NEWS

BoG set to put damper on loans

The rapid rise in consumer debt worries the Bank of Greece, which plans to make it more difficult for commercial banks to issue such loans by demanding an increase in provisions. The outstanding balance of consumer loans at the end of October 2004 was 16.11 billion euros, up 38.1 percent from last year, according to the latest Bank of Greece data. Of this, personal loans accounted for 6.12 billion, having increased by some 64.2 percent in a year’s time. Total household indebtedness in Greece is equal to 26.3 percent of the country’s GDP, compared to 48.3 percent in the 15 old European Union members. What worries the central bank, however, is that the pace of credit expansion is faster in Greece and that some segments of the population, especially urban young professionals, show signs of over-indebtedness, with many on the verge of defaulting on their loans. The central bank and commercial banks differ in their conclusions. While most consumer credit managers from commercial banks point out that the majority of households are far from being excessively indebted – implying that there is still plenty of room for credit expansion – Bank of Greece officials say that large segments of the population, especially farmers or older urban dwellers are, in any case, reluctant to take out consumer loans or get credit cards and do not constitute a market waiting to be tapped. The Bank of Greece appears determined to take action to drastically curtail the rate of consumer credit expansion.