Raghav’s Take: 2nd Wave of NPAs? Here’s What the Govt Can Do

Second wave of NPAs to jabs for the foreign-bound, The Quint’s Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views.

2 min read
Indian financial sector’s second wave of non-performing assets and government’s initiative to allow students headed abroad to break the vaccine queue, <b>The Quint</b>‘s Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on some recent and pertinent developments.

Indian financial sector's second wave of non-performing assets and government's initiative to allow students headed abroad to break the vaccine queue, The Quint's Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on some recent and pertinent developments.

India's Financial Sector Sees 2nd Wave of NPAs; Here's What Can Be Done:

India’s financial sector seems to be slipping into a horrendous second wave of non-performing assets (NPAs).

The latest estimates suggest that more than 15% of the total bank credit of over one hundred lakh crore could have turned sour. The situation for smaller outfits in the travel, retail, and hospitality sectors is dire. Just too many of them are understandably bankrupt since revenues have been near-zero, or a low fraction of normal times for nearly a year now.

This is “invisible bankruptcy”, which will lead to massive closures once liabilities are “called in or foreclosed” by banks. That amount of capital destruction will be fatal. Any sensitive and intelligent government should understand that this is an artificial graveyard. Businesses that could bounce back to health once normal operations resume are currently sick simply because they’ve run out of cash.

It’s an ephemeral illness which is curable. So what should be done?

Instead of acting in dribbles as the government has been doing, it should take an axe to this fleeting problem by declaring FYs 20-21 and 21-22 as “financial zero years”, ie, the entire outstanding debt and accumulated interest for these 24 months should be “rolled forward” in a restructured loan.

I am stating just the principle of what should be done. The nuts and bolts can be crafted by experts. Several models/options can be created, which should ensure that small businesses don’t fold up for want of cash/credit during these 24 months.

I understand that critics will pounce on me for advocating “moral hazard”. But I am not asking for interest forbearance or debt write-offs. I am pushing for a sensible, practical, long-term restructuring of liabilities so that a temporary, 24-month shortage of cash/credit does not lead to massive closures of otherwise healthy businesses. C’mon GOI, please act now.

Students Headed Abroad Allowed to Break The Vaccine Queue: An Initiative That Deserves Applause

Finally, if you believe that “governments can do no right in my playbook”, here is one initiative that I would unreservedly applaud, wherein people who need to go overseas – whether students or employees or athletes for the Tokyo Olympics – are being allowed to “break the queue” and get preferential jabs to qualify as per destination norms.

This is a proactive move by a usually behind-the-curve state. It’s being criticised for being an iniquitous policy, especially against students who are planning to stay in India.

I agree, in a perfect world, in utopia, if vaccines were available on tap for everybody, it’s iniquitous to launch such a preferential scheme. But when there is a crippling paucity, and you have to choose the lesser evil, then it’s better to not kill the dreams and aspirations of a few adventurous souls rather than stick to theoretical tenets of “equality”.

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