Ceiling on loans to go on June 20

All curbs on bank loans will be lifted as of next Friday, allowing consumers to borrow money on the strength of their ability to repay, following a Bank of Greece decision yesterday. The lifting of borrowing restrictions will come into effect 11 days earlier than was initially expected after Nikos Garganas, central bank governor, held negotiations at the end of May with the Hellenic Banks’ Association. The current loan ceilings are 25,000 euros for consumer loans, 3,000 euros for personal loans and 1,500 euros in overdrafts, while there is a 1,000-euro limit on credit card cash withdrawals. This deregulation, which is mandatory under the Maastricht Treaty, depends on the functioning of the electronic Teiresias credit-rating system that will allow banks to scrutinize the finances of would-be loan-takers. However, privacy laws prevent banks from sharing such information without their customers’ consent. Outstanding loan balances in Greece at the end of 2002 amounted to 22.3 percent of GDP, according to the central bank. The eurozone average was 47 percent.

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