Paraguay - Banking and securities

The Central Bank of Paraguay (BCP) was founded in 1952 as a state-owned, autonomous agency charged with establishing the government's monetary credit and exchange policies. Recommendations in early 1961 by an economic mission of the IDB and IBRD led to the establishment of the National Development Bank to provide an effective source of medium- and long-term agricultural and industrial credits. Savings and loan institutions are regulated by the superintendent of banks. There are two state-owned banks, some locally owned banks, and nine foreign banks. Foreign-owned banks account for 86% of total deposits and 83% of all loans, and the two largest banks—Banco de Asunción and Citibank—are foreign-owned.

In 1995, there were 35 banks operating in Paraguay, of which nine had opened since 1990. During the same period the number of finance companies nearly doubled to 68. The increase in the number of banks and finance companies, out of all proportion to the size of the economy, was generally believed to be related to the rapid increase in "hot money" flows through Paraguay associated with drug smuggling. In late 1995, the Central Bank announced a freeze on the opening of new banks and finance companies on the grounds that the local market was saturated. In the same year, a currency crisis caused the collapse of ten institutions, requiring $400 million in government subsidies. The 1996 Banking Law strengthened supervision of the banking system; in 1997 Banco Union was liquidated, as were two of the largest public banks due to poor performance. There are now 40 finance companies. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $668.1 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $2.6 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 13.45%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 20%.

Paraguay's first stock market began trading in October 1993. There are 60 local companies traded on the exchange. All companies have a minimum paid-up capital of $50,000. However, the tradition of family ownership and almost universal practice of "double accounting" for tax evasion purposes places limits on the growth of a capital market. In 1998, the stock market handled approximately $10 to $15 million per a month in transactions.

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