as the Indian government persists with its policies of financial
liberalisation, there are two arguments that are frequently advanced.
The first is that there is no other direction in which an emerging
nation can go. The second is that India has been far more cautious
with regard to financial liberalisation when compared with other
emerging markets, opting only for those features of the Anglo-Saxon
model that promote growth and stability.
These are large and complex issues to address in a single article.
But a cursory examination of one segment of the financial sector
in two comparable countries, Indian and Brazil, is indeed educative.
That segment is development banking. Development banks are institutions
that have helped promote, nurture, support and monitor a range of
activities, though their most important function has been as drivers
of industrial development.
The reason for this, of course, was that the take-off led by factory-based
industrialisation required substantial investment. On the one hand,
given the advances in technology between the period when current
day developed countries had launched on industrialisation and the
point in time when less developed countries had the option to launch
on a trajectory of industrial development, the investment required
to establish or expand particular activities was greater than what
would have been required earlier. Moreover, catching-up requires
not merely establishing or expanding particular activities but engaging
in a whole cluster of them, since some crucial requirements for
development like infrastructural services of different kinds (roads,
power, communications and the like) cannot be imported from abroad
and because not all traded goods can be imported given the finite
volume of foreign exchange available to individual economies. If
larger sums of capital are required for investment in each of a
cluster of activities, the total investment requirement would indeed
This creates a special problem in the so-called ''mixed economies'',
where the private sector is expected to play an important role.
Backwardness implies that the investor classes would include only
a few individuals who would have adequate capital to undertake the
required investments. Their ''own capital'' would have to be substantially
backed with credit. And such credit would not be backed with adequate
collateral, other than the assets created by the investment itself.
Moreover, many of these investments involve long gestation lags
and take long to go into commercial production and return a profit.
Most savers, on the other hand, would not like to lock up their
capital for long periods especially in projects that are inevitably
''risky''. This would imply that in the market for finance there
is bound to be a shortage of long term capital, with savers looking
for investments that are more short term, are ''liquid'' in the
sense that they can without too much difficulty be exchanged for
cash, and are not too risky.
Further, even to the extent that long term capital is available
it would be less than willing to enter certain areas if driven purely
by private incentives. For example, it is known that certain sectors—infrastructure
being the most obvious—are characterised by significant ''economy-wide
externalities''. That is, their presence is a prerequisite for and
a facilitator of growth in other sectors. But the infrastructural
sector is characterised most often by lumpy investments, long gestation
lags, higher risk and lower monetary returns. Hence, if private
rather than social returns drive the allocation of financial savings,
these sectors would receive inadequate capital, even though their
capital-intensive nature demands that a disproportionate share be
diverted to them. This ''short-termism'' can result in inadequate
investment in sectors with long-term potential from the point of
view of growth. Given the ''economy-wide externalities'' associated
with such industries, inadequate investments in them would obviously
constrain the rate of growth.
To deal with these difficulties, many late-industrialising developing
countries established development banks, which are public or joint
sector institutions serving to cover the shortfall in long term
capital. They lend not only for working capital purposes, but to
finance long-term investment as well, including in capital-intensive
sectors. Having lent long, they are very often willing to lend more
in the future. And if and when required they even hold equity in
the firm concerned so as to reduce its repayment burden.
Since such lending often leads to higher than normal debt to equity
ratios, development banks to safeguard their resources closely monitor
the activities of the firms they lend to, resulting in a special
form of ''relationship banking''. Often this involves nominating
directors on the boards of companies who then have an insider's
view of the functioning and finances of the companies involved.
In case of any signs of errors in decision-making or operational
shortcomings, corrective action can be undertaken early.
Thus, development banks lend and invest. They leverage lending to
influence investment decisions and monitor the performance of borrowers.
They undertake entrepreneurial functions, such as determining the
scale of investment, the choice of technology and the markets to
be targeted by industry, and extension functions, such as offering
technical support. Stated otherwise, they are a component of the
financial structure that can ensure that lending leads to productive
investment that accelerates growth and makes such lending sustainable.
According to an OECD estimate, there were about 340 such banks in
some 80 developing countries by the mid-1960s. Over half of these
banks were state-owned and funded by the exchequer; the remainder
had mixed ownership or were private. In short, handicapped by colonial
legacies, international inequalities and various systemic biases,
these kinds of institutions seemed a ‘must' for developing countries.
Two developing countries that relied heavily on development banks
in their post-War industrialisation effort were Brazil and India.
