New labour codes introduced in India and the United Arab Emirates will help to ensure social security of employees, ensure quantum leap in employment opportunities - Business Guardian
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New labour codes introduced in India and the United Arab Emirates will help to ensure social security of employees, ensure quantum leap in employment opportunities

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The Central Government intends to promulgate the new codified labour law on wages, social security, occupation safety, industrial relations, health and working conditions. The Government is of the opinion that this would have a quantum leap in the investment and the employment opportunities. The labour ministry has consolidated 29 central labour laws into four codes to simplify the process of compliance. The new code on wages ensures that two fifth of its population would be the beneficiaries. Occupational Safety, Heath and Working Conditions Code 2020 and the Code on Social security code has comprehensively discussed about interstate migrant workers. The code exhaustively expands the coverage of social security and is inclusive with unorganized sector, self -employed, migrant worker within the legislative framework. The code on industrial relation has profoundly defined workers that appends a person employed in skilled or unskilled, manual, technical, operational and clerical capacity. Twenty three states have drafted the labour code rules.

As many as 4.9million employees are recipients of this labour law that was effectuated on February 2 2022 which was upheld by the legislation on 2021. An estimated 34.25 lakh Indian expatriates are residing in the UAE. Of this, 7.74 lakh embodies the Kerala diaspora. Indians account for 40% of the total population of the country and plays a substantial role in contributing to the economy of UAE. The UAE ranks first in the NRIs population in the world. Federal Decree-Law No 33 of 2021 issued by President Sheikh Khalifa in the month of November 2021, has been elucidated as one of the extensive and comprehensive reformation to labour laws, replacing previous decrees of 1980. The new labour law paves away as reverence to employees working in private and government sectors. This plays a pivotal role in ameliorating morale and mental health of employees. The law governs employees in free zones and mainland companies, with the exception of Dubai International Financial Centre and Abu Dhabi Global Markets since they have their own implicit employment legislation. The new law is solicitous about rights of employer and employees in the right way. The abrogation of boundless contracts, protection against discrimination in any forms ,maternity leave and the new work models are main facets of the labour law.

AN OUTLINE ON INDIAN LABOUR CODE

The four labour codes on wages, social security, industrial relations and occupation safety, health and working conditions are likely to be effectuated by July 1 which would eventually replace twenty nine labour laws. According to the central government, there are over 100 state laws and 40 central laws regulating outlooks of labour. The Parliament had passed the Code on Wages in 2019 while the Code on Industrial Relations, the Code on Social Security and the Code on Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions were passed in 2020. The Centre has finished the process of finalizing the draft rules on the codes in February 2021.The four labour codes rationalizes the forty four central labour laws. There will be an increase in working hours from nine to twelve hours for employees. The allowances have been capped at fifty per cent that leads to half of the monthly pay calculates as basic wage. Provident fund (PF) contribution is computed as a percentage of basic wage, basic pay and dearness allowance. Increase in basic pay will result in an increase in the PF contribution, which will reduce the take-home pay for workers. The PF liability for employers will also splurge in many cases. There are also chances that with implementation of four labour codes employees in India can have four days work week instead of five work days a week. Many employers split basic wages into innumerable allowances to keep PF contributions and income tax outgo low. Once implemented, employers will have to undertake restructuring exercises as per the new code on wages. There have been disparate modifications and recasting to the existing labour laws. However, the biggest amendment is on how the ‘wage’ has been defined. The new wage code that addresses this revamp aims to directly include 50% of the wages into the salary of employees. As per the New Wage Code 2021 employees are entitled to receive gratuity even if they had worked for just an year whereas earlier it was paid if the employees had worked consistently and continuously for five years under the same entity. Cost to Company (CTC) will get influenced by the increase in the basic salary and if the basic salary of an employee has been less than fifty per cent, it should be enhanced. Allowances such as leave travel, overtime and conveyance will be capped to the remaining per cent of the CTC. The Social Security Code, 2020 provides for a universal social security, commencing with the gig workers who would be covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, besides paving the way for the government to merge all existing social security schemes under the code. The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH&WC Code) provides for prolonged work hours, double the wages in case of overrun beyond the fixed work hours and a single license for contractors and staffing firms, allowing them to operate pan-India under one registration, as against the prevailing situation where they have to obtain separate licenses for operating in each location. The other two codes, the Code on Wages, 2019 and the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 have financial implications and repercussions on the employer and hence the industry has been seeking extension of time from the government to tide over the Covid-19 crisis and other set back before it takes on any additional financial burden. The 2020 Bill provides that women will be entitled to be employed in all establishments for all types of work under the Bill and it also lays that in case if the women are required to work in hazardous or dangerous operations, the government will provide adequate safeguards prior to their employment.The objective behind codifying labour law is definitely a right step taken so as to achieve modernization and simplification of the labour regulation.

