What is the new Priority Sector Lending Norms by the RBI?

Priority sector lending (PSL) is aimed to provide institutional credit to those sectors and segments for whom it is difficult to get credit. According to priority sector norms, scheduled commercial banks have to give 40% of their loans (measured in terms of Adjusted Net Bank Credit or ANBC) to the identified priority sectors in accordance with the RBI regulations. The regulations are modified periodically by setting limits for subsectors and other qualifications for the beneficiary groups. If these targets are not realized, banks have to finance the development programmes implemented by the government for the concerned sectors. In April 2016, RBI has introduced Priority Sector Lending Certificates so that banks can trade the loan certificates given to the different sectors to meet their targets.

New Priority Sector Lending norms

The RBI has modified Priority Sector Lending norms after the recommendations of the Internal Working Group in 2015. Changes in classification of the priority sectors and targets were also made asper the new norms. Following are the main categories of PSL (credit percentage are expressed in terms of Adjusted Net Bank Credit or ANBC or Credit Equivalent Amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure; whichever is higher):

Categories under priority sector

  1. Agriculture 18%: Within the 18 percent target for agriculture, a target of 8 percent of ANBC is prescribed for Small and Marginal Farmers.
  2. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises 7.5 percent.
  3. Export Credit: Incremental export credit up to 2 percent for domestic banks and foreign banks with 20 branches and above.
  4. Education: Loans to individuals for educational purposes including vocational courses upto Rs 10 lakh.
  5. Housing: Loans to individuals up to Rs 28 lakh in metropolitan centres (with population of ten lakh and above) and loans up to Rs 20 lakh in other centres for purchase/construction of a dwelling unit per family.
  6. Social Infrastructure: Bank loans up to a limit of Rs 5 crore per borrower for building social infrastructure for activities namely schools, health care facilities, drinking water facilities and sanitation facilities in Tier II to Tier VI centres.
  7. Renewable Energy: Bank loans up to a limit of Rs 15 crore to borrowers (individual households- Rs 10 lakh) including for public utilities viz. street lighting systems, and remote village electrification.
  8. Others: SHG, JLG etc.

From the above categories a subcategory called Weaker sections is also identified so that they can get special preference under PSL. The mew regulations stipulate that banks should give 10% of their loans to the weaker sections. Weaker sections include: Small Marginal Farmers, artisans, village and cottage industries with a credit limit upto Rs 1 lakh, beneficiaries of certain government sponsored schemes, SC/STs, SHGs, persons with disabilities, overdrafts upto Rs 5000 under PMJDY, distressed persons, individual women beneficiaries up to Rs 1 lakh, beneficiaries of differential interest rate regime.

Several changes are made (2015) in PSL norms by the RBI after the working group (2014) recommendations. The changes include new categories of PSL: medium enterprises, social infrastructure and renewable energy. A separate target for small and marginal farmers (7.5%) and microenterprises (8%) and weaker sections (10%) and inclusion of food and agro processing units under agriculture are the major changes. The priority sector non-achievement will be assessed on quarterly average basis at the end of the respective year from 2016-17 onwards, instead of annual basis as at present.

Banks (SCBs) having shortfall in lending to priority sector/subsectors vis-avis the stipulated targets, are required to contribute to the funds of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) and similar funds set up with National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) / Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) / National Housing Bank (NHB).

PSL norm for foreign banks

Another modification is the PSL made by the RBI after the recommendations of the Working group is related with foreign banks. Foreign Banks with 20 branches and above already have priority sector targets of 40% and sub-targets for Agriculture and Weaker Sections. These targets are to be achieved by March 31, 2018 as per the action plans approved by RBI. Foreign banks with less than 20 branches will move to total Priority Sector target of 40 percent by 2019-20. The sub-target for MSME sector will be made in 2018.

The Priority sector lending certificates are also introduced by the RBI as part of the modifications to the existing PSL norms.