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South African Banks Say they Won’t be Able to Write Off Loans as Grants

Standard Bank Group Ltd. has raised the alarm around proposals to revive a faltering government-backed credit program designed to aid South African businesses battered by Covid-19. While South Africa’s largest lender is open to talks on how to restructure the $13.6 billion program to drive up demand, it rejects suggestions to swap into grants the loans that have been provided, Chief Executive Officer Sim Tshabalala said in the bank’s annual report. “Apart from the unfair burden that a conversion to grants would place on our depositors and investors, and on taxpayers, we think that converting loans into grants would set a very undesirable precedent,” he said. President Cyril Ramaphosa has criticized the nation’s biggest banks for failing to speedily disburse credit under the initiative started in May. The Banking Association of South Africa has said that total allocations were unlikely to reach 10% of the program’s capacity. The program is due to expire on April 11. A review by the banking association found many business owners had opted for relief arrangements with their individual banks over loans from the program.