Paralysis by Asian banks threatens to stunt region’s economic recovery – UN report
Banks in Asia are afraid to lend, and companies are reluctant to borrow, resulting in a deadly circle that threatens to keep economic growth muted across much of the region, according to a new new comprehensive joint-study published today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
In addition, the region’s monetary authorities have given little or no indication how they will solve this credit crunch, states the report, “Rejuvenating Bank Finance For Development in Asia and the Pacific,” which was compiled in conjunction with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The problem of non-performing loans, which reached record numbers following the Asian financial crisis of 1997, has undermined the solvency of the banking systems in many countries, the report says. Nevertheless, most countries are presently experiencing “ample liquidity with low and declining interest rates,” but there exists a shortage of “creditworthy” corporate borrowers.
The impact of this current reluctance to lend or borrow could have an even more negative effect on the region’s economy. “Until banks regain their ability and willingness to lend and become less risk averse, the pace of economic growth is likely to remain muted as many less creditworthy customers will be avoided by the banks,” ESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su said at the opening of a roundtable discussion on the Asian banking sector and launch of the publication.
The report also notes a lack of clarity across the region when it comes to tackling the problem. “The so-called ‘credit crunch’ has been much discussed over the last few years with little, or no, indication as to what monetary authorities might do to overcome it,” it says.
The study also makes a strong case for a renewed emphasis on micro-financing as an effective tool in assisting the poor, especially poor women, crediting the strategy as having triggered a process toward broadening and deepening of rural financial markets in Asian and Pacific countries.