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`PSB mergers cannot be put off for too long'

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The Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, with Mr A. K. Purwar, CMD, State Bank of India, and Mr Yogesh Agarwal (right), Managing Director, State Bank of Patiala, at a function in the Capital on Tuesday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , Aug 30

KEEPING alive the debate on merger of public sector banks, the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, today said that consolidation among the government-owned banks could be round the corner.

"Consolidation will come. It's an idea whose time has arrived. It cannot be put off for too long," Mr Chidambaram said at a function organised by the State Bank of Patiala to announce 100 per cent networking of its 752 branches.

The Finance Minister urged employees of public sector banks to be prepared for consolidation. "Employees must be prepared for the change," he said.

Mr Chidambaram said that the Government would keep a strict watch on the performance of public sector banks. "Government will remain the owners of public sector banks. We would hold you to account on the annual Statement of Intent (on financial goals)," he said.

He said that Government on its part would stay away from interfering with the day-to-day functioning of the banks as much as possible. "We will give you autonomy. We will find ways to treat public sector banks differently from other public sector companies," he said.

Speaking at the function, the Chairman, State Bank of India, Mr A.K. Purwar, said that SBI is looking at entering the pension market after reforms as well as floating an outfit that would carry out general insurance business.

"We would like to enter pension and general insurance if permitted," he said.

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