FEW KEY FEATURES OF LABOUR LAW OF UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

One of the key feature of the new labour law is the maternity leave. Employers are now obligated to give new mothers leave of an extra fifteen days at half-pay and an auxiliary 45 days unpaid leave in case of illness makes it an increase of thirty per cent. A working woman is capacitated to her maternity leave even if the baby is still born from the six months of pregnancy onwards. This also pertains to a baby born at any point within the maternity leave period .This new law is also felicitous to pregnant women working in private sector. Article 30.8 states that “It is not allowed to terminate the service of a working woman or give her a warning because of pregnancy, of obtaining maternity leave, or of her absence from work in accordance with the provisions of this article”. Once a woman resumes to work from their maternity leave, they are accredited to one or two rest periods per day to breastfeed their child, as long as the timescale of the two periods does not transcend an hour. This allowance endures until the baby is six months old. As per the new decree male employees in the private sector companies of United Arab Emirates are entitled to accrues paid parental leave for five working days. These five days must be taken within six months after the baby child is born. The United Arab Emirates makes it the first Arab country to countenance parental leave to employees in the private sector. Another substantial change is that employees having indefinite or permanent contracts reinstated with three year contracts with some implications for gratuity depending on the service period of the work. It makes uncomplicated for companies to hire people for part time work and permits for job shares. To be precise employment contracts must be limited. Probation period cannot exceed than six months and notice of two weeks must be given to terminate them during this time. Employees are opined to give a month’s notice or fourteen days if they want to leave the country in case they want to change their jobs during their probation period. An employee who has lost or left their respective jobs will hundred and eighty days left before their residency visa lapses from only thirty days previously. Discrimination in any form is prohibited including race, colour, gender, religion, nationality, social origin or disability. The amendments so promulgated intends to have an inclusive workspace. Equal pay for women is guaranteed for similar works done by men either for the same work or job of equal value. Employers are not supposed to use any means of force against workers or charge penalties and induce them to work against their will. Employees should not be forced to work for more than two hours of overtime a day. If that is supposed to be the job requirement they are supposed to be given twenty five per cent more than their regular hourly rate. Employers cannot impound employees documents such as passports and are not supposed to charge workers recruitment fees. Employees are not bound to pay any legal fees when they file labour case against their respective employers for the compensation of less than One Lakh Dirhams and in circumstances where the amount exceeds they are bound to pay. In cases of terminations now the employers are not allowed to terminate employee without any notice. This could be seen stipulated under article 45 of the new law. Workers are entitled to one paid leave every week with the possible additional weekly leave days upon the company’s discretion. This is inclusive with five or three day paid bereavement leave in addition to five days of parental leave. Another pertinent change is regarding the leaves. The new law ensures that the employees must use annual leaves before the end of that particular year. In case the employee has not utilized the leave on termination of employment compensation will be calculated on the basic salary. Employees are required to perpetuate good ethics and behavior that can supplement their professional skills. The law also regulates the duties of employers such as bestowing housing facility ,health and safety measures and skill development training. There was a huge dilemma faced by employees because of the visa restrictions lunge in resigning the past employment without having a confirmation of another job. Work-Life balance of an employee can be one of the reasons for satisfaction and contentment. The new labour law is providing with six job models which makes it more flexible for the employees to work for a project or to work under more than one employer which is also beneficial for the employer since they are able to have fresh talent and skills at a lower operational costs. The law provides employees to shift from one job model to another after an agreement with employer ensuring entitlements of first contract met. Employees can merge more than one job model as long as the work must not exceed for forty eight hours a week and hundred forty four hours every three weeks. This means that full time employees can have part time jobs without permission of their main employers but they are not supposed to exceed the threshold of hours. There is a scheme that enables full time or part time employees to work completely or partially outside the office. With the employer agreement the employee can split the responsibilities and pay among other employees which is referred to as shared job model. Full time, part time and temporary jobs are also some of the other job models. Twelve types of work permits are also introduced. Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation said the new law was designed “in preparation for the next fifty years”, and “to deal best with the changes in the working world”. He also says that the move would enhance the labor market for years to come, “characterised by flexibility, efficiency, ease of conducting business and attracting talents, and available expertise and skills”.

