Банкеръ Weekly



Bulgaria is a country of economic abnormalities. This conclusion can be arrived at by anyone who takes a look at BNB's statistical information. And there will be hardly anyone arguing that the numbers in it reflect accurately the summarized data from the domestic banks' balance sheets. According to these data, within just a year - 2005 - the number of Bulgarian households' deposits rose from 9,442,207 to 9,817,386 and the money on them almost doubled - from about BGN6BN to BGN11.73BN. The average size of households' deposits increased as well - from BGN655 in end-2004 to BGN1,195 twelve months later. That practically means that prices and inflation go up, people grumble at the lack of money, and at the same time savings increase. This fact only comes to confirm the data from the research of UniCredit, released a month ago. The group which controls three of the biggest banks in this country established that Bulgarians' financial wealth rose some 30% within a year. Moreover, according to BNB's data, the average size of households' deposits increased by as much as 82.5% in 2005. It turns out that the Bulgarians are just grumblers, accustomed to complain without appraising the positive changes during the 15-year-long period of reforms in this country.
However, the situation looks that way only at first sight. In Bulgaria the general figures, even when they are correct, give a distorted information about the situation in the country. The people who take pains to consider BNB's data in greater detail will notice that the savings of the majority of the population are in fact deplorably low and
Bulgarians have good reasons to complain of poverty
Impartial numbers show that most of the deposits - 8,257,580 or 84.11% of all savings in banks are in the group of size up to BGN1,000 each. Only BGN892.68MN or 7.6% of all money of citizens in banks are deposited on them. If the aggregate amount of money is divided into the number of deposits, it can be seen that the average size of the savings is BGN108 - a miserable amount even for a poor country such as ours. Even if we assume that many citizens have two or three deposits and accounts, the money on them won't be much either. Practically, the majority of the population does not have savings to be used in extreme situations such illness, unemployment, etc., and does not have sufficient incomes in order to save a penny for a rainy day.
Who are
the owners of the remaining almost BGN11BN
of savings. A considerable part - nearly BGN2.1BN is concentrated on 17,292 bank accounts of citizens. That makes BGN121,110 per deposit on average. The holders of these accounts are actually the really affluent people in Bulgaria. In order to accumulate such a deposit one should have inherited a sizable fortune or have restituted real estates, or have monthly incomes of several tens of thousand levs. The names of the owners of such huge deposits are a well-kept bank secret. According to some managers of credit institutions, these are lawyers, doctors with many private patients, businessmen, and artists. Bankers claim that most of the well-known corporate owners and politicians do not hold big deposits in Bulgaria. Their fortune is concentrated in stakes and shares in companies, real estates or is deposited abroad from where they get considerable incomes. It's often difficult to estimate their wealth because it is hidden behind offshore firms with anonymous owners or is distributed between relatives and partners. However, this is not what is important in this case. The figures in BNB's statistics confirm the opinion that
Bulgaria looks like a banana republic
rather than a country preparing to join the European Union (EU). The majority of its population is poor and there is a small number of rich people, with a very deep gap between the two social strata. The only encouraging factor behind BNB's naked statistics is that a middle class has already emerged in Bulgaria and although slowly it is already gathering strength. It could be said these are the holders of the remaining 1,542,514 bank deposits of size above BGN1,000 each. The money on them is almost BGN8.74BN, or BGN5,671 (almost EUR2,900) per account on average. For comparison, the average amount of natural persons' deposits in the EU is about EUR30,000. That is the huge difference between the Bulgarians and the citizens of the wealthy countries in the Old Continent.

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