Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at an Indian Banks’ Association function, in New Delhi. (PTI)
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday asked public sector banks (PSBs) to clear all pending MSME loan restructuring cases along with disbursement of all sanctioned loans by March 15. In order to push credit deployment in the economy, the minister said she will continue to hold meetings with bankers as “many of our branch level officials do not even have enough information on all our (government) schemes.”
Of the total 5.53 lakh MSME accounts identified for restructuring, 5.28 lakh accounts have been restructured and the remaining will be cleared by March 15, she said while speaking to reporters her after the Indian Banks’ Association function on ‘EASE 3.0: Smart, Tech-Enabled Banking for Aspiring India’. She also reviewed various government schemes for MSMEs with Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Nitin Gadkari.
The FM said the Central government is “closely monitoring” the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Indian economy. “Secretary-level officials are engaging with their respective industries. I had informed you about various options we have, including airlifting raw material for some specific sectors, resourcing from other countries. All these are being worked at the concerned department level. We will have quick review of all departments coming back with specific help that they may require,” she said.
Over 2,700 people have died due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), while the number of those infected is across the globe is around 80,000. In the wake of the virus outbreak, whose epicentre is China, many airlines — including Indian carriers — have cancelled some of their overseas flights.
To a query on the challenges facing the recently announced merger of banks, Sitharaman said “there is absolutely no uncertainty” on the consolidation process and the banks are going as per schedule to complete the integration. The government last September announced a mega amalgamation plan that merged 10 PSBs into four large entities. Four new sets of mergers are in process — Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India merging to form the country’s second-largest lender; amalgamation of Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank; Union Bank of India acquiring Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank; Indian Bank merging with Allahabad Bank.
Sitharaman also unveiled EASE 3.0, the public sector bank reforms agenda 2020-21 for smart, tech-enabled banking, which seeks to enhance ease of banking in all customer experiences, using technology, fintech, alternate data and analytics.
EASE is an Enhanced Access & Service Excellence index which ranks state-owned banks on several parameters to assess their performance and provide inputs for improvement.
As part of the EASE initiative during March 2018 to December 2019, banks worked on improvement in customer outreach, with dedicated marketing force increasing from 8,920 to 17,617 and turnaround time for loans reducing by 67 per cent from the average of nearly 30 days to nearly 10 days, the Finance Ministry said. Nearly 80 per cent of PSB customers now have access to over 35 services on mobile/internet banking, 23 services on call centres — nearly doubling over last 18 months.