For the past month, long lines have been forming outside banks and credit unions located in the regions outside ofYerevan.
You’d think they’re giving away free money or something.
But that’s not it. You see, the holidays are around the corner and people are in need of loans in order to celebrate in traditional Armenian style; i.e., tables sagging under the weight of trays of food and drink.
Now, the banks and credit unions won’t loan money for such personal expenses so residents have to apply for agricultural loans.
One woman from the Amberd village in Armavir told me that she has been taking out “holiday” loans for the past three years under such conditions. She uses the family cache of gold as collateral.
The woman confesses that her husband is too ashamed to show his face at the bank anymore.
“I have three young children at home. New Year’s has become a time for begging. Last year, my ten year-old son never left his bed. He was embarrassed when his friends cam over the house. Our holiday table wasn’t all that presentable.”
The village woman was already thinking about how she would pay back the 300,000 AMD loan.
“After getting the loan, I’ll enter the house with a smile on my face in order to make the kids happy. But what’s going on in my heart, only I know,” says the tearful woman as she gets in line at the bank.
Amberd Mayor Manvel Babayan says that 90% of the village is in debt.
“I can’t say whether people take out loans to celebrate New Years or for some other reason. But the vast majority has applied for loans.”
Stats from the Central Bank also point to an increase in loans come the holidays.
From November 5-11, banks in Armenia allocated some 27.7 billion AMD ($41.3 million) in loans. During the following week that amount increased to 31.1 billion AMD ($36.4 million).
From November 19-25, loans inched up to 31.3 billion AMD ($43.2 million). The amount shot up to 41.8 billion AMD ($68.5 million) during November 26 to December 2).