MUMBAI: Banks that restructured Rs 7,200 crore of debt to microfinance institutions are staring at a possible write off as several of these institutions are finding it difficult to recover loans in Andhra Pradesh.
Lenders had bailed out microfinance institutions (MFIs) such as Spandana Sphoorty Financial, Asmitha Microfin, Share Microfin, Trident Microfin, Future Financial Services and Basix in 2011 after the Andhra Pradesh government passed a law to regulate MFIs.
“MFIs have not been able to recover any loan. The restructuring has failed. They have not been able to recover any money from Andhra Pradesh,” said a senior banker close to the development.
MFIs had sought the Reserve Bank of India’s nod for a second round of restructuring, but the regulator rejected the request. “If banks were to restructure loans of troubled microfinance institutions for the second time, they will not get any benefit in terms of provisioning,” RBI Deputy Governor Anand Sinha had said at a recent banking conference. “We do not stop second restructuring. But what we say is that asset classification benefit will not be available to banks. The RBI does not stand in the way of second time debt restructuring.”
RBI prescribes that if a borrower, who is already into corporate debt restructuring, has to avail of loan recast again, then its banks will have to provide 15% of the recast loan amount as provision. This has increased the trouble for banks and MFIs.
“Banks are staring at a possible write off unless the state government changes its stance and conveys the message that it is the duty of every borrower to repay debt. There are about 92 lakh defaulters in Andhra Pradesh, which has affected their credit history,” said Vijay Mahajan, founder and chairman of Basix, a livelihood financial services group.
“The average ticket size of the loan is around Rs 7,000. We had also offered to waive off the interest charged on loan after October 2010. This would mean an interest loss of three years. Borrowers would have to repay only the principle. It is for the government to decide,” he said.
Mahajan said the legislation passed by Andhra Pradesh has several provisions that make it difficult for MFIs to recover their dues.
“It requires MFIs to take government permission for every fresh loan granted. This is cumbersome. We are also not permitted to visit the borrower’s house or work place for collection of loan. We have to meet the borrower at a public place or panchayat office,” Mahajan said, adding that there have been no recoveries in the past two years.
Andhra Pradesh-based MFIs have been facing repayment pressures after the state government in October 2010 passed the Microfinance Act to check alleged coercive recovery practices of these institutions. The Act, apart from other provisions, also mandates MFIs to collect loan payments on a monthly basis as against the earlier practice of weekly collections, which has further hit their collections.
In December 2010, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh passed a law that severely restricted the operations of micro-finance institutions and brought the micro-finance industry to an abrupt halt. We measure the impact of micro-credit withdrawal in this unique natural experiment and find that average household expenditure dropped by 19 percent relative to a control group after the ban. The largest decrease was observed in expenditure on food. There is some evidence of higher volatility in consumption after the ban. All households were affected and not just the borrower households, which may suggest general equilibrium effects.