Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis called on banks to turn on the lending tap for businesses yesterday. Speaking at an event organized by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), the minister described the banking system as old and spoke about dated and unsuitable financial tools being used by lenders. He also referred to the government’s intention to secure a liquidity agreement with lenders in order to channel money into the market where needed. ESEE president Vassilis Korkidis said he believes banks have started to approach businesses, adding that they «were at risk of not having any clients left with the position they were adopting.» Banks have been rejecting eight in 10 loan applications, added Korkidis. On the trade front, ESEE’s president predicted that business conditions this winter will be the harshest in 20 years. Data presented by ESEE showed that one in four businesses are shutting down and retailers are seeing a drastic drop in turnover, particularly among clothing and footwear stores. The number of people employed in the sector in the second quarter of the year fell to 801,000 from 828,000 in the same period a year earlier. Data also showed that a number of those running retail businesses had decided to throw in the towel. The number of employers in the April-to-June period fell 13.2 percent, while the drop among the self-employed reached 6.2 percent.