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What I want in 2004

January 02, 2004

Following is an imaginary New Year's wish-list for leaders of the financial world:

Y V Reddy, governor, Reserve Bank of India:
If the general elections take place in late April or early May, there won't be a regular Budget but a vote-on-account.

That's fine for the government but it makes the central bank's job difficult because, if elections are held in April, when the credit policy is due, we won't have a Budget as a platform on which the policy can be built.

Traditionally, the April credit policy always carries forward the message of the Budget. There have been many a occasion when my predecessor Bimal Jalan cut the bank rate and/or repo rate hours after the Budget and took it forward further in the policy announcement.

If it's a vote-on-account, we may have to convert the mid-term review of the credit policy in October/November as the main policy document and maintain status quo in April.

We were hoping that the Budget will make provisions for issuing Market Stabilisation Bonds to mop up liquidity from the system.

That way, the cost of sterilisation that has now been borne by the Reserve Bank of India would have been passed on to the government. If there is no regular Budget in February, that plan will also go for a toss.

Rakesh Mohan, deputy governor, Reserve Bank of India:
We are hoping the government appoints the third deputy governor fast. Vepa Kamesam retired on December 23 and till now there is no move to fill in the slot.

Both K J Udeshi and I are sharing Kamesam's portfolio, in addition to what we have been doing. For the time being, portfolios like exchange control, rural credit, urban cooperative banks and Deposit Insurance & Credit Guarantee Corporation have gone to Udeshi while administration, HRD, infotech and export credit have come to me. Isn't that too much work? We need time to concentrate on serious issues....

A K Purwar, chairman, State Bank of India:
My outlook for the new year is no different from that of my five predecessors: the cap on foreign institutional investors limit in the bank should be lifted.

FII exposure in State Bank of India is capped at 20 per cent. And mind you, that includes the global depository receipts holders too.

Since GDR holders account for about 9 per cent of the SBI stake, the FIIs can play around with only 11 per cent stake. I hope the government increases this cap. This will help the SBI stock to realise its real value.

This, however, should not give the impression that I want the SBI stock to hit the sky. Frankly, I don't look at the market.

We should do well. Since I took over as chairman in late 2001, my philosophy has been launching a new product every month. Well, we have been doing that. Companies are not borrowing from banks, so we must attack retail lenders. We must step up our aggression.

If the metro markets are saturated, let's get into urban and semi-urban markets to offer home loans and car loans. India is a vast country and the SBI family has over 14,000 branches. It should not be very difficult to bull-doze competition....

K V Kamath, managing director and CEO, ICICI Bank:
The economy is growing. India is shining. Indian corporations are showing to the world that they can be competitive.

They are cutting flab, consolidating and even setting up shops abroad. Look at sectors like auto and auto ancillaries. We are thriving.

Coming out of the shadows of recession, companies are now planning to make fresh investments. They are approaching us with concrete proposals.

But we will not allow them to go ahead without our approval. We will take a close look at the financing pattern, debt equity ratio and so on before saying yes to new investments.

M Damodaran, chairman, IDBI:
We need to look for a medium-size public sector bank with very low non-performing asset levels and a reasonably high portfolio of government securities which is ready to be merged with IDBI.

That will help us to convert ourselves into a full-fledged bank. We have got a five-year regulatory forbearance on the statutory liquidity ratio norms but if we get a suitable match for IDBI, we will not be required to wait for five years.

We will set up about 100 branches this year to increase our reach. We also need to change the name of IDBI Bank as there cannot be two banks by the same name. Last but not the least, we need to cut flab. The board has taken a look at the VRS proposal. We need to implement it....

P S Shenoy, chairman and managing director, Bank of Baroda:
My dream is to make Bank of Baroda a global bank. Infotech consultant firm Gartner has already chalked out the plan for the IT platform.

Once the core banking solution is in place, we can really march forward. Now that my executive director A K Khandelwal is moving to head a bank, I pray I get a good deputy. After all, you need two to tango.

O N Singh, chairman and managing director, Allahabad Bank:
Kolkata is the backwaters of the financial world but that will not deter me from doing well. I will reposition Allahabad Bank. Nothing can stop me from doing that.

A G Joshi, outgoing chairman and managing director, Dena Bank:
I have done a good job at Dena Bank. The board did not allow me to go for the second public issue which I could have done before my tenure came to an end. It would have been ideal as the market is on fire.

After my retirement, the RBI must reward me by at least appointing me as ombudsman in some state. That is, if they do not want to consider me for the deputy governor's post.

B D Narang, chairman and managing director, Oriental Bank of Commerce:
I have taken a close look at all the retail accounts of the bank. The signs are not very positive. Some of the borrowers are delaying payments and the NPA levels in home loans and personal finance segments are increasing.

We must tighten our belts before it is too late. We have to do that because in the public sector we are the first zero-NPA bank.

P S Shenoy, chairman and managing director, Bank of Baroda; P S Kohli, chairman and managing director, Punjab National Bank; P Venketachalam, managing director, State Bank of India; and V Leeladhar, chairman and managing director, Union Bank (collectively):

Let the government decide which commercial banker will succeed Vepa Kamesam as the third deputy governor. We are all friends and will wish each other the very best to whoever gets the job. We feel as though we are in the final round of the Miss World competition waiting for the announcement. The suspense is killing.

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