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RBI eases bad-loan rules, cuts reverse repo rate

 MUMBAI, April 17 - The RBI on Friday further eased bad-loan rules, froze dividend payment by lenders and pushed banks to lend more by cutting the reverse repo rate by 25 basis points, as it unveiled a second set of measures to support the economy hit hard by a coronavirus-led slowdown.

 In his second televised address since the nationwide lockdown began from March 25, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das pledged to boost liquidity and expand bank credit.

In a measure that effectively meant that bad loans or non-performing asset (NPA) classification will now happen after 180 days instead of the current policy of 90 days of payment default, the RBI announced an asset status freeze on loans that have been granted moratorium or deferment on interest/principal payment.

This would cover the borrowers of both banks and NBFCs.

This means that the moratorium period will not lead to a spurt in NPAs in the system and will allow the borrowers across retail, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and corporates availing the moratorium to access additional funding from banks or non-banking financial companies (NBFCs).

Das, however, said lenders will have to make an additional provision of 10 per cent for those exposures under moratorium.

RBI cut reverse repurchase rate, a tool to control the money supply, to 3.75 per cent with immediate effect to encourage banks to deploy surplus funds within the system towards lending.

The reverse repo rate cut will discourage banks from parking cash with the RBI and encourage them to lend to the economy.

It kept its benchmark repo rate, which was reduced late last month, unchanged at 4.40 per cent.

The central bank also allowed states to borrow 60 per cent more via ways and means advance facility available and extended the increased limit until September 30.

To preserve capital, RBI asked banks not to pay any further dividends for the fiscal year ended March 31.

“It is imperative that banks conserve capital to retain their support for the economy and absorb losses in an environment of heightened uncertainty,” Das said.

The dividend curbs will be reviewed in the quarter ending September 30.

Regulators around the globe have similarly advised lenders to cut or delay dividends so as to ensure that they have enough buffers to weather what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts to be the worst global recession since the 1930s.

RBI will inject Rs 50,000 crore in a new round of targeted long-term repo operations and asked banks to use the funds availed through this facility to benefit NBFCs and micro-finance institutions among others. – PTI

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