The restructuring of micro, small and medium enterprises’ (MSME) loans by banks will be done by March 15, according to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

In fact, out of the 5.53 lakh accounts identified as of January 6, 2020, 5.28 lakh have already been restructured. The rest will be cleared by March 15, Ms. Sitharaman told journalists on Wednesday, speaking after a meeting with heads of public sector banks.

Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank of India had extended the one-time loan restructuring window for such MSME accounts from March 31, 2020 to December 31, 2020. Ms. Sitharaman added that as and when stressed assets are identified, they will be cleared. However, those already identified and pending must be completed by March 15.

This ensures that stressed assets of standard MSME accounts will not be downgraded and classified as non-performing assets, so long as the aggregate exposure to the borrower does not exceed ₹25 crore as on January 1, 2020. This would help small businesses improve their balance sheets and ease the challenges of securing affordable credit.

With regard to proposed public sector bank mergers, she said the process is going on as per schedule and “there is no uncertainty.” The Centre plans to merge 10 banks into four.

On the impact of the COVID-19, Ms. Sitharaman said the government was closely monitoring the issue. Department-level decisions are being taken on proposals to airlift raw materials for some sectors or source supplies from other countries if needed, she added.

On adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues of the telecom sector, Ms. Sitharaman said she had held discussions with representatives of the telecom majors over the last few days. However, the Department of Telecom would be taking a call and when solutions are worked out, they would be announced.

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