Finance Minister Boris Lalovac said on Friday that the state was solvent and told banks that their being spiteful was not a clever strategy because the state had measures with which to respond.
“We are not afraid, we are solvent but I want to know if this is about banks being spiteful,” Lalovac said during a break in the conference “Big Plans Day” when asked if he was afraid that the financial sector could again ignore an auction of treasury bills as it did earlier this week.
“I would like to know if that is true. My message to them is – if you are being spiteful, that is not a smart strategy,” Lalovac said.
He said that he would meet with bankers in the coming days to establish the actual situation. The state is functioning normally, Lalovac said, adding that if banks continued to act defiantly the government would take appropriate action.
The minister would not specify the measures the government would take, except for taxing banks’ assets.
“They know what measures I’m talking about, I don’t want to speak about this in public. They know what those measures are,” said Lalovac.
According to some media, which quoted senior officials in banking circles and the central bank, Croatian commercial banks will not lend the state a single kuna until the Constitutional Court abolishes amendments that have enabled the conversion of loans indexed in Swiss francs to euro-denominated loans.
The finance minister has already announced that if banks continue to act the way they are acting now, he will introduce taxes on their assets. Media speculate that the government has threatened banks operating in Croatia whose parent banks are in Austria and Italy that it will withdraw all its salaries and pensions from those banks.
Asked how he envisaged international financing next year given the current situation with banks, Lalovac said that there would be international financing and that talks were under way on offering citizens government bonds “so that the state can avoid being a hostage to banks in situations like this.”