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DW Exclusive: Will RBI’s relief measures work for Diamantaires?
While the Coronavirus Pandemic may be brought under control due to the total lockdown, the Indian economy may need ventilator support in the near future. Industry veterans discuss the problem and suggest solutions
By: Diamond World News Service
Mar 30 2020 6:28PM
Reference: 24842  


Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Shaktikanta Das on March 27 announced some measures to counter the economic slowdown caused by the ongoing pandemic. Just a day before finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had released a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package to help the poor and needy tackle problems owing to 21-day lockdown across the country.

Here are the key takeaways from RBI governor's address:

1) Repo rate and reverse repo rate have been cut by 74 bps and 90 bps respectively. "The repo rate has been reduced by 75 basis points to 4.4 per cent. The reserve repo rate has been reduced by 90 basis points to 4 per cent," Das said addressing the media. Repo rate is the key interest rate at which the RBI lends short-term funds to commercial banks.

2) All commercial banks and lending institutions can now allow a three-month moratorium on all loans outstanding on 1 March 2020.

3) Cash reserve ratio (CRR) of all banks to be cut by 100 bps to 3%. Cash reserve ratio is the amount of cash commercial banks have to mandatorily park with the Reserve Bank of India.

4) Incremental CCB (capital conservation buffer) implementation deferred from 30 March 2020 to 30 September 2020.

5) Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) was required to be introduced from 1 April 2020. Will defer NSFR implementation to October 2020.

7) RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das predicted a big global recession and said India will not be immune to it. It all depends how India responds to the situation, he said.


Will these measures benefit the gems and jewellery industry?

All said and done, will these measures really benefit the gems and jewellery industry? Says, Executive Director GJEPC, Sabyasachi Ray, “The announcements are good and will be beneficial for the business community, however, banks have the freedom to exercise their own discretion in choosing industries. It is here that we request commercial banks to earmark considerably good percentage of their credit provision for the gems and jewellery industry.” Currently, jewellers need working capital loans, as they have fixed overheads and no business to support it. In such cases, banks should consider giving loans to this industry, because this industry is one of the highest grossing segments supporting the Indian GDP and employing over five lakh work force across India. “I applaud the government’s and RBI’s effort to ease liquidity in banks and ensure that the business community is not at a loss, in such difficult times,” he added.

Commercial banks’ perspective

Explaining the measures from the perspective of commercial banks, P N Prasad, “The RBI has cut CRR and reduced repo rate and reverse repo rate also has been brought down; commercial banks will undoubtedly be able to give out loans to more and more businesses. This will also go to the gems and jewellery industry. However, due to high rate of defaulters that this industry has been seeing in the past, they are losing their creditworthiness to some extent. At the ECGC (Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India) forum, Prasad had recently proposed that insurance facility should be given for loans to the gems and jewellery industry to improve the situation and safeguard interest of commercial banks. “We have been working with the government and the ECGC to ease the norms for funding to the gems and jewellery industry, they have been working on some package to make funding for the sector easier and ensure banks’ interest as well.”

The gems and jewellery industry has two major segments, domestic and export. “We are also promoting our retail segment gold loans. These are offered to jewellers, the rate of interest on this loan is lower and therefore is easier for jewellers to borrow and repay as well,” informed Prasad.

Economic crisis inevitable, Asian countries will recover faster

According to Vipul Shah, incumbent Ex-Chairman of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC). The CEO & managing director of Asian Star Co. Ltd., this was a first lot of measures announced by RBI, there will be more measures which they will announce, which will be more beneficial for business houses. “These points have been taken up by many of us through our representation to the government authorities. Finance ministry and RBI are looking into the needs of the industry and we are hopeful that they will take necessary steps at the earliest. The only challenge here, is to implement the facilities announced by RBI. In this total lockdown, how will banks implement RBI directives and how will the gems and jewellery industry really take the benefits that are being offered, that is the real challenge.” Based on his vast experience and study of the industry Shah feels, big nations of the West will be the worst affected economies. Asian countries, however, due to their frugal habits, stand a better chance of recovering from the crisis faster.

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