November 12, 2018 / 2:52 PM / a month ago

India's RBI may review lending curbs, restructure some loans - Economic Times

MUMBAI, Nov 12 (Reuters) - India’s central bank is considering a loan restructuring package for small and medium sized businesses, as well as reviewing lending curbs on some banks, the Economic Times reported on Monday, in a move that could see the regulator bow to government pressure.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has barred 11 state-run banks from lending under the so-called prompt corrective action plan until they improve their capital ratios, reduce bad debt and become profitable.

But the central bank and the government have been at loggerheads in recent weeks with the latter ramping up pressure on the regulator to relax lending curbs and hand over surplus reserves.

The rift widened after RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya in a speech on Oct 26 warned that undermining central bank independence could be “potentially catastrophic”.

The package the Reserve Bank of India has agreed to explore, after analysing data from lending banks, could include some relaxation in the classification of non-performing assets, as well as providing loans to borrowers hit by the note ban and tax overhaul, the Economic Times’ report said.

Businesses in India have been hit by a chaotic rollout of a goods and service tax last year and a shock move to ban high value currency notes in late 2016 that have in turn hampered economic growth.

The RBI would also consider reviewing lending restrictions on banks which had reported an improvement in their financials as of September 30, the Economic Times said, citing a person familiar with the discussions.

The RBI and Finance Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Although the government has said it respects the autonomy of the central bank, sources told Reuters last week the government will turn up the heat at the RBI’s central board of directors meeting on Nov. 19.

Reporting by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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