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Friday, February 15, 2019

Western Banks Lending to Asia's Expanding Middle Class: Profit vs. Planet

In April 2013, debt levels in Asia were reaching record levels as international lenders were extending short-term loans to a growing middle class. Non-mortgage consumer credit in Asia outside of Japan had increased 67% from 2007 to reach $1.66 trillion by the end of 2012. This credit included credit cards and loans for cars, electronic products, and appliances. Outside of Japan, Asian car and motorcycle loans nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012, to reach a record $219.7 billion. Appliance and electronics loans also more than doubled, reaching a high of $10.9 billion. Meanwhile, credit-card loans grew by 90% to reach a record $234.1 billion, according to Euromonitor. The incentive for the banks is not difficult to fathom. At the time, more than half of the world’s middle class was expected to be in Asia by the end of the decade. That translates yearly into more than 100 million additional people per year. For the banks, this was an opportunity since at least the beginning of the decade because growth was not possible in the European Union and the United States on account of the financial crisis of 2008 and the ensuing European debt-crisis that extended well into 2013. The European Commission of the E.U. was also working on regulatory proposals that would limit the incentives of mortgage servicers to produce too many “bubble-creating” mortgages. 
So Western banks had an incentive to look east for fruitful markets. Interesting, government regulators in China, Malaysia, and Indonesia had began reining in mortgage, credit-card and auto/motorcycle lending, perhaps in fear of an Asian financial crisis. Had Western bankers learned their lesson, or were they unwittingly bringing their reckless mentality to Asia? Two levels of concerns can be extracted from this case. I contend that the more immediate concerns were crowding out attention that ought to have been paid to the larger, but longer-term, problems.

The full essay is at "Lending to China's Middle Class."
More people=More cars=More pollution    source: Businessweek