MATERNITY AND PATERNITY LEAVE IN INDIA

Child care is the responsibility of both parents and thus ,they are entitled to have maternity and paternity leave which elucidates on the significance of gender dynamics in their workplace. In 2020, Union Minister Jeetendra Singh announced that male government employees who are single parents are entitled to child care leave. The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 had its recent amendments in the year 2017. The new amendments made it pellucid that female employees can have twenty six weeks of paid maternity leave in establishments where there are more than ten workers. Expecting mothers can avail themselves the benefits of eight weeks of leave before the delivery of the child. Mothers who adopt children can have twelve weeks of maternity leave benefits and that includes commissioning mothers as well. The Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules,1972, lays out a provision to male government employees to take paternity leaves 15 days before the birth or within six months of the birth of the baby. In contrast, other countries provide much better benefits to their employees. It is high time for all Indians to come out of a narrow mindset that it is primarily and solely the mothers responsibility to look after their child. It is high time to normalize paternity leave taken by fathers to look after their children and try to abridge the burden leveled upon the shoulders of woman to look after the child. Paternity leave is sanctioned to government employees only. There is no strict obligation to private sectors to avail paternity leaves by the employees. However many multinational companies and Indian private companies are inclusive about paternity leaves. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had set out a precedent to the world by granting four weeks of paid paternity leave for all the male employees to sixteen weeks across all its offices in the world. A detailed study by the World Bank delineated that policymakers across the world are evolving and progressing to all the right way .

Between 2017- 2019, sixteen countries extemporized legal protection for their parents. For instance, Fiji initiated paid paternity leave and enhanced maternity leave from eighty four days to ninety eight days. Another such example is Canada, in which it promulgated a parental leave sharing benefit of thirty five shared weeks plus five weeks of “daddy days”. The longest leave is six months provided by Ikea which protract the rule from Sweden to India.

By granting Paternity leave in India we are not just abating the burden on women but also helping them to re boost their career which otherwise at most instances they quit the job altogether and thereafter they do not turn back to their professional life.

The need of the hour is definitely to look forward having an inclusive maternal and parental framework.

IMPACT OF LABOUR LAW IN INDIA AND THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Over a period of time, there has been a revolutionary change in labour regulations in both the countries, recognizing the worker’s turmoil and providing them their rights in consonance with the mindset of upgrading them is a sign of moving in the right direction. With the advent of industrialization and modernization there has been a change in the labour sector. Labour policies definitely dynamic and must cater to the needs of social justice and economic development. However, it would be safe for one to conclude that new labour law or the codes of both the countries is definitely a step to augment growth and employment, facilitating business environment. The new labour codes introduced in India and the United Arab Emirates helps to ensure social equity and social security in India. It is quite safe to say that economic development of any country depends on how well the labour laws are administered. The highlight of the law is to know how well balanced is the employer duties and employee rights.This will definitely help to improve India’s ranking in the “Ease of Doing Business “index and Foreign Direct Investment Flows.There will be a positive impact in both the countries specially in responding to the challenges of Covid era and post Covid period. In a tweet Sheikh Mohammed said, “The diversification of our economy requires the diversity and breadth of our legislation, and we are legislatively ready for a different and upcoming economic stage.” M.S. Unnikrishnan of CII’s national committee on industrial relations said “The initiative of bringing transparency and accountability through codification of labour laws will bring ease of compliance to the industry and investment push for India.” As the law evolves, further clarity on provisions on labour codes in both countries would pave a way for the best practice to come.

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Policy&Politics

Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals

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The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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Policy&Politics

India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability

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The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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Policy&Politics

India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border

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India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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Policy&Politics

ONLY 2-3% RECOVERED FROM $2-3 TN ANNUAL ILLEGAL TRADE THROUGH BANKING: INTERPOL

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Economic

Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital

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India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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