Credit in Georgia is comparatively easy to access compared to similar economies in the region. That being said, any deficit in this area is still a major obstacle to economic development. However, steps are being taken to identify the factors standing in the way of credit access in Georgia and determine how to eliminate them
Georgia is ranked as one of the best countries in eastern Europe and central Asia for credit access. Very well-qualified borrowers are able to secure lines of credit without too much difficulty, and the country’s financial system is conducive to lending. It is worth noting that a significant share of applicants are denied because they have unacceptably high levels of existing debt.
However, credit access in Georgia is an issue mainly for new businesses. It is estimated that 40 percent of the small to medium-sized enterprises in Georgia that need credit cannot access it because they are denied or discouraged from even applying. Those who can theoretically be approved for loans often find that the interest rate offered to them is prohibitively high. Seventy percent of applicants for financing said that high interest rates were an issue for them.
Another more minor problem is that it is easier to get a loan in U.S. dollars than it is to get a loan in Georgian lari. As a result, the exchange rate is depreciating and borrowers are extremely vulnerable to fluctuations. Many borrowers are not even aware that borrowing in a foreign currency exposes them to this kind of risk. This is a good example of the unintended consequences of poor access to credit denominated in the local currency.
Fortunately, those who are able to borrow thanks to microfinance programs offered by the U.S. and others generally report that they are happy with their experience. Georgia also has a good financial infrastructure in that there is centralized credit reporting, although many people do not fully understand how it works and are unsure of what to do if they run into trouble.
The Smart Campaign has done extensive research on financial literacy and credit access in Georgia. This research has helped to identify several ways to improve credit access in Georgia, which, if enacted, promise to boost the Georgian economy by encouraging greater financial security while also liberalizing lending practices.
– Michaela Downey
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