Vivek Kaul, columnist on economics and business and author of 'Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How it Threatens the Banking System', interviewed by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan (Scroll.in)

Vivek Kaul, columnist on economics and business and author of 'Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How it Threatens the Banking System', interviewed by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan (Scroll.in)

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published Published on Jul 18, 2020   modified Modified on Jul 18, 2020

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The author of ‘Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How It Threatens the Banking System’ speaks about Atmanirbhar Bharat and what the media gets wrong.

Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy of books on the history of banking and money and, most recently, of Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How it Threatens the Banking System. In lucid prose, Kaul draws out the history of India’s banking sector and how we got to a place where the challenge of fixing it seems nearly intractable.

Scroll.in spoke to Kaul about the current government’s economic policies, the hidden costs of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package and what everyone gets wrong about India’s beleagured banking sector.

* A major point of the book is that there are no free lunches in economics. Yet the 20 lakh crore package comes with a tiny percentage of actual fiscal spend. If you had to draw it out then, what is the hidden cost of a liquidity heavy package?

If you go through item by item, much of the package essentially depends on banks giving out loans to small and medium enterprises, to small borrowers and so on. The point here in a situation like this is a lot can go wrong.

I’ll go back a little in history. When the 2008 financial crisis struck, one of the reasons India managed to avoid going into a recession or even a slow growth environment was because Public Sector Banks were encouraged to go easy on lending, which means that they were pushed to give more loans than they would otherwise have. That was one of the factors which helped India continue to grow.

And in 2011, in fact, India grew at more than 10%. That’s the only time on record when the country has grown in double digits.

While all that easy lending essentially helped the economy for three years, after 2011 the situation started to turn, because banks had given out loans to a lot of corporate borrowers who were not in a position to repay. Now if a situation like that were to replay all over again, and I see no reason as to why it wouldn’t, then you are putting your banking system in danger all over again.

What we also need to realise here is that, other than banks being asked to go easy on lending, there are going to be a huge amount of defaults because of the negative impact of Covid-19. So once you put it all together you have a deadly cocktail, which is dangerous for the overall state of the economy.

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Scroll.in, 18 July, 2020, https://scroll.in/article/967756/only-policy-of-this-government-is-narrative-vivek-kaul-on-indias-banks-and-the-economy


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