Govt must bail out troubled big borrowers at time: CEA

The government needs to bail out large corporate borrowers at times in a capitalist system though it may lead to charges of cronyism, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian has said, while supporting the idea of a ‘national bad bank’.

Conceding that bailing out big borrowers will lead to the allegations of corruption and crony capitalism, he underlined that at times there is no other way to solve the problem but to write off the mountain of debt.

The Non Performing Assets (NPAs) or bad loans in the banking system, particularly state-owned lenders, more than doubled to Rs 6.95 trillion (Rs 6.95 lakh crore) or over 9.3 per cent in 2015-16 from close to Rs 2.97 trillion 2012-13.

As of December 2016, the total stressed assets, including restructured accounts, amounted to more than 15 per cent of the total advances.

In order to tackle the mounting NPAs, there have been suggestions from various quarters to set up a ‘bad bank’, which Subramanian said could be a state-owned entity to collect banks’ sour assets and try to resolve the stress, which may include writing off the bad loans where there is no scope of revival.

“It is a very difficult problem and not unique to India. No political system finds it easy to forgive debt to the private sector, especially to big companies,” he said, while delivering the Hormis Memorial Lecture organised by Federal Bank in Kochi.

“You need to be able to forgive those debts because this is how capitalism works. People make mistakes, those have to be forgiven to some extent,” he said.

“Political system has to be able to do that and bad bank is one way of trying to do that,” he said.


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