Credit market activity in Albania has been sluggish in recent years in spite of low and declining interest rates. The economy lost its growth momentum after 2009. Investment and lending activity slowed down substantially despite low interest rates, relative macroeconomic resilience, and available capacity in the private sector to take on more debt. This study analyzes the supply (lenders’) and demand (borrowers’) sides of the market.
The reason behind the credit market failure is a supply-demand mismatch. Poor financial intermediation is the main problem on the supply side. Despite excess liquidity in the financial sector, banks are excessively risk-averse, bank practices and products are unsophisticated, and non-bank financial market is underdeveloped. Excessive risk aversion translates into tight credit standards, credit rationing and credit crunch for some economic sectors, in particular those dominated by SMEs. On the demand side, firms overall have a low appetite to expand, limited capacity to create bankable and financially viable projects, and are also constrained by infrastructural gaps and economic uncertainty. The mismatch results from the fragmentation of the credit market, with reliable borrowers from traditional sectors having easy access to finance, and other segments being almost fully deprived of credit.
Government and donor-led policies to mitigate the problem have had little success. Albania enjoys access to a number of domestic and external funding schemes primarily focused on alleviating funding constraints for credit-deprived sectors, but these programs have been ineffective. Further study is needed to understand the reasons behind the limited success of these programs.
A National Development Bank (NDB) could address some of the observed credit market challenges. While an NDB’s ability to directly resolve demand-side constraints would be limited, an NDB could effectively tackle supply-side constraints in the credit market as well as provide surveillance and collect information from the private sector, leverage technical assistance, and develop tailored financial products. Establishing an NDB should be considered carefully, taking into account functional, governance, funding, staffing and other risk factors.