Role of Commercial Banks in Development

Category: Bank, Banking, Money, Payment
Last Updated: 27 Feb 2023
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A commercial bank is something with which every one of us is well known. However different bankers and economists have defined it in a different way:  According to Kent: “An organization whose principal operations are concerned with the accumulation of the temporarily idle money of the general public for the purpose of advancing to others for expenditure.” According to Banking Companies Ordinance 1962: Banking means the accepting for the purpose of lending or investing of deposits of money from the public repayable in demand or otherwise and withdrawable by cheque, draft order or otherwise.” Various economists have different views about the role of commercial banks in economic development. Schumpeter says, “It is the banking system which serves as a key agent along with the entrepreneur in the process of economic development”. According to Prof. Cameron in his “Banking and Economic Development”, “a banking system may make a positive contribution to economic growth and development.

Evolution of Commercial Banks

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The foundation for building a broad base of agricultural credit structure was laid by the Report of the All-India Rural Credit Survey (AIRCS) of 1954. The provision of cultivator credit in 1951-52 was less than 1% for commercial banks. In the report, it was observed that agricultural credit fell short of the right quantity, was not of the right type, did not fit the right purpose and often failed to go to the right people.

With a view to giving an impetus to commercial banks, particularly, in the sphere of investment credit, the nationalization of the Imperial Bank of India and its re-designation as the State Bank of India (SBI) was recommended. Growth in Outreach 1951-91 From the position prevalent in 1951-52, commercial banks came a long way with a substantial spread of 32,224 branches in rural and semi-urban areas comprising 68% of their total outlets as on 31 March 1991. The outstanding deposits of such branches at Rs. 7,855 crores as on the same date constituted around 35% of their total deposits, while loans outstanding at Rs. 43,797 crores comprised 36% of outstanding credit. The agricultural advances of the commercial banking system aggregated Rs. 16,687 crores and constituted 14% of total advances in March 1991. The rural and semi-urban branches of commercial banks covered 17. 6 crore deposit accounts while the number of loan accounts serviced aggregated 3. 7 crore. Growth during 1991-92 to 2003-04 The period since 1991-92 has seen a fairly rapid expansion of credit to agriculture.

Available data indicate that the flow of credit to agriculture by commercial banks and RRBs took together increased to Rs. 60,022 crores in 2003-04. This implies a compounded annual growth rate of 22. 2%. In fact, as compared with commercial banks (including RRBs), the flow of credit from the cooperative sector was much slower through this period. The compounded annual growth rate of credit for agriculture from cooperative institutions was only 13. 7%. Further, the proportion of agriculture credit to total credit came down because of the rapid growth in nonagriculture credit.

The Government took some major initiatives during the period to boost agriculture production and productivity through enhanced credit flow and by way of building agricultural infrastructure, particularly irrigation and connectivity in rural areas. Special Agricultural Credit Plan (SACP) was introduced by RBI for Public Sector Commercial Banks in 1994-95. Credit growth for agriculture and allied sectors under this caption reflected a CAGR of 36. 45% during 2001-02 to 2005-06. SACP has since been extended to Private Sector Commercial Banks from 2005-06.

The SHG–Bank Linkage Programme was started as a pilot project by NABARD in 1992. It led to the evolution of a set of RBI-approved guidelines to banks to enable SHGs to transact with banks. Initially, there was slow progress in the program up to 1999 as only 32,995 groups were credit linked during the period 1992 to 1999. Since then the program has been growing rapidly and the cumulative number of SHGs financed increased from 4. 61 lakhs on 31 March 2002 to 10. 73 lakhs on 31 March 2004 and further to 29. 25 lakh groups as on 31 March 2007.

Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) was set up in NABARD by GoI during 1995-96 with an initial corpus of Rs. 2000 crore, to accelerate the 47 completion of on-going projects of rural infrastructure. Banks that did not fulfill the priority sector credit requirement and agriculture credit mandate were required to contribute to this Fund. The fund has been strengthened every year with additional allocations in the Union Budget. A large number of irrigation and rural connectivity projects could get completed under RIDF. RBI scaled down its contribution to the Rural Credit funds with NABARD to a token amount of Rs. crore per annum since 1993-94. However, to enable NABARD to have reasonably strong leverage for accessing market funds, the share capital of NABARD was strengthened and increased to Rs. 2000 crore (paid up) from Rs. 100 crore at the time of its formation in 1982. Contributions to enhanced share capital have come from GoI and RBI. By prudent funds management, the institution has also built a strong base of reserves and has been using it in its business operations judiciously to keep lending rates to rural financial institutions at significantly lower than market costs.

