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RBI's Revised Priority Sector Guidelines

26th June, 2024 Economy

RBI's Revised Priority Sector Guidelines

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  • In a move aimed at fostering inclusive growth and equitable access to credit across India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently revised its priority sector lending guidelines.
  • These revisions are designed to encourage banks to focus more on economically disadvantaged districts and smaller borrowers, addressing disparities in credit availability and average loan sizes.

Priority Sector

  • Priority Sector means those sectors which the Government of India and Reserve Bank of India consider as important for the development of the basic needs of the country and are to be given priority over other sectors.
  • The banks are mandated to encourage the growth of such sectors with adequate and timely credit.

Categories of Priority Sector

The categories of priority sector are as follows

  1. Agriculture
  2. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
  3. Export Credit
  4. Education
  5. Housing
  6. Social Infrastructure
  7. Renewable Energy
  8. Others

Targets under Priority Sector Lending (PSL)

Domestic SCBs and Foreign Banks (20 branches and above):

  • Required to allocate 40% of Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) or Credit Equivalent Amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure (CEOBE), whichever is higher, towards priority sector lending.

Foreign Banks (Less than 20 branches):

  • Must allocate 40% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.
  • Out of which, up to 32% can be directed towards lending to exports, with a minimum of 8% allocated to other priority sectors.

Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and Small Finance Banks (SFBs):

  • Mandated to allocate 75% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher, towards priority sector lending.

Primary (Urban) Co-operative Banks (UCBs):

  • Currently required to allocate 40% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.
  • This requirement will increase to 75% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher, starting from FY2025-26.

Methods to Meet PSL Obligations

  • Banks can fulfill their priority sector lending targets through various means:

Direct Lending:

  • Extending loans and credit facilities to individuals, entities, and enterprises operating in priority sectors.

Financial Products and Services:

  • Offering specialized financial products and services tailored for priority sector beneficiaries.

Investments in Eligible Instruments:

  • Investing in bonds issued by entities engaged in priority sector activities, thereby supporting sectoral growth indirectly.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

  • In case banks fail to meet their stipulated PSL targets:

Deposit Requirements:

  • They are required to deposit the shortfall amount into specified funds.
  • These funds include the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) managed by NABARD, and other funds designated by RBI such as those with SIDBI, Mudra, National Housing Bank, etc.

Regulatory Oversight:

  • RBI monitors compliance closely and enforces penalties or corrective measures as necessary to ensure adherence to PSL norms.

Key Changes to Priority Sector Guidelines

Focus on Economically Disadvantaged Districts

  • The revised guidelines place a significant emphasis on economically disadvantaged districts where average loan sizes have historically been low.
  • This strategic shift encourages banks to increase lending in these regions, thereby stimulating economic activity and promoting financial inclusion among marginalized communities.

Weightage Adjustment for Priority Sector Loans

Starting from the financial year 2025, RBI has introduced a nuanced approach to prioritize fresh priority sector loans based on district-specific credit availability metrics:

Low Loan Availability Districts (< Rs 9,000 per person):

  • Loans in these districts will receive a higher weightage of 125%.
  • This incentivizes banks to channel more resources into areas with limited credit access, aiming to uplift local economies and empower small businesses and individuals.

High Loan Availability Districts (> Rs 42,000 per person):

  • Conversely, districts with higher average loan sizes will see their loan weightage reduced to 90%.
  • This adjustment discourages excessive concentration of credit in already well-serviced areas, promoting a more balanced distribution of financial resources.

Framework for Other Districts

  • For districts that fall within average ranges of credit availability and loan sizes, the guidelines maintain a standard weightage level of 100%.
  • Exceptions are made for outlier districts that exhibit either unusually low credit availability or exceptionally high loan sizes, ensuring flexibility in response to local economic realities.

RBI's District Ranking and Incentive Framework

  • To operationalize these guidelines effectively, RBI has decided to rank districts based on their per capita credit flow to the priority sector.
  • This ranking serves as the basis for implementing an incentive framework aimed at:

Incentives for Lower Credit Flow Districts:

  • Providing additional support and encouragement to districts where credit flow to the priority sector is inadequate, thereby stimulating credit uptake and economic growth in underserved regions.

Disincentives for Higher Credit Flow Districts:

  • Introducing measures that gently discourage over-reliance on credit in districts with already robust credit availability, aiming to prevent market distortions and promote more equitable economic development.

RBI's Official Statement and Recent Developments

  • In its official statement, RBI underscored the importance of these measures in promoting balanced regional development and inclusive economic growth.
  • These revisions align with broader efforts to enhance financial resilience and ensure sustainable credit practices across the banking sector.

Recent Articles Highlighting Industry Responses

  • Recent industry reports, such as ESFB's expansion into personal loans and credit cards and banks' ambitious targets for priority sector lending in FY25, reflect the sector's proactive response to these regulatory changes.
  • These initiatives are expected to diversify credit risk portfolios, introduce new revenue streams, and contribute to the overall resilience and stability of the financial system.


Q.  Consider the following statements regarding RBI's recent guidelines on prioritizing fresh Priority Sector Loans:

1.RBI has introduced a higher weightage of 125% for loans in districts with low credit availability less than Rs 9,000 per person, aiming to stimulate economic growth in underserved regions.

2.Districts with high average loan sizes more than Rs 42,000 per person will receive a reduced loan weightage of 90%, aiming to discourage disproportionate credit concentration and promote equitable distribution of financial resources.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A. 1 only

B. 2 only

C. Both 1 and 2

D. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C. Both 1 and 2