NBFC’s especially to the small businesses requires a refreshing look on the allowing the NBFC’s to tap the public deposits and making them as cost-effective competitors to the banking sector. The fear of default or misuse of public funds by NBFC’s can be managed by the deployment of technology to manage the risks on a real-time basis.
Another challenge for India is to finance its massive infrastructure requirements estimated at US$1.5tn over the next 20 years (“Around US$4.5trillion worth of investments is required by India till 2040 to develop infrastructure to improve economic growth and community wellbeing. The current trend shows that India can meet around US$ 3.9trillion infrastructure investment out of US$ 4.5trillion. The cumulative figure for India’s infrastructure investment gap would be around US$ 526bilion by 2040.” – Economic Survey 2017-18).
The key issue plaguing the financing of infrastructure is a lack of long-term debt market in India. Perhaps, the time has come to allow a relaxation of the present rating norms for the investment of 5-10% of the corpus of pension funds, insurance funds and provident funds to invest in A-rated infrastructure finance companies.
The banking sector has limited ability to provide project finance, which acts as a barrier to attract private investments in new projects. Perhaps, we need to once again revive the old concept of development financial institutions (DFI’s) that will take the lead in providing project finance. The business model could be that the DFI’s are owned by the Government and international financing institutions – investment funds. The proceeds of bank privatization could partly offset the capitalization requirement of the DFI’s from the Government.
Let us now look at what could be done to the existing banking sector:
In the 1970s and 80’s the nationalization of the banking sector was to support and promote the socialistic economic ideology. Since 1992 India has been on a path of private capitalization and has aborted the socialistic pattern of economic development. This being so, why is our banking sector still Government-owned? We have also evidenced that Governmental control of the banking sector necessarily implies that the banks must fall in line with Government guided lending directives whether they make economic sense or not. The saga of NPA’s and loan waivers proves the above and establishes the basis of Government divestment in the commercial banks. The privatization proceeds so received by the Government should be used to capitalize the launch of rural banks. Ideally, the State Governments should join hands with the Centre – RBI for capitalization of the rural banks.
In conclusion, if in the next 11-12 years India is to emerge as a $7 trillion economy thus being the third largest in the world, and if we are to ensure an economic development percolates to the bottom of the pyramid, we will need banking reforms which lead to:
- Privatization of existing PSU commercial banks
- Expanding the participation of Small Finance Banks, as well as allowing a level playing field for the NBFC’s to raise public deposits
- Establishment of Rural banks with technology support
- Establishment of Development Financial Institution’s to provide project financing support to private and PPP projects
- Creation of a long-term debt market, and
- Commercial banks to focus on doing short to medium term loans and consumer loans.