The Reserve Bank is likely to “very soon” come out with the final guidelines on new bank licences as its consultation with the Finance Ministry on the issue is nearing an end, Deputy Governor Anand Sinha said today.

He also said the RBI and the Finance Ministry will arrive at a common position on issues such as allowing brokerage firms and realtors into the banking space.

“We will come to a mutual position (on issues concerning brokerages, real estate firms to be given banking licences) and then issue the final guidelines,” Sinha told presspersons on the sidelines of an event here.

Asked about the timeline for the final guidelines, Sinha, in-charge of the banking operations and development department at the RBI, said, “very soon” as “consultations with the Ministry are nearing an end”.

In the draft guidelines issued in August 2011, the central bank had said firms with an exposure of 10 per cent or more to real estate and brokerage businesses by revenue or assets will not be eligible for applying for banking licences.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had told investors in London late last month that he expected the regulator to issue final guidelines within two weeks.

The last time new banks were allowed was in 2002-03 when two licences were issued. In the first wave of privatisation of the banking sector, 10 players were allowed in the mid-1990s and these included ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and IDBI Bank, among others.

The third round of private licensing has been pending since 2009-10 when the then Finance Minister had announced it.

However, differences between the RBI and the North Block over entry norms have delayed the process.

In the winter session of Parliament, the Government got the Banking Regulation Act amended to facilitate the process and give over-riding powers to RBI to dismiss the board of erring banks.

The Deputy Governor said there is concern of self-dealing (between bank and its promoter group companies) on which consultations are going on with North Block.

“The basic issue is the possibility of self-dealing. Nevertheless, in the draft guidelines, we have said we will go ahead,” Sinha said.

(This article was published on February 8, 2013)
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