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Amid slowdown, RBI Governor hints at softer approach on rates

Mumbai: Indicating a softer approach on rate cuts in the wake of economic slowdown, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das on Monday said growth is the top priority at a time when the Indian banking system is facing many challenges.

In his inaugural address at the Indian Banks’ Association annual flagship conference, FIBAC 2019, here, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor also said the real test for public sector banks (PSBs) is their ability to tap the capital market to raise funds. 

“Growth is the top priority today, but it is important to look at financial stability along with growth. Business community is dealing with real challenges in the economy. The MPC (monetary policy committee) finds growth to be the highest priority at this juncture”, Das said.

The BSE Sensex at 37631.50 points at noon on Monday was up 0.75 per cent.

In its fourth consecutive bi-monthly monetary policy rate cut made ealier this month, the RBI lowered the repo rate by an unprecedented 35 basis points to 5.4 per cent.

Das said he expected banks to move quicker on linking the lending rates with the RBI’s repo, or short term lending rate for commercial banks, towards better transmission to support consumption and demand. 

“The real test For PSBs is the ability to access the capital market. Increasing currency and debt crisis globally adds headwinds to financial stability. Weaker than expected global growth is one of the risks to financial stability. There are global headwinds from geopolitical and trade tensions”, he said. 

Underlining the need for a robust non-banking finance company (NBFC) system, the Governor said the RBI is exploring the regulatory changes needed for housing finance companies (HFCs) and has sent suggestions on PSB reforms to the government. 

“We want to ensure a robust and stable NBFC system. The size of NBFC sector forms 25 per cent of combined financial services in India. The RBI is also analysing the regulatory changes needed for housing finance companies”, he said. 

“RBI stress tests indicate that NPAs (non-performing assets or bad loans) may decline by March 2020 and the central bank is keeping close watch on inter-connects between banks and NBFCs”, he added. 

He also said that although state-run banks’ profitability has been lacklustre despite strong capitalisation, the banking system in India is resilient enough to withstand external economic shocks. 

The Indian economy is in grip of a severe slowdown, while the domestic automobile sector is facing its worst crisis in 20 years.

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