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India pushes lending, asks banks for daily reports - sources

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Commuters walk past a bank sign along a road in New Delhi

By Nupur Anand and Aftab Ahmed

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's government has redoubled efforts to push state-run banks to boost lending and it has demanded that lenders submit a daily report detailing the volume and scale of loans sanctioned, according to industry sources and documents seen by Reuters.

The finance ministry, in a letter dated April 17 and seen by Reuters, asked banks to furnish detailed data on new loans, including particulars on what sectors were getting them.

The push comes after a recent 75 basis point rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and at a time when the banking system is flush with liquidity pumped in by the RBI to spur new lending and revive flagging growth.

The Indian economy is in a slump with tens of millions of jobs in jeopardy amid a 40-day nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Despite the RBI's push, several senior banking sector executives said lenders remain reluctant to open the tap amid fears of higher default rates with businesses and jobs at risk.

India's banking system is already reeling under nearly $140 billion in bad debt and it needs more guarantees from the government before banks can really start lending, said bankers, who asked not to be identified as they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

Some of the bankers said following the finance ministry push, certain state-run banks had started giving branch-wise targets to ensure lending was taking place and branch managers were being asked for clarification if targets were not met.

The government, however, has not given lenders any targets, one of the bankers said, adding it remained a commercial decision.

The finance ministry and the Indian Banks' Association, an industry body of lenders, did not respond to requests seeking comment.

The lending push comes after loan growth in the last financial year was at a 58-year low despite several attempts by the government to drive credit growth.

It also comes as the number of coronavirus cases in India top 20,000 and some states consider extending their lockdowns.

"The whole business of giving loans is based on money coming back so if there are concerns which are across the board now how can the banks lend?" said a senior executive of a public sector bank.

(Reporting by Nupur Anand and Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Euan Rocha, Robert Birsel)

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