By David Ebert
The Credit Information Bureau of Sri Lanka held its annual symposium on Thursday at the Cinnamon Grand, Colombo, with a distinguished panel of guest speakers present in order to discuss the importance of accurate credit information reporting and to share the latest technology, experiences and best practices.
Delivering his opening remarks to a host of banking compliance officers in attendance, CRIB Deputy Governor and Chairman Ananda Silva reiterated the importance of on-time credit information reporting by the bureau’s member institutions, in order to accurately assess the credit worthiness of both current and future borrowers.
Silva pointed out that submission of accurate credit information has a direct impact on the number of non-performing loans in circulation and stated that the ratios of NPLs currently has seen a decline to 4% from 12% a year ago. Silva also called for commercial banks to expand the availability of credit to the public, especially SMEs to support the Government’s initiatives as laid out in the Budget.
IMF Resident Representative for Sri Lanka Koshi Mathai in a brief address reiterated the importance of the CRIB in a developing economy and stressed the importance of banks that practice due diligence in providing accurate credit information to the bureau.
The keynote speech was delivered by the National Credit Bureau of Thailand Chief Executive Officer Surapol Opasatien who delivered a spirited address on how the embracing of the latest technological advances and innovative thinking has changed the borrower’s mindset on credit information in Thailand.
Opasatien went on to explain that the NCB Thailand was set up in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which he attributed in part to the lack of a credit information system in the country at the time. This in turn led to a massive upsurge in NPLs which saw a many Thai commercial banks failing to stay afloat.
Opasatien also stressed the importance of tighter regulations to prevent member banks from non submission of customer credit information and used the Thai system as an example where legislation was tabled in order to hold the bank’s CEO’s personally liable for monetary fines imposed on the institutions.
Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Sarath Amunugama speaking to the gathering urged the banks to focus on and employ a more relaxed attitude in lending to SMEs, whereas today’s businessmen while being wary of the CRIB, needed more encouragement from the banks and less rigid rules in order to be a part of the proper process. Dr. Amunugama also called on the banks to continuously support the export industry in order to achieve the country’s required targets which would then help to relax imports overall.
The Minister also stressed the importance of banks needing to act creatively to overcome the current monetary embargoes prevalent, such as the current US sanctions on one of Sri Lanka’s most important trading partners, Iran.
Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe