A Convergence Process in Household Credit in Central and Eastern Europe

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Robin Sainsot

The liberalisation of Eastern Europe’s market during the 1990s and the 2004 EU enlargement have had a great impact on the economies of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Indeed, prior to these events, the financial system and household credit markets in CEE were underdeveloped. Nonetheless, it appeared to numerous economists that the development of the CEE financial system and credit markets was following an intensely positive trend, raising the question of sustainability. Many variables impact the level and growth rate of credit; several economists point out that a convergence process might be one of the most important.

Using a descriptive statistics approach, it seems likely that a convergence process began during the 1990s, when the CEE countries opened their economies. However, it also seems that the main driver of this household credit convergence process is the GDP per capita convergence process. Indeed, credit to households and GDP per capita have followed broadly similar tendencies over the last 20 years and it has been shown in the literature that they appear to influence each other.

The consistency of this potential convergence process is also confirmed by the breakdown of household credit by type and maturity. There is a tendency towards similar household credit markets in Europe. However, it seems that this potential convergence process was slowed down by the financial crisis. Fortunately, the crisis also stabilised the share of loans in foreign currency in CEE countries. This might add more stability to credit markets in Eastern Europe.