Developments – Post-2003-04

Since 2003-04, there has been a substantial increase in the flow of credit to agriculture through commercial banks. Disbursements have increased from Rs. 52,441 crores in 2003-04 to Rs. 1,16,447 crore in 2005-06, reaching an annual growth of 43% each year. As envisaged in the GoI's strategy for “doubling of credit”, 95 lakh new farmers have been brought under the institutional fold and 1,383 agri-clinics opened. Commercial banks have also played a major role in the promotion of the SHG – bank linkage movement with more than 11. 88 lakh groups are linked to banks for the provision of credit.

Reforms in the commercial banking system include the removal of procedural and transactional bottlenecks including the elimination of the Service Area Approach, reducing margins, redefining overdue to coincide with crop cycles, new debt restructuring policies, one-time settlement and relief measures for farmers indebted to non-institutional sources. Banks play a vital role in the economic development of a country. They accumulate the idle savings of the people and make them available for investment. They also create new demand deposits in the process of granting loans and purchasing investment ecurities. They facilitate trade both inside and outside the country by accepting and discounting of bills of exchange. Banks also increase the mobility of capital. They provide a variety of facilities for remitting a large amount of money from one place to another by the transfer of a mere slip of paper. Commercial banks play an important and active role in the economic development of a country, if the banking system in a country is effective, efficient and disciplined; it brings about a rapid growth in the various sectors of the economy.

The Functions of Commercial Banks

In the modern world, banks perform such a variety of functions that it is not possible to make an all-inclusive list of their functions and services. However, some basic functions performed by the banks are discussed below.

Accepting Deposits

The first important function of a bank is to accept deposits from those who can save but cannot profitably utilize these saving themselves. People consider it more rational to deposit their savings in a bank because by doing so they, on the one hand, earn interest, and on the other, avoid the danger of theft.

To attract savings from all sorts of individuals, the banks maintain different types of accounts:

  1. Fixed Deposit Account: Money in these accounts is deposited for a fixed period of time (say one, two, or five years) and cannot be withdrawn before the expiry of that period. The rate of interest on this account is higher than that on other types of deposits. The longer the period, the higher will be the rate of interest. Fixed deposits are also called time deposits or time liabilities.
  2. Current Deposit Account: These accounts are generally maintained by traders and businessmen who have to make a number of payments every day. Money from these accounts can be withdrawn in as many times and in as much amount as desired by the depositors. Normally, no interest is paid on these accounts; rather, the depositors have to pay certain incidental charges to the bank for the services rendered by it. Current deposits are also called demand deposits or demand liabilities.
  3. Saving Deposit Account: The aim of these accounts is to encourage and mobilize small savings of the public. Certain restrictions are imposed on the depositors regarding the number of withdrawals and the amount to be withdrawn in a given period. A Cheque facility is provided to the depositors. The rate of interest paid on these deposits is low as compared to that on fixed deposits.
  4. Recurring Deposit Account: The purpose of these accounts is to encourage regular savings by the public, particularly by the fixed-income group. Generally, money in these accounts is deposited in monthly installments for a fixed period and is repaid to the depositors along with interest on maturity. The rate of interest on these deposits is nearly the same as 3s on fixed deposits.
  5. Home Safe Account: Home safe account is another scheme aiming at promoting saving habits among people.

Under this scheme, a safe is supplied to the depositor to keep it at home and to put his small savings in it. Periodically, the safe is taken to the bank where the amount of the safe is credited to his account.

Advancing of loans

The second important function of a bank is advancing of loans to the public. After keeping certain cash reserves, the banks lend their deposits to needy borrowers. Before advancing loans, the banks satisfy themselves about the credits worthiness of the borrowers. Various types of loans granted by the banks are discussed below:

  1. Money at Call: Such loans are very short-period loans and can be called back by the bank at a very short notice of say one day to fourteen days. These loans are generally made to other banks or financial institutions.
  2. Cash Credit: It is a type of loan, which is given to the borrower against his current assets, such as shares, stocks, bonds, etc. Such loans are not based on personal security. The bank opens the account in the name of the borrower and allows him to withdraw borrowed money from time to time up to a certain limit as determined by the value of his current assets. Interest is charged only on the amount actually withdrawn from the account.
  3. Overdraft: Sometimes, the bank provides overdraft facilities to its customers through which they are allowed to withdraw more than their deposits. Interest is charged from the customers on the overdrawn amount.
  4. Discounting of Bills of Exchange: This is another popular type of lending by modern banks. Through this method, a holder of a bill of exchange can get it discounted by the bank. In a bill of exchange, the debtor accepts the bill drawn upon him by the creditor (i. e, holder of the bill) and agrees to pay the amount mentioned on maturity. After making some marginal deductions (in the form of commission), the bank pays the value of the bill to the holder. When the bill of exchange matures, the bank gets its payment from the party, which had accepted the bill. Thus, such a loan is self-liquidating.
  5. Term Loans: The banks have also started advancing medium-term and long-term loans. The maturity period for such loans is more than one year. The amount sanctioned is either paid or credited to the account of the borrower. The interest is charged on the entire amount of the loan and the loan is repaid either on maturity or in installments.

