ECONOMY

Liquidity boost for banks ready

Greece’s banks have access to 24 billion euros provided by the state in the form of guarantees to boost the financial system and improve liquidity. The Bank of Greece has completed its distribution of the capital that each bank is entitled to, based on market share as determined by loan portfolios. Each of the larger lenders is estimated to receive about 3-4 billion euros apiece. In order to receive the money, the banks need to submit an application to the Finance Ministry. The funds will provide some breathing space to the banking system, as well as the broader economy, given the tight liquidity conditions caused by Greece’s debt crisis. The money comes at a difficult time for local banks, which are being tested by falling deposits, rising nonperforming loans and an inability to raise much-needed funds from the wholesale lending market. Banking industry officials believe that the 24 billion euros will provide lenders with more flexibility, helping to keep annual credit growth at around 1 percent by the end of 2010. Bank officials add, however, that although the state assistance may ease the economy’s liquidity woes in the short term, it won’t solve them. In order for lending to stage a recovery, the government needs to restore its fiscal health and boost the economy, enabling Greece to return to the debt market. If the government does not complete one or two successful debt auctions, then banks cannot expect to return to the wholesale lending market. Since Greece is not expected to return to the debt market anytime soon, banks are for now concentrating on holding onto deposits.