Sunday, 23 January, 2022
HomeOpinionSqueezing Airtel, Vodafone won’t solve Modi govt’s credit and fiscal crises

Squeezing Airtel, Vodafone won’t solve Modi govt’s credit and fiscal crises

Partial solutions to India’s credit and fiscal woes — such as making telecom firms cough up a lot of money suddenly — will only backfire.

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The finance industry is in turmoil. Tax collections have hit stall speed. India’s credit and fiscal crises are joined at the hip.

Consider the $13 billion in past fees that the government is asking from telecom operators. It’s a desperate attempt to squeeze money from an industry in which most players have already vanished or gone bankrupt. The two old firms that are still standing amid intense price competition from newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. will bear the brunt of the recently court-approved demand.

Among them, Vodafone Idea Ltd. has a one-year default probability of 7.5%, according to a Bloomberg risk model. That puts its $14 billion debt within shouting distance of distressed. If Vodafone Idea goes to banks asking to recast its borrowings, something that the company has so far denied doing, lenders will receive a fresh blow.

India’s banks are miserable, and not just because they’ve already piled up $200 billion in bad debt. In at least five ways, New Delhi’s tax kitty, which has grown by just 1.5% so far this fiscal year, the slowest in a decade, is exacerbating lenders’ unease:

  • A resource-constrained government means that state-run banks, which control the bulk of India’s loan market, can’t expect to get enough of taxpayers’ money to make loan-loss provisions for past underwriting mistakes, let alone raise fresh capital for growth.
  • With the paucity of state funds curbing new road contracts, construction companies’ debt will also sour. They’ll be joining electricity producers that are stranded because financially stretched state utilities won’t award long-term power purchase agreements. Some states want to renege on existing deals, even as they sit on $8.5 billion of overdue payments.
  • As the government starts panicking about revenue, it will try to get funds wherever it can, such as by arm-twisting a telecom industry that has no capacity to pay.

  • The tighter budgets mean that the government will shy away from using taxpayers’ money to untangle the mess in real estate. Shadow banks are in trouble — and dragging deposit-taking institutions with them — because of their outsize exposure to failed property projects. All that banks can do about defaulting financiers such as Dewan Housing Finance Corp. and Altico Capital India Ltd. is to pretend to restructure their borrowings and kick inevitable losses down the road.
  • Finally, after more than two years of tweaks and tinkering, a nationwide goods and services tax — the single-biggest economic reform of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government — is failing to generate the kind of fiscal resources that were hoped. The more the government tries to plug its shortfall, the more onerous for large firms to deal with smaller suppliers.

Source: Bloomberg

The GST came a few months after Modi’s disastrous November 2016 ban on 86% of the currency then in circulation. The complicated levy has been an additional source of pain at a time of demand funk in nearly every industry. No surprise that the ratio of nonperforming loans for midsize Indian firms has shot up from 13% at the end of 2015 to 17.5%, compounding the misery for lenders.

Given the linkages between India’s credit and fiscal woes, partial solutions — such as making telecom firms cough up a lot of money suddenly — will only backfire. The twin challenges will have to be faced together. – Boomberg

Also read: Telecom crisis, targeting e-commerce: Is Ease of Doing Business in Modi’s India a myth?


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  1. 1. I liked the above informative write up.

    2. I have 5 numbers of Vodafone of their two circles (Delhi and West Bengal) since long for me and my family members. As the services of Vodafone were earlier really good, I advised many of my friends and relatives to switch over to Vodafone, so my friends and extended family members are also the services of Vodafone.

    3. Now I have noticed that since few months, Vodafone had adopted unethical practices and deduct unreasonable amount from the pre-paid balance of the customers.

    4. Earlier customers could track their own call/SMS/data details (usage with time and deductions thereat) through their website ‘’ but since end of August 2019, they have discontinued that so that customers can not check unethical deductions. When I found that they have exorbitantly deducted an amount of Rs 9/-, Rs 10/-, Rs 49/-, Rs 50/-, Rs 57/- suddenly, then I took up the matter and they reversed that amount without explaining any reason for the deduction. On two instances, they informed me that they deducted for downloading data/games but when I informed that my that particular number is being used in a basic mobile handset (and not in smart phone), they have not made any reply.

    5. I felt Vodafone should not cheat people and they should continue allowing its customers to track their own usage through the website in a transparent manner. So, I repeatedly requested them to bring back the website but they are adamant not to bring back the website so that customers can’t track their deductions. Now they have wrongly informed me (through e-mail) that on their newly launched My Vodafone app we can get the last 15 days details of our number but when I have informed me that they are absolutely wrong because we can not access the data for beyond 5 days and even the called number and duration are also not visible in their App, but they remained silent.

    6. I understand that Vodafone is running in losses and that may be the reason for doing the same. But it’s not a good practice and should be condemned. My aged and ailing mother also fed up with Vodafone as her pre-paid balance is getting random deduction on the pretext of downloading games, though she also uses a very basic mobile handset.

    7. If you go through the Vodafone’s Facebook Id (Vodafone Zoozoos) or Twitter Id, you will see plenty of complaints by Vodafone customers.

    8. In view of above, I would like to request you to investigate the matter and write a detailed story about the unethical practices being adopted by Vodafone.

    With Regards,

    Yours Sincerely,

    Bipradip B
    Flat No. A 1
    Kamalika Apartment PH-II
    Sampriti Park
    Steel Park area,
    P.O. – ABL Township
    Durgapur – 713 206 (West Bengal)

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