Category Archives: in duplum

Interest rates debate as caps repeal is proposed

Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has signaled an end to interest rates capping, saying the interest rate controls have contributed to a slowdown in credit growth to the private sector and denied small businesses’ access to credit.

In his FY 2018/2019 $30.4 billion budget speech to the National Assembly on June 14, Rotich said the interest capping law had not had the intended effect but instead resulted in banks shying away from lending to riskier borrowers such as ordinary businesses and individuals who used to borrow at rates above the 14% that was set through an amendment of the banking law that was passed a year and a half ago.

Rotich observed that he would ask parliament to repeal section 33 (b) of the Act to enable banks to provide more credit to riskier borrowers. He added that the government was also proposing a credit guarantee scheme for micro, small, and medium enterprises, and new credit institutions through the creation of the Kenya Development Bank and Biashara Kenya Fund and other new laws to help protect consumers of financial products.

The interest rates debate continues next week with a session on Monday, June 18 at the Strathmore Business School that will facilitate debate on the impact of the interest rates ceiling and floor.

Organized by the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Fanaka Digital, among other partners, the televised session will feature perspectives from the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, MP’s Jude Njomo – who sponsored the 2016 banking amendment that capped interest rates, and Moses Kuria, who is a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Capping Kenya Bank Interest Rates in 2016

This week parliament passed a bill to cap interest rates for borrowers at Kenyan banks. The bill has not been published online (as of now), but members of parliament prayed that it would to be assented to by the President.

In their Wednesday debate to pass the bill, they lamented that previous bills had not been signed by presidents in the past.  Back in 2004, MP’s passed a similar bill, but which the President  refused to sign into law. because it contained a clause known as the “in duplum rule”.

Sunil ratesBefore that there was also a banking amendment from the government that was also not implemented. There were later amendments proposed by the government, some of which were implemented (CBK got a deputy governor, and to vet the suitability of bank owners, banks got to share information with credit reference bureaus), but others were not (ban on bank charges in savings accounts, the in duplum rule – again).

On news of the bill passing through parliament, both the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) expressed their opposition to the new bill. The Central Bank expressed concern on the adverse consequences of capping interest rates while the KBA supported some elements of the bill (such as disclosure of all loan charges) but not the capping on lending rates and determination on the minimum interest payable to depositors – as  the segment which will be most affected is Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (or MSMEs). Considering that MSMEs are Kenyan’s engine for growth, the Bill as proposed may curtail enterprise development, resulting in poor performance and unemploymentKBA

Some tweets have also highlighted the role of the government itself in raising the cost of borrowing for citizens. Banks are in business, and they take money from depositors, and lend it out to other people and also to the government (when they buy bills & bonds). In 2015, while Kenyan banks had total loans of about Kshs  2 trillion, they also held about Kshs 672 billion worth of government bills and bonds – meaning that about one out of every four shillings lent to the public was borrowed by the government. The government is a risk-free borrower, so for a bank to lend to anyone else, it has to be  premium above that, as there is a risk of default there.

On average, banks have about 40% of the deposits invested with government – and some banks with a ‘foreign outlook’ such as Bank of India, Habib AG, Habib Zurich, Citibank and Bank of Baroda in fact invest more of their depositors money with government, than they do as loans to customers.

$1 = Kshs 100

Banking law amended in 2007

The banking amendment act (2006) and finance act (2006) were gazetted in January 2007. Some changes that will affect the banking system in a busy year, in addition to possible merger activity, include;

– Ban on bank charges within savings accounts. In fact banks must pay interest as long as the account minimums are maintained
– Section 44A (in duplum rule) – banks can only recover principal amount lent, interest to an amount not exceeding principal, and recovery expenses from bad debts. (Fortunately for banks this will not be applied retroactively)
– CBK gets a deputy governor appointed by the president
– CBK also gets to vet the professional and moral suitability of owners (of more than 5%), directors, and senior managers of banks
– All banks must get permission from the finance minister to open branches or establish subsidiaries outside Kenya
– Banks are allowed to invest in real estate. They can also hold land for as long as it takes to realize/recover debt
– Allows sharing of non performing assets information with the Central bank, others banks and credit reference bureaus

Class action suit against HFCK

Civil suit no. 151 of 2003 to be heard at Milimani commercial courts of February 25, 2005 pits four (4) mortgage borrowers against the Housing Finance Company of Kenya (HFCK) and seeks to challenge “default charges,” ”penalty interest, ”interest on arrears,” and other charges that HFCK has debited against these borrowers account. Through an initiative spearheaded by the Interest Rates Advisory Centre (associated with former MP Joe Donde), 60 other borrowers have been enjoined in the class action suit against HFCK. IRAC is also seeking to register other borrowers by February 20th to participate in the suit against HFCK.