Business

Brathwaite: Big appetite for consumer loans despite COVID-19

Despite the continued financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, Bahamians still have a big appetite for consumer loans, according to a leading banker.

Bank of The Bahamas Managing Director Kenrick Brathwaite, who is the immediate past president of the Clearing Banks Association, said the appetency appears to be returning to Bahamian borrowers, who may have taken a more conservative stance on borrowing last year during the height of the pandemic.

“I would think that the only challenge now in qualifying is for those who are not employed at the same level or the same jobs. There has been a drop-off in the amount of loan applications, but those persons who qualify remain,” he said.

“For example, in government and those areas that were not particularly impacted by COVID, continue to borrow. The airports are still full with persons traveling. I think Bahamians, and this is just my opinion, for the most part now seem to have allowed themselves to live with COVID. I look at the traffic on the road, the traffic is backed up, which means that there is some kind of normalcy, even if it’s not what it used to be.”

The Central Bank revealed last month in its Bank Lending Conditions Survey Report that while loan applications were up more than 20 percent, approved loans were down roughly ten percent when comparing the first halves of 2020 and 2021.

Of the more than 2,000 loan denials in the first half of the year, the Central Bank said high debt service ratios, underemployment and insufficient time on the job were the main factors.

As banks prepare to close out on the year and meet their quotas, Brathwaite said he believes lending this year remained stable.

“Lending, borrowing, you will find that there are those persons who traditionally are borrowing and if they are still employed they are still going to go to the banks to borrow money. Liquidity is still high because it’s always been high even before the pandemic,” Brathwaite said.

“But I would not say that anything has dropped off to the point where people would say we are at the end of the pandemic. The thing with Bahamians is those persons who save continue to save, those persons who borrow continue to borrow, as long as they remain employed the banks will accept them and they can qualify based on their debt servicing ratios. I think there are for the most part still borrowing.”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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