Tunisia’s bad loans have again reached 5 billion dinars, being noted that this amount piled up despite the existence since 35 years of a risk- management unit within BCT and 3500 complaints recorded related to companies and individuals. Obviously, despite the success of the risk unit there is still something to be done and things that have to change, as the Tunisian banking sector is preparing for the challenges of Basel 2.
The challenge for this period is an issue of information, that the BCT (Banque Centrale de Tunisie) governor depicted as a “fundamental input of the banking activity related to its role aiming at preventing risks associated with lending.»
Between Tunis and Basel.
The opportunity to address this issue was provided by the seminar organized by the “Credit Maghreb” of Omar and Khaled El Matéri Turki. The company, pending approval, is featured as a “project for the establishment of a” Credit Bureau “in Tunisia with a system based on best international experience. This is to set up an integrated information centre on credit risks covering both corporate bodies and individuals This system aims to help all economic partners better manage their credit risks and to ensure a controlled development of economic operators financing “.
Two ”rubs” are marring this project, whose usefulness is unanimously hailed including BCT governor who labelled it as an «instrument promoting a better management of credit risk. ” The first “rub” is related to the existence of BCT risk unit, “a product of advanced technology, based on an open system largely set in harmony with national and international standards and which is an excellent tool for decision, since it helps getting information on the financial situation of enterprises and individuals and their ability to repay debts, “said Taoufik Baccar advocating BCT product . Praising again his product, the BCT Governor even added that «it is a flexible, quick and easy way to provide, in a sole transaction, all information needed on a given operator and the possibility to consult positive and negative information, without threshold at which the credit is taken into account and the right of borrowers themselves to get informed of their stored data . ”
Second “rub”, the existence of a law that protects personal data, and there is no doubt that everything related to money [even if the representative of the International Finance Corporation, who was attending the seminar said that banking secrecy is an illusion, even in Switzerland] is a top secret data. The BCT Governor also stressed “the constant concern of the law to protect professional secrecy whose breach is criminally punishable, a concern highlighted by the law passed in 2004 meant to protect the personal data from any chance of practices that are harmful to the interests of those concerned.»
So, between the interests and concerns of BCT (located in the Tunis district 1) and the need for more information as required by the standards of the Basel 2 , the future of credit Maghreb is taking place . «The question then arises is to know what the Maghreb credit will add to BCT credit risk unit?
A special law pertaining to «Credit Bureau”?
Omar El Matéri states that “what we are proposing is information taken from the banking sector and financial institutions, much more detailed and more structured and presented in a way that facilitates risk analysis. In addition to data taken from credit companies and the financial sector, will also provide non-bank public data such as civil status, trade register, the court data and service providers such as telephone bills or the Steg SONEDE ones, just to check if there are outstanding debts, ongoing incidents or anything else. All these details help establish a very relevant statistical models meant to predict the probability of default that will be used later by the bankers or any other operator involved in sale on instalment”.
Questioned later on the 2004 law which doesn’t provide a protection of personal data, Omar El Materi made it clear that “even if the law is too restrictive, our activity is normally authorized, but the legislation into force on the protection of personal data requires a number of constraints, such as a written consent of each person involved in the system. ”
Between the two viewpoints and examples, such as Morocco where “Ilmaghrib Bank (Central Bank of Morocco) has delegated the management of these facilities to a private company along with three banks of the country, model strongly supported by the IