December 18, 2018 / 6:02 PM / 9 months ago

Romania's finmin plans banking tax to cap interbank rates

BUCHAREST, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Romania’s finance ministry plans to introduce a tax on banking assets from 2019, seeking to cap the interbank ROBOR interest rates at a reference level of 1.50 percent, minister Eugen Teodorovici said on Tuesday.

The government went back and forth on its tax intentions last year, provoking uncertainty among investors and weighing on the leu currency, and it has enforced consumption-friendly wage and pension hikes at the expense of infrastructure investment.

Called a “tax on greed” by Teodorovici, the move could be approved by the leftist Social Democrat government by the end of the year, he added, together with other measures including a 15 percent hike in state pensions in late 2019.

The 3-and 6-month ROBOR money market rates were quoted at 2.71/3.04 percent and 2.95/3.34 percent respectively on Tuesday.

“We shouldn’t be shy to call this tax a fee levied on greed. It’s just a proposal to protect the Romanians,” Teodorovici told reporters.

“The banks’ exposure to state securities is the second largest in Europe, on the other hand, the banks’ profit is attractive,” he added.

He said that if approved, the new tax would rise gradually, from zero percent for an ROBOR rate of 1.5 percent, to maximum 0.9 percent of banking sector assets for a ROBOR rate of 3.01 to 3.50 percent.

Teodorovici would not elaborate on how the government would apply this tax and he did not explain the mechanism.

The government has yet to draft a budget bill for next year. It targets a consolidated fiscal deficit of just under 3 percent of GDP - the European Union’s maximum ceiling.

Economists polled by Reuters expect an overshoot to 3.1 percent of GDP this year and for it to reach 3.4 percent in 2019.

Teodorovici said the new tax could bring as much as 3.6 billion lei ($880.82 million) to the state coffers, “depending on the greediness”. ($1 = 4.0871 lei) (Reporting by Radu Marinas, editing by Ed Osmond)

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