Old wine, New Bottle: The Hindu BusinessLine Editorial

The Hindu BusinessLine Editorial

Old Wine, New Bottle: The Hindu Editorial

The Sunil Mehta panel’s proposals on the banks’ NPA problem are anything but original
Project ‘Sashakt’ - the Sunil Mehta-led committee’s five-point plan on bad loan resolution - offers little by way of any actionable plan to tackle the issues at hand (what is being discussed right now). The committee’s five-pronged (having five branches of a mainstream) strategy is nothing but a shoddy (badly made) attempt to politicise cleaning up of banks’ balance sheet and state the obvious, after the initial intent of setting up an asset reconstruction company to take over bad loans ran aground (ruined). For instance, the bank-led resolution approach suggested for loans of ₹50-500 crore, is nothing new. The lead bank — in a consortium lending — preparing a resolution plan, to be approved by 66 per cent of the lenders (by value) is only a mere tweak (a fine adjustment to a mechanism or system) at best, to the earlier JLF (the joint lenders’ forum) structure that failed miserably. The real challenge that banks faced with the JLF was to get everybody on board and build consensus on debt restructuring. Rather than address this issue, the report ends abruptly, setting a 180-day deadline for resolution, taking lead from the RBI’s February circular on stressed assets. The structure also fails to serve the interests of smaller banks — as in the case of JLF — which, unlike the larger ones, may not be willing to throw good money after bad, if restructuring involves additional finance.
On larger loans — above ₹500 crore — the committee, which rightly points out the lacunae (loophole) in the existing functioning of asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), fails to elaborate on how such issues will be tackled under the proposed Asset Management Company (AMC) or Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) structure. Unwillingness on the part of the banks to downsize loans, and identify the serviceable portion of debt, has been a key challenge under earlier restructuring schemes such as SDR, or while offloading loans to ARCs. Unless banks are willing and able to take large haircuts, price discovery through open auction, as proposed under the AMC/AIF approach, mean little. Inability to attract capital, owing to regulatory headwinds and poor recovery, has been a key reason for the lacklustre (lacking in vitality, force, or conviction)performance by the existing 26 ARCs. While the report talks of raising funds from institutional investors for the AIF, it is unclear, how capital — which has eluded (avoided compliance with) existing ARC players — will start to flow. Unattractive returns and poor recovery rates have dissuaded investors from taking the plunge (jump or dive quickly and energetically).
‘Strong independent governance’, ‘paradigm (framework of any system/organisation) shift in risk process’ and ‘no government intervention’ — words strewn (scattered) across the Mehta panel’s report — come across as mere rhetoric. . Empowering boards, setting a roadmap for consolidation and the Centre diluting its stake in PSBs are long awaited structural reforms that have sadly been put on the backburner (postpone consideration of action). Instead, quick-fixes such as arm-twisting LIC to rescue IDBI Bank have taken centre-stage. Unless the Centre shows some ‘tough love’ and pushes through reforms, any new proposal to tackle banks’ NPA problem will only remain a cosmetic measure.


1. Issues at hand (Phrase) – What is being discussed right now

2. Pronged (Adjective) – Having branch of a Stream (शाखदार)
Synonyms – Spike, Fork, Hook, Horn, Nib, Point, Spine, Spur, Tine

3. Shoddy (Adjective) – Badly made (तुच्छ)
Synonyms – Inferior, Cheap, Cheapjack, Tawdry, Trashy, Gimcrack, Crude, Tacky, Tatty, Ropy, Duff, Rubbish, Grotty, Careless, Slapdash, Sloppy, Slipshod, Untidy, Messy, Hasty, Hurried, Negligent, Cursory
Antonyms – Noble, Refined, Sophisticated, Superior, Fine, Nice

4. Ran aground (Phrase) – Ruined (विध्वस्त)
Synonyms – Batter, Cripple, Decimate, Demolish, Devastate, Disable, Impair, Injure, Mangle, Mar, Ravage, Raze, Sabotage, Shatter, Sink, Smash, Spoil, Trash, Undermine, Vandalize, Wrack
Antonyms – Aid, Assist, Build, Construct, Cure, Enable, Fix, Grow, Heal, Help, Improve, Mend, Strengthen

5. Tweak (Noun) –  A fine adjustment to a mechanism or system (सुधारना)
Synonyms – Adjustment, Modification, Alteration, Change, Adaptation, Refinement, Improvement

6. Lacunae (Noun) – Loophole (कमी)

7. Lacklustre (Adjective) – Lacking in vitality, force, or conviction (फीका)
Synonyms – Uninspired, Unimaginative, Dull, Humdrum, Bland, Insipid, Vapid, Flat, Dry, Lifeless, Listless, Tame, Prosaic, Mundane, Spiritless, Lustreless, Apathetic, Torpid, Monotonous, Dreary, Tedious, Wearisome
Antonyms – Bright, Enthusiastic, Lively, Shining, Shiny, Spirited

8. Elude (Verb) – To avoid compliance with something (बच निकलना)
Synonyms – Baffle, Confound, Dodge, Evade, Flee, Foil, Frustrate, Outrun, Outwit, Puzzle, Shun, Stall, Stonewall, Thwart
Antonyms – Abet, Aid, Assist, Clarify, Encourage, Enlighten, Explain, Support

9. Plunge (Verb) – To jump or dive quickly and energetically (दाँव लगान)

10. Paradigm (Noun) – Framework of any system/organisation (रूपतालिका)
Synonyms – Pattern, Criterion, Archetype

11. Strewn (Verb) – Scattered (बिखरा हुआ)
Synonyms – Spread, Disperse, Distribute, Litter, Toss, Sprinkle, Sow, Broadcast
Antonyms – Gather

12. Backburner (Verb) – Postpone consideration of action (ठंडे बस्ते में)

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