OPINION

Pushing the limit

…According to statistics released at the end of last week by the Bank of Greece, the number of personal loans issued increased by 53.7 percent last April compared to April 2003, with the balance of the loans standing at 4.86 billion euros. On the basis of statistics from the same source, the rate of increase in loans taken in the form of credit cards remains stable but exceptionally high. The latter fact is particularly significant, first because the interest charge on credit cards in our country (15-16 percent) is probably the highest in Europe, and secondly because the majority of Greeks use them to such an extent that they make the banks rich. Indeed, most of them don’t use credit cards to help them with financial transaction but as a perpetual loan whose amount is equal to the limit of the card. In this way, every month, they are paying the top interest rate for using their card to the limit. In view of all this, how sincere can we regard the recent concern expressed by the governor of the Bank of Greece for the increase in the provision of loans? What does Nikos Garganas mean by saying that «consumers must take into account their anticipated income over the next few years as well as the possibility of interest rates increasing»? The most plausible explanation is that the governor of our central lending institution is placing the responsibility of the overborrowing of Greek households on consumers who will be burdened with the consequences of their «imprudence»…