Colombian banks seek looser regulation to expand services

jueves 21 de agosto de 2014 14:59 GYT

By Nelson Bocanegra

CARTAGENA, Colombia Aug 21 (Reuters) - Colombian banks want looser regulations and the elimination of a financial transaction tax to increase consumer access to banking services and take advantage of favorable growth conditions, the head of the Banking Association of Colombia said.

Colombia's private bank loan portfolio has considerable room to grow, Maria Mercedes Cuellar said in an interview on Thursday, while expanding bank services would help nearly one-third of adult population that does not have them.

"There's a huge space to grow, which is why one of the reasons that we insist so much on access to the bank services is because this would provide an important service to people of all social classes," said Maria Mercedes Cuellar in an interview in the run-up to a banking conference.

Colombia's loan portfolio of $159.7 billion is around 42 percent of GDP, considerably lower than that of many other countries, including some developing economies where the ratio can be upward of 100 percent.

The Andean nation, which has enjoyed four solid years of economic growth above 4 percent, is forecast to grow by close to 5 percent this year. Colombia is the world's fourth-biggest coal exporter, a major coffee grower and produces about 1 million barrels of oil per day.

Only 69 percent of the country's adult population had a bank account as of 2012, according to World Bank data.

Eliminating a bank transaction tax of 0.4 percent would help increase the total population with access to bank accounts, Cuellar said.

Originally created in 1998 as an emergency measure during a financial crisis, the tax has since become a source of government revenue. Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas over the weekend said the tax would be extended until 2018 to ensure financing for the national budget.   Continuación...