RBI Deputy Governor K C Chakrabarty has come down heavily on banks showing higher profits without providing adequately for bad loans, and said if need be, the central bank may hike provision coverage ratio (PCR) levels.
"Why banks need to show profits as high as 25 per cent? They can show 5 per cent growth in their profits. If they are not doing (providing more), I will increase it (PCR)," he said.
The RBI had done away with its earlier requirement of forcing banks to maintain the PCR, or the ratio of provision to gross non-performing assets (NPAs), at 70 per cent.
The apex bank had increased the PCR to 70 per cent after the Lehman crisis in 2008 and this was applicable till September, 2011. While almost all private banks have higher PCR, majority of the state-run lenders could not meet this deadline.
A number of public sector banks, especially the smaller ones, have shown a drop in PCR in the second quarter earnings and posted a good jump in profits as a result.
Speaking about NPAs of banks, Chakrabarty attributed a majority of them to poor administration and risk management practices of lenders and went to the extent of terming it as 'non-performing administration.'
"I call NPA as non-performing administration. We have to make the administration functioning," Chakrabarty, who oversees banking supervision at RBI, said.
Lending rates would have been far lower if banks had got their NPAs down, Chakrabarty said.
"It is a burden on the people who are paying the money. People forget that if NPAs would have been 1 per cent, banks' lending rates would have been 4 per cent lower with the same inflation, and same repo rate.
"That's why we should tackle NPAs -- not only for the survival of the system, but also for the survival of the customer," Chakrabarty said.
According to RBI data, the gross NPA ratios of the public sector banks stood at 3.3 per cent for the fiscal ended March 2012, up from 2.4 per cent a year ago, while the same for private lenders dropped to 2.1 per cent from 2.5 per cent.
A recent report by rating agency Icra warned the bad assets book of banks are set to cross Rs 2 lakh crore mark, or about 3.8 per cent of the total asset book, this fiscal.
Similarly, the report said the uncovered NPAs or net NPAs, despite the higher credit provisioning, increased from 1.1 per cent at end March 2011 to 1.5 per cent at end June 2012.
This led to an increase in net NPAs in relation to net worth from 10.5 per cent at the end of March 2011 to 14.4 per cent at the end of June 2012.
Chakrabarty said although the RBI is not worried about NPAs at present, "that does not mean we should be complacent."
"Banks should improve their credit management, the follow-up skills, recovery skills, and their systems which must help them in recovery," Chakrabarty said.
On the rising cases of corporate debt restructuring (CDR) in the current round of economic gloom, he said there is nothing bad with the method "if CDR can give life to the borrower".
"If the banks do an appraisal, re-appraisal and they are happy that the unit can come out then only restructure. Otherwise, (its) better for the account to die," he added.
"CDR is not a concern, CDR converted into an NPA is a concern," Chakrabarty said.