Andhra reply to MFI ordinance soon

Last Updated: Sat, Nov 13, 2010 18:50 hrs

Tight liquidity continues; rise in bank rates likely for such lending.

The Andhra Pradesh government will take some time to reply in the high court to the petitions filed against the Andhra Pradesh Microfinance Institutions (Regulation of Money Lending) Ordinance, issued last month.

The Microfinance Institutions Network (MFIN), SKS Micro Finance and Spandana Sphoorty Financial have filed petitions saying the ordinance threatens to disrupt their business. The government sought an extension after the two weeks deadline for filing a counter-affidavit lapsed on November 9.

"Several petitions are being filed against the ordinance. There are also a few petitions, supposedly by the borrowers, questioning the government’s intent to impose only a monthly mode of collections. We are ready with the counter but will take some time to address the various petitions," said a senior official. This is the first month when MFIs will make monthly collections. Earlier, barring a few, all followed a weekly collection cycle.

Operational issues
MFIN said liquidity with MFIs had almost dried up, with collections during the past month having fallen a dramatic 50-90 per cent. MFIN felt this could be addressed if banks set up a Rs 1,000-crore liquidity easing channel.

With the risks of lending to MFIs magnified due to the recent ordinance, banks are likely to increase the interest rates at which they lend to MFIs. "Obviously, banks will price their loans based on the risk assessment," said Alok Prasad, chief executive officer of MFIN. He said an increase in bank rates would put a spanner in the plans of MFIs to reduce rates for borrowers.

Trident Microfinance’s Managing Director P Kishore Kumar said banks might reconsider their interest rates in view of the dried-up liquidity position of the MFIs. He, however, said the credit lines were slowly reopening.

MFIs also seem wary of approaching the banks for new loans. "There are no requests for new loans from the MFIs," said the managing director of State Bank of Hyderabad, Renu Challu. SBH had an exposure of about Rs 60 crore to the microfinance sector as of September.

"The problems in the microfinance sector would not have been so grave if banks had adhered to the Reserve Bank of India guidelines on extending loans to MFIs. They do not permit an MFI to lend to a self-help group," a government official noted.

MFIN also asked the government to allow it to recover money on a weekly basis for at least some time, particularly in urban areas, as the earning cycle of the borrowers is more suited for weekly collections.

No new microfinance loans were being given in Andhra Pradesh, which accounts for a third of the total outstanding of about Rs 30,000 crore.

Bank relief
Meanwhile, the State Level Bankers’ Committee last week decided to take up a special campaign in November to clear the backlog in lending, to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore, to SHGs. According to the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty, the nodal agency for SHGs, there was a gap of Rs 2,000 crore during October. This was one reason SHGs take loans from MFIs.

SLBC directed all branches to clear pending SHG applications and also sanction loans. It also asked banks not to lock the money in deposits.

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