Credit Creation

A unique function of the bank is to create credit. In fact, credit creation is the natural outcome of the process of advancing loan as adopted by the banks. When a bank advances a loan to its customer, it does not lend cash but opens an account in the borrower's name and credits the amount of loan to this account. Thus, whenever a bank grants a loan, it creates an equal amount of bank deposit. Creation of such deposits is called credit creation which results in a net increase in the money stock of the economy.

Banks have the ability to create credit many times more than their deposits and this ability of multiple credit creation depends upon the cash-reserve ratio of the banks.

Promoting Cheque System:

Banks also render a very useful medium of exchange in the form of cheques. Through a cheque, the depositor directs the bankers to make payment to the payee. Cheque is the most developed credit instrument in the money market. In the modern business transactions, cheques have become much more convenient method of settling debts than the use of cash.

Agency Functions:

Banks also perform certain agency functions for and on behalf of their customers:

  • Remittance of Funds: Banks help their customers in transferring funds from one place to another through cheques, drafts, etc.
  • Collection and Payment of Credit Instruments: Banks collect and pay various credit instruments like cheques, bills of exchange, promissory notes, etc.
  • Execution of Standing Orders: Banks execute the standing instructions of their customers for making various periodic payments. They pay subscriptions, rent, insurance premiums, etc. on behalf of their customers.
  • Purchasing and Sale of Securities: Banks undertake purchase and sale of various securities like shares, stocks, bonds, debentures etc. on behalf of their customers. Banks neither give any advice to their customers regarding these investments nor levy any charge on them for their service, but simply perform the function of a broker.
  • Collection of Dividends on Shares: Banks collect dividends, interest on shares and debentures of their customers.
  •  Income Tax Consultancy: Banks may also employ income-tax experts lo prepare income tax returns for their customers and to help them to get refunds of income tax.
  • Acting as Trustee and Executor:
  • Banks preserve the wills of their customers and execute them after their death.
  • Acting as Representative and Correspondent: Sometimes the banks act as representatives and correspondents of their customers. They get passports, and travelers tickets, book vehicles, plots for their customers and receive letters on their behalf.

General Utility Function:

In addition to agency services, modern banks provide many general utility services as given below:

  • Locker Facility: Banks provide locker facility to their customers. Customers can keep their valuables and important documents in these lockers for safe custody.
  • Traveler's Cheques: Banks issue traveler's cheques to help their customers lo travel without the fear of theft or loss of money. With this facility, the customers need not take the risk of carrying cash with them during their travels.
  • Letter of Credit: Letters of credit are issued by the banks to their customers certifying their creditworthiness. Letters of credit are very useful in foreign trade.
  • Collection of Statistics: Banks collect statistics giving important information relating to industry, trade and commerce, money, and banking. They also publish journals and bulletins containing research articles on economic and financial matters.
  • Underwriting Securities: Banks underwrite the securities issued by the government, public or private bodies. Because of its full faith in banks, the public will not hesitate in buying securities carrying the signatures of a bank.
  • Gift Cheques: Some banks issue cheques of various denominations to be used on auspicious occasions.
  • Acting as Referee: Banks may be referred for seeking information regarding the financial position, business reputation, and respectability of their customers.
  • Foreign Exchange Business: Banks also deal in the business of foreign currencies. Again, they may finance foreign trade by discounting foreign bills of exchange.

Role of Commercial Banks In the Economic Development Of A Country

Commercial banks play an important and active role in the economic development of a country. If the banking system in a country is effective, efficient, and disciplined, it brings about rapid growth in the various sectors of the economy. The economic significance of commercial banks is given in brief.

  1. Banks promote capital formation.

    Commercial banks play an important role in rising of the financial resources. They encourage savings by giving various types of incentives to the savers. They expand branches of the banks in rural and urban areas and mobilize savings even in far places. These savings are then made available to the businesses which make use of them for productive purposes in the country. The banks are, therefore, not only storehouses of the country’s wealth but also provide a stream of resources necessary for economic development.

  2. Investment in new enterprises.

Businessmen normally hesitate to invest their money in risky enterprises. Commercial banks generally provide short and medium-term loans to entrepreneurs to invest in new enterprises and adopt new methods of production. The provision of timely credit increases the productive capacity of the economy.

