India has always encouraged capital inflows as a part of the development policy. Deficient domestic capital and reduction in the current account compelled the government historically to go after foreign capital. Foreign capital is money obtained from foreign countries to make investment domestically. The major category is foreign investment including FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and FPI (Foreign Portfolio Investment). Likewise, there are other types of foreign capital like trade credit, NRI Deposits and the most important one for India – the External Commercial Borrowings (ECB).
ECB is a loan which is being availed by an Indian entity from a non- resident lender with a minimum average maturity of 3 years. Mostly, these loans are provided by foreign commercial banks and other institutions.
Below are some advantages of ECB:
The RBI (Reserve Bank of India) had indicated in its December 2018 monetary policy meeting that it could consider easing overseas borrowing rules. Below are the latest ECB norms lifting sector- wise limits:
In order to improve ease of doing business, central bank lifted sectoral curbs and eased foreign borrowing norms allowing a wider set of end-users to tap overseas markets for loans focusing the below points:
The above new framework will come into effect immediately.
According to RBI, the, minimum average maturity period diminished from 5 years to 3 years for all ECBs, irrespective of the borrowing amount except the borrowers specifically permitting to borrow for a shorter span of time. The ceiling limit for borrowing is still at $750 million or equivalent per financial year under the automatic route replacing the existing sector-wise limits. This resulted in increased lending options and entering more lenders in ECB space while strengthening the framework. RBI had concluded funds raised via ECBs at 6.5% of GDP, at current market prices. Based on GDP, the soft limit goes to $160 billion.
The common negative list of end – use remains unchanged for which ECBs cannot be raised or utilized. An eligible borrower cannot raise ECBs for real-estate activities, capital market investments, equity investments, on-lending to entities, and even working capital or general corporate activities unless the funds are raised specifically by the foreign equity holders of the resident borrower. Unlike many other emerging market economies, India has a vibrant corporate sector at home. Many of them have overseas operations as well.