SME Minister Nita criticises banking

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Minister for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Commerce and the Business Milieu Constantin Nita on Thursday criticised in Oradea the Romanian banking system, the National Bank of Romania and the commercial banks, saying their business style is not fair to the Romanian entrepreneurs and that the banking system has to adjust itself to the real economy.
Minister Nita attended a roundtable conference in Oradea, where he criticised the National Bank of Romania (BNR) for keeping for itself a loan of 13 billion euros, after the Government’s efforts, ‘just to show off the bank in a good light, that is to show a good inflation rate and favourable exchange rates,’ without trying to get the money into the real economy.
‘All this money in BNR’s statutory reserve normally has to go into the real economy, which does not happen,’ Nita told the conference that discussed assistance and development projects for SMEs.
He said it is difficult to impose conditions on private banks, which he said have become more flexible as far as collecting interest rates and loan installments are concerned, but have a rigid lending policy.
Nita said that the Romanian Government provides export fiscal incentives through Eximbank exclusively, covering 50 percent of the costs, but it cannot subsidise interest rates, because that would be considered state aid and will have to be approved by the European Commission.
The minister mentioned that protocols have been concluded with Banca Comerciala, CEC, Eximbank and Banca Transilvania under which assistance is provided to customers for the rescheduling of interest and installment payments over one year. He added that his ministry is discussing similar approaches with other banks as well. ‘This is a grievance of the business milieu that is now somehow met,’ he said.
He said that problems emerged in discussions with the banks when interest rates in excess of 20 percent were involved. ‘Since profitability in the economy is 10 percent, how can the companies pay a 20-percent interest rate, plus wages, utilities, raw materials and other rates and taxes,’ the minister wondered.
Nita also argued that the banks have too long deadlines for considering applications, saying it is inadmissible that a customer files an application and is notified an answer after 3 months.
‘Perhaps the law of tacit approval, which we want to modify, should be somehow transferred to the banking system as well. I believe that, as we demand the public administrations to reply in a reasonable time, we should demand the same from banks,’ said Nita.
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