Below the Line

Updated on: May 15, 2022
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman | Photo Credit: RAGU R

FM defends PSB employees 

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was caught in a piquant situation recently. The editor of a magazine, whose anniversary function she was gracing as a chief guest in Chennai, said that all the good people in PSU banks had left and it is now been run by “left over” employees. He was talking in the context of PSU banks’ merger. A shocked Finance Minister immediately reacted by shaking her hand and head.

During her speech later she praised the selfless work done by staff of PSU banks during the pandemic. Without worrying about their health, they even went to the homes of customers and gave them cash when they needed. She explained that merger was done more to strengthen the nation's banking system by creating large banks like SBI.

Not mincing words

Seldom do you find analysts in earnings call being outspoken or blunt. But one was witness to an exception to this trend this past week when an analyst did some plain speaking with PNB Managing Director & CEO Atul Kumar Goel.

This analyst sought to know as to why shareholders’ value in PNB is getting systematically eroded every day and what the management was doing to improve the situation and safeguard minority shareholders’ interests.

While Goel had no convincing answer, he however highlighted how PNB had in 2021-22 returned after eight years to the dividend list (it declared dividend of 64 paise (32 per cent) on face value of ₹2) per share and “this is a good sign”.

But this analyst was not convinced — he said other banks were delivering “much more than you (PNB)”. The analyst went on to say that Canara Bank declared dividend of about ₹7 per share. In terms of size, PNB was “much much” bigger than Canara Bank, the analyst pointed out. With overall business mix of over ₹18 lakh crore, PNB’s dividend of 64 paise per share seems small.

However, to Goel’s credit he calmed the analyst’s nerves by saying, “I partly agree with you. Time will come when PNB will deliver much better than expectations of other banks also.” Until then, it is going to be an agonising wait for the PNB minority shareholders.

RBI’s ‘Parwal’ man

The RBI was always more focussed on inflation control, although the Finance Ministry would always informally nudge it to focus on growth too. But RBI has hundreds of people working on inflation and price collection across different markets, mandis across the length and breadth of the country.

Such is RBI’s emphasis on price information collection that it has employed a person whose only job is to track the price of ‘parwal’ (pointed gourd or commonly referred as green potato) across the country, quipped an official this past week. This ‘parwal’ man gets RBI almost real time data of ‘Parwal’ prices around India! This speaks of RBI’s laser focus on inflation control and its handle on what is happening in the Indian economy.

Politics all the way 

Rahul Gandhi's proposed Hyderabad programme had kicked off a debate on how universities are being used by the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Party for political gains. A request for conducting a face-to-face programme of Rahul Gandhi with the students of Osmania University was turned down by the Vice-Chancellor. Though the decision was challenged by the party in the High Court, it did not get any relief and the ball was back in the Vice-Chancellor’s court who promptly refused permission.

There is a buzz that the VC was under severe pressure to deny permission to Rahul Gandhi's programme while the State Government maintained a strategic silence. It’s an open secret that the appointment of vice-chancellors is now more political than academic, leaving no freedom for heads of the universities to make decisions on their own. Our Bureaus

Published on May 15, 2022
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