According to Romanian National Bank’s data, Hargita (Harghita) County has the lowest household loan-to-savings ratio out of the 41 Romanian counties and Bucharest; it is followed by the other two Szekler counties, with Kovászna (Covasna) having the second-lowest and Maros (Mureș), the third, reports the Transylvanian Hungarian news portal maszol.ro.
Comparing the household loans and savings in a county-by-county breakdown across Romania shows that the lowest ratio can be found in Szeklerland. According to the data of BNR, the total household loans in Hargita County were RON 493 million (EUR 100 million), while household savings were RON 1.76 billion (EUR 360 million), meaning that total household loans were less than one-third of total household savings (28.1 percent). This is the lowest loan-to-savings ratio in Romania, while the second-lowest is in Kovászna County (48.6 percent) and the third is in Maros County (50.2 percent).
There are four other Transylvanian counties among the top 10 lowest loans-to-savings counties: Szilágy (Sălaj) with 52.3 percent, Beszterce-Naszód (Bistrița-Năsăud) with 55.6 percent, Fehér (Alba) with 60.5 percent and Szatmár (Satu Mare) with 61.8 percent.
On the other hand, there are only two counties in Romania where household loans are higher than savings: Temes and Iași. In the case of Temes County, for example, household loans are close to RON 7.0 billion (EUR 1.4 billion), while household savings are only RON 5.24 billion (EUR 1.07 billion), a 131.5 percent ratio. The top 10 highest loan-to-savings ratio counties are: Temes, Iași, Bucharest-Ilfov, Brassó (Brașov), Arad, Constanța, Szeben (Sibiu), Krassó-Szörény (Caraș-Severin), Kolozs (Cluj) and Giurgiu. Most of these counties belong to areas of Romania that are the most developed economically, with the two exceptions of Krassó-Szörény and Giurgiu.
Besides the cultural differences (the top three lowest loan-to-savings ratio counties have a ethnic-Hungarian majority), economic factors also play a very important role in how frugal the inhabitants of a given area are. For example, the low standard of living and the settlement pattern of the Szekler counties (mostly villages and small towns) both contribute to their low loan-to-savings ratio.
No property development, no borrowing
Real estate loans typically make up a major part of the bank loans in general, but the only big town in Szeklerland that would be attractive to property investors is Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș), while in both Kovászna and Hargita counties, there is very little construction.
Furthermore, it is clear in the case of Hargita County that the loan-to-savings ratio is low not because locals have a lot of savings in their bank accounts but because they have an especially small amount of loans.
The population of Hargita County is 10 percent lower than Szatmár County’s and while there is no big difference between the total amount of household savings of the two counties – RON 1.76 billion (EUR 360 million) in Hargita and RON 1.68 billion (EUR 345 million) in Szatmár – if we look at the loans, we can see a big gap. Household loans in Szatmár County total RON 1.04 billion (EUR 213 million), twice as much as in Hargita County.
The major role real estate loans play within the total household loan market can be well seen in Kolozs County, where real estate development in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) and its agglomeration is booming and household loans are high: RON 7.01 billion (EUR 1.44 billion). This is more than the household loans of Hargita, Kovászna, Maros, Szilágy, Beszterce-Naszód, Fehér and Szatmár Counties combined, or RON 6.73 billion (EUR 1.38 billion), despite the population of these seven counties being three times higher than Kolozs County’s.
Title image is an illustration: Romanian leu banknotes.