The COVID-19 crisis raises the risk of renewed financial sector pressures in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region in the period ahead. Bank distress and its economic and fiscal fallout have been recurring features of many CCA countries, as seen after the global financial crisis and the 2014–15 oil price shock. Strong policy responses have delayed the full impact of the COVID crisis so far, but financial sector risks will increase once public support is phased out. If these risks are not preemptively addressed, banks’ ability to lend during the recovery phase could be impaired and there may be a need for costly public interventions, as in the past.
Mr. Gianni De Nicolo, Mr. Sami Geadah, and Mr. Dmitriy L Rozhkov
This paper documents the great divide in the level of financial development between the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) 7 countries and the more advanced economies in transition, in particular those of Central and Eastern Europe and Baltic states. It discusses the roots of financial underdevelopment in the CIS-7 countries by examining the differentials in interest rate spreads between the CIS-7 countries and the transition economies that have achieved faster financial development. The roots of the divide are traced to weaknesses in the institutional infrastructure for financial intermediation, which lead to a combination of low depositor trust in the banking system and high credit risk. High credit risk stems mainly from the poor creditor-rights protection and weak auditing and accounting standards. Financial sector reform strategies that fail to give priority to the resolution of weaknesses in the basic financial infrastructure are unlikely to be successful in letting the CIS-7 countries bridge the great divide.