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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2002

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Help Govt with data for WTO talks, PSBs urged

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KOLKATA, Jan. 15

PUBLIC sector banks must help the Centre in preparing its own set of demands for talks with the WTO nations instead of just debating on the demands of the bigger players.

This was stated by Mr B.D. Narang, Chairman and Managing Director of Oriental Bank of Commerce at the CEO Forum of Becon 2001. He spoke on the subject of WTO and its likely impact on banking sector in the country.

According to him, Citibank and American Express had helped the US Government with all sorts of information and data for negotiating with the WTO partners. ``We have never prepared our set of demands for the WTO talks. Instead we were busy discussing and debating on their demands," Mr Narang said.

He urged the public sector banks to collect and collate all necessary information on banks and then forward them to the Centre. The banking industry, he felt, would gain more significance in future as it was a major component of the nation's services sector.

Mr Narang further asked the Centre to allow foreign banks to increase their operations in the country by opening more branches, floating wholly-owned subsidiaries and asset management companies. ``Allow them in security trading and also in the transfer of financial data. In short, open up all the segments of financial market," he suggested.

He felt that the liberalisation in the financial sector for the foreign players would be reciprocated by similar opportunities to the banks operating in overseas markets.

He said the current profit margins of the banking system, which was somewhere between eight and 10 per cent, were not sustainable in terms of international standards. As a result, manpower rationalisation and reduction of Government's stake in public sector banks were necessary.

"After manpower rationalisation, banks can increase their business and in turn the profitability. This will also help them to survive in a competitive environment of the WTO regime", he said.

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