Serbian citizens are currently repaying banking debts worth around EUR 7 billion, amounting to around EUR 1,000 per citizen.
The problem lies in the fact that retail cash loans currently amount to EUR 3.5 billion, equal to the mortgage debt. As the Belgrade office of the World Bank explains, cash loans are more risky, as they are not used for investments, but for spending.
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On the other hand, banks say that Serbian citizens owe much less compared to those in neighbouring countries and the rest of Europe. They note that EUR 7 billion is a fifth of the gross domestic product and that the National Bank has limited the repayment period for cash loans to eight years. They add that the macroeconomic indicators are excellent, the inflation is low and the dinar/euro exchange rate is stable. They, therefore, do not think there is a risk of increased indebtedness.
Zoran Grubisic, a professor at the Belgrade Banking Academy, agrees with this.
“The loans are growing at a dynamic rate, but if the economic growth is stable in the long term and if it is accompanied with an increase in salaries, taking out loans shouldn’t be problematic,” he adds.
Most cash and refinancing loans are granted in dinars, with an average cash loan amounting to 400,000 dinars.
“Everybody is free to borrow as much as they want to and as much as the bank allows. However, the state needs to send a clear message that loan contracts must be honoured and that there will be no exceptions as in the case of mortgages indexed in Swiss francs. An agreement can only be changed through negotiations between the bank and the client, with both consenting to it,” economist Ljubomir Madzar notes.
In Croatia, the average debt per citizen has grown to EUR 3,800. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it amounts to EUR 3,000, in Montenegro it is around EUR 2,000, and in Macedonia, it stands at EUR 1,500.
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