Gurgaon: An expert panel will be set up shortly to devise a strategy for consolidation of public sector banks as India needs stronger lenders rather than a "numerically large number" of them, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today.
He also said the government is considering ESOPs for PSU bank officials besides strengthening the SARFAESI Act and Debt Recovery Tribunals to deal with the problems of stressed assets that are estimated at around Rs 8 lakh crore in the banking system as whole.
Addressing a press conference at the conclusion of the second edition of Gyan Sangam, Jaitley stressed banks will have to clear their balance-sheets through effective recovery.
"As far as recovery is concerned, whatever steps have to be taken with regard to recovery banks have various rights for recovery through DRT, SDR... Neither loan waiver has been given to anyone, nor will be given," he said.
He said consolidation of state-owned banks was discussed at the two-day meeting and bankers themselves have suggested that an expert group should be set up to look into the issue.
"We will consider that suggestion," the minister said, adding that the country needs stronger banks rather than a large number of lenders.
Jaitley said consolidation is Budget announcement and it will get "top most priority" and the "Experts' Group would be constituted immediately".
The panel, he said, will consider issues like "what is the best course of consolidation, where do you start from, which are the banks to be consolidated, entire issue of consolidation...so that we can have strong banks. There is a weak link in the chain, that is probably what group would decide".
The panel would also deliberate whether weak banks should be merged with stronger ones or regional banks.
The other idea which was suggested at the meeting was to give PSU employees with Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
"Government is considering (ESOPs). It is in very advanced stage...It has been long standing demand, and is (under) an active consideration," Jaitley said.
With regard to the rising Non-Performing Assets or bad loans, Jaitley said that besides strengthening the institutional mechanism, the government has been taking sector specific decisions to deal with the problems in segments like power, highways, sugar and steel.
Giving more details on the deliberations, he said there are suggestions to amend SARFESI ACT and also expedite the DRT process by some more amendments to law.
"The Department of Financial Services is working in that direction and work is in fairly advanced stage," he said, adding that DRT will become the country's first online court.
"We are anxiously waiting for report of the Joint Committee on Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law. That will create a structural and institutional mechanism which will help the bank as lenders," the minister said.
On the NPA situation in the banking sector, Jaitley said banks are taking steps to recovery bad loans.
In the current global environment, Jaitley said, banks have to take all the measures in order to clean up their books by effecting recoveries.
He also said that there are some sector specific decisions which are required to be taken by the government.
These include, power, highways, sugar and steel.
To a question related to setting up of a 'bad bank', Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said the issues related to asset reconstruction companies and stressed assets were discussed.
During the bankers' meet, representatives of McKinsey and Company, the knowledge partners at the event, provided a perspective on current state of banks in India.
As in the previous year, Working Groups consisting of senior public sector bankers, subject matter experts, senior personnel from RBI and DFS were set-up.
The Groups brainstormed on detailing-out initiatives in five key areas NPA management, Restructuring (Mergers and Acquisitions), Credit Growth, Technology and Risk Management.
The Groups had intense debates on the issues facing the sector, potential solutions and key initiatives to be taken to help resolution.