Banks get ready for state presence

The government will appoint representatives to bank boards next week to help oversee the channeling of liquidity to cash-strapped business and households as part of its support scheme, according to Finance Ministry sources. National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou met with the Hellenic Bank Association yesterday, where both parties agreed to implement the next stage of the 28-billion-euro plan. «The government is obviously aiming to boost liquidity but banks also want this as it relates to their customers,» said the minister after the meeting. The government representatives will also have veto power over dividend policy and executive pay. Earlier this week, Papathanassiou warned that the state and the central bank would be closely scrutinizing whether the money provided under the plan was reaching the real economy. Banks claim they have started pumping the money into the economy, highlighting that the program has only just started. The government wants lenders to funnel a major portion of the funds to mortgages and small business loans. Greece’s central bank expects the scheme will help keep credit expansion above 10 percent this year. The country’s 260-billion-euro economy is decelerating after years of 4 percent growth, hit by the global economic downturn. Although economists see this year’s official 2.7 percent growth forecast as optimistic, Greece may escape recession. The government’s scheme provides capital injections via the sale of preferred shares to the state, guarantees on debt issuance by banks and liquidity support via special government bonds. Under the plan, which has won approval from the European Commission, Greece will spend up to 5 billion euros for capital injections via preferred shares which will pay the state a 10 percent dividend.

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