CULTURE

A chronology of the National Bank

A country’s central bank is the heart of its monetary system, issuing money and acting as the instrument for the regulation of the inflow and outflow of an economy’s lifeblood. For most of the 160 years since its foundation, the National Bank of Greece (NBG) not only acted as such an instrument but also accounted for a major part of the financial system, raising and distributing this lifeblood necessary for the growth of the economy. NBG’s «Historical Chronology, 1841-2001,» recently published by its Historical Archive department, is an extremely detailed chart of the bank’s development, usefully indexed into 11 categories of information, including important events, organization and structure, expansion of operations, financial data, services to the State, participation in major projects, subsidiaries, as well as its contributions to social causes and the arts. As Greece’s longest-surviving – and oldest state-controlled – institution, its development, as documented in this chronology, has been much like a barometer of the pains of the nation’s growth. It has passed through heavy dependence on external and internal borrowing, bankruptcies, wars, territorial expansion, foreign occupation and economic development in the postwar era. As such, it has also epitomized the ills, inadequacies and inflexibilities resulting from the overwhelming influence of the State in economic affairs. Today, NBG is the country’s second-biggest firm in terms of market capitalization after OTE Telecom, which it is likely to overtake after the planned merger with Alpha Bank. It has a presence in 18 countries and with the merger it hopes to consolidate its position and enable it to successfully compete in the new, larger environment of the eurozone, which should also act as a modernizing force. The book is well illustrated, with separate sections on the evolution of banking technology, the bank’s real estate property and samples from its Educational Foundation, Historical Archive, banknotes issued and the arts collection. In 1936 Katrakis met Dimitris Mitropoulos, by then a renowned composer, whose friendship had a great effect on the actor.