Promotion of trade and industry. With the growth of commercial banking in the 19th and 20th centuries, there is a vast expansion in trade and industry. The use of bank drafts, cheques, bill of exchange credit cards, etc. has revolutionized both national and international trade.

  1. Development of agriculture. Commercial banks, particularly in developing countries, are now providing credit for the development of agriculture and small-scale industries in rural areas. The provision of credit to the agriculture sector has greatly helped in raising agricultural productivity and the income of the farmers. This has led to increased demand for industrial goods and expansion of industry.
  2. Balanced development of different regions. Commercial banks play an important role in achieving balance in different regions of the country. They help in transferring surplus capital from developed regions to less developing regions. The traders, industrialists, etc. of less developed regions are able to get adequate capital for meeting their business needs. This, in turn, increases investment, trade, and production in the economy.
  3. Influencing economic activity. The banks can also influence the economic activity of the country through its influence on (a) the availability of credit and (b) the rate of interest. If commercial banks are able to increase the amount of money in circulation through credit creation or by lowering the rate of interest, it directly affects economic development. A low rate of interest can encourage investment. The credit creation activity can raise aggregate demand which leads to more production in the economy. Which finally increases the growth of the nation.
  • Implementation of monetary policy. The central bank of the country controls and regulates the volume of credit through the active cooperation of the banking system in the country. If helps in bringing price stability and promotes economic growth within the shortest possible period to time.
  • Monetization of the economy. The commercial banks by opening branches in the rural and backward areas are reducing the exchange of goods through barter. The use of money has now greatly increased the volume of production of goods. The non-monetized sector (barter economy) is now being converted into a monetized sector with the help of commercial banks.

Export promotion cells

In order to increase the exports of the country, commercial banks have established export promotion cells. They provide information about general trade and economic conditions both inside and outside the country to its customers. The banks are, therefore, making positive contribution in the process of economic development.

Role of banks in the 21st century:

Commercial banks are now not confined to local banking. They are fast changing into global banking i.e., understanding the global customer, using latest information technology, competing in the open market with high technology system, changing from domestic banking to investment banking etc. Commercial banks are now considered the nerve centre of all economic development in the country. The use of online banking is now on the increase. It has brought a revolution in the banking industry.


Commercial banks are considered not merely as dealers in money but also leaders in economic development. They are not only the storehouses of the country’s wealth but also the reservoirs of resources necessary for economic development. They play an important role in the economic development of a country. A well-developed banking system is essential for the economic development of a country. The “Industrial Revolution” in Europe in the 19th century would not have been possible without a sound system of commercial banking. In the case of developing countries like India, commercial banks are considered to be the backbone of the economy.

The Banking Sector has for centuries now formed one of the pillars of economic prosperity. Indeed history provides us with some starting information regarding how banks provided finance for imperialist ventures in newly acquired colonies. Over time banks have formed an important part in providing an avenue for both savings and investments. Land, Labor, capital and entrepreneurs are the basic economic resources available to businesses. However, to make the use of these resources, a business requires finance to purchase of the land, hire labor, pay for capital goods, and pay for individuals with specialized skills.

Commercial banks provide capital, technical assistance and other facilities to businessmen according to their need, which leads to development in trade. Commercial banks finance the most important sector of the developing economics i. e. agriculture, short, medium and long-term loans are provided for the purchase of seeds and fertilizer, installation of tube wells, construction of warehouses, purchase of tractors and threshers etc. Commercial banks help in increasing the rate of capital formation in a country. Capital formation means an increase in number of production units, technology, plant and machinery.

They finance the projects responsible for increasing the rate of capital formation. Commercial banks help the traders of two different countries to undertake business. Letter of credit is issued by the importer’s bank to the exporters to ensure the payment. The banks also arrange a foreign exchange. Commercial banks provide the facility of transferring funds from one place to another which leads to the growth of trade. The commercial banks financed the transport sector. It has reduced unemployment on one hand and increased the transport facility on the other hand. Remote areas are linked to main markets through developed transport system.

These are the few ways in which commercial banks had helped in developing the economy of a country.


  1.  Samuelson Norhaus, economics, 18th edn, Tata McGraw Hill Publishing Co. Ltd. , 2008
  2.  Xam idea, economics, F K Publication, 2009
  3.  Chitta Ranjan Basu, Commercial Banking in the Planned Economy of India, Mittal Publications, 1991
  4.  N. Gregory Mankiw, Principles of Economics, cengage learning, 2012
  6.  N. Gregory Mankiw, Principles of Economics, cengage learning, 2012

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Role of Commercial Banks in Development. (2016, Dec 26). Retrieved from

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