In Brazil the principal development bank is the Brazilian Development
Bank (BNDES) established in 1952. Over time the government has used
various measures such as special taxes and cesses, levies on insurance
and investment companies and direction of pension fund capital to
mobilise resources for the industrial financing activities of the
BNDES. The size of BNDES support for investment increased significantly,
with a transition in 1965 when BNDES support rose from below 3 per
cent of capital formation to 6.6 per cent. There was also a shift
in the focus of BNDES activities. While initially sectors like transport
and power overwhelmingly dominated its lending, subsequently there
was considerable diversification in support, to sectors such as
nonferrous metals, chemicals, petrochemicals, paper, machinery,
and other industries. Further, while in its early years BNDES investments
were focused on the public sector, there was a significant shift
in favour of the private sector in later years. In the period 1952-66,
80-90% of financing was directed to the public sector. That figure
fell to 44 per cent during 1967-71, and then to between 20 and 30
India adopted a more elaborate structure. Apart from setting up
an Industrial Finance Department (IFD) in 1957 within the Reserve
Bank of India (RBI) and administering a credit guarantee scheme
for small-scale industries from July 1960, a series of industrial
credit institutions were promoted, which in fact had begun earlier
with the setting up of the Industrial Finance Corporation (IFC)
in July 1948 for rendering term-financing for traditional industries.
In addition, State Financial Corporations (SFCs) were created under
an Act that came into effect from August 1952 to encourage state-level
medium-size industries with industrial credit. In January 1955,
the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI),
the first development finance institution in the private sector,
came to be established, with encouragement and support of the World
Bank in the form of a long-term foreign exchange loan and backed
by a similar loan from the government of India financed out of PL
480 counterpart funds. In June 1958, the Refinance Corporation for
Industry was set up. The next major step in institution building
was the setting up of the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI)
as an apex term-lending institution, which commenced operations
The importance of these institutions is clear from the fact that
their investments (disbursals) in Net Fixed Capital Formation in
India rose from less than 10 per cent before the 1970s to around
35 per cent in 1988-89. Over 70 per cent of sanctions went to the
private sector, and took the form of loans as well of underwriting
and direct subscription of shares and debentures.
The similarities between Brazil and India with respect to development
banking are clear. However, a real difference between the two emerged
occurred in the period since the early 1990s when the government
in these two countries opted for internal and external economic
liberalisation. In Brazil, reform notwithstanding, the BNDES has
grown in strength. Its assets totalled Reals 277.3 billion or close
to $120 billion at the end of 2008. This has served Brazil well.
The bank's role increased significantly, when private activity slackened
in the aftermath of the financial crisis. This countercyclical role
helped Brazil face the crisis much better than many other developing
According to reports, the BNDES has stepped in to keep business
credit going, when private sector loans dried up in 2008. It lent
a record 168.4 billion Reals ($100.8 billion) in 2010, which was
23 percent higher than the previous record in 2009. As a result,
the country's credit to gross domestic product ratio continued to
grow after the onset of the financial crisis.
On the other hand, liberalisation has damaged the structure of development
banking in India. On March 30 2002, the Industrial Credit and Investment
Corporation of India (ICICI) was, through a reverse merger, integrated
with ICICI Bank. That was the beginning of a process that lead to
the demise of development finance in the country. The reverse merger
was the result of a decision (announced on October 25, 2001) by
ICICI to transform itself into a universal bank that would engage
itself not only in traditional banking but investment banking and
other financial activities.
After that reverse merger was put through, similar moves were undertaken
to transform the other two principal development finance institutions
in the country, the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI),
established in 1948, and the Industrial Development Bank of India
(IDBI), created in 1964. In early February 2004, the government
decided to merge the IFCI with a big public sector bank, like the
Punjab National Bank. Following that decision, the IFCI board approved
the proposal, rendering itself defunct.
Finally, IDBI was merged with IDBI bank, which had earlier been
set up as a subsidiary. With this creation of a universal bank as
a new entity, that has multiple interests and a strong emphasis
on commercial profits, it is unclear how the development banking
commitment can be met. These decisions are bound to aggravate the
shortage of long term capital for the manufacturing sector, especially
for medium sized units seeking to grow.
These two experiences point to the two very different directions
that development banking has taken. Some countries like India are
doing away with specialised development banking institutions on
the grounds that equity and bond markets would do the job. This
is bound to lead to a shortfall in finance for long-term investments,
especially for medium and small enterprises. Fortunately, there
are some others such as Brazil that have thus far not opted for