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Small Banks Beg State for Respite

Published: April 7, 2009 (Issue # 1463)


MOSCOW Executives from hundreds of small banks flocked to Moscow on Friday to lobby against a new law that could force them to close by the end of the year, but Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin insisted that the government would not budge.

At an annual conference of the Association of Russian Banks, the small banks begged lawmakers and state officials to amend the law requiring them to increase their net worth to 90 million rubles ($2.6 million) by Jan. 1 and to 180 million rubles by 2012.

Our colleagues have announced, and with good reason, that this law will lead to the closure of many successful small banks and bring harm to many honest small and medium enterprises, the associations president, Garegin Tosunyan, said in his opening remarks.

Small banks with less than 100 million rubles in capital make up 28 percent of the associations membership, which includes 760 of the countrys 1,200 financial institutions.

This strain is coming at a time of crisis ... and so our members propose that the time period for coming up with the minimal capital requirement is extended by two years, Tosunyan said.

The government has said Russia has far too many banks, and Pyotr Aven, head of the largest private bank, Alfa Bank, has predicted a wave of failures on bad assets several times in recent weeks.

At the conference, the chiefs of the biggest banks called for lower refinancing rates and more direct government support for banks. But the looming capital requirement was the main concern of most conference attendees.

The only speaker of the day who managed to draw midspeech applause from the banking crowd was former Economics Minister Andrei Nechayev, a sharp critic of the capitalization minimum.

In the base-case scenario, it is stupid to require the banks to have 90 million rubles in capital by Jan. 1. In the worst-case, it is sabotage, Nechayev said. Let the market dispose of these banks in market terms. ... Why should we do it artificially?

Kudrin, who took the stage after Nechayev, said the law would weed out banks that contribute little to Russias economic growth and criminally active banks that have increased their money-laundering operations during the crisis.

We believe that it is necessary to increase and consolidate banking capital to create developed institutes that are able to provide for economic growth, Kudrin said.

What are 90 million rubles? Most of you in the crowd understand what this sum is worth. ... If a bank doesnt have 90 million rubles, it is a very small bank, rather, it is a minibank, Kudrin said.

Kudrin said that while there are still honest banks in this small-cap category, there are also many banks engaged in money laundering, banks that exist not to lend but to protect the owners or someone elses money.

This law will increase control over banks. There will be less banks but much more supervision, he said.

Kudrin predicted that about 150 banks would not have enough capital to meet the requirements by Jan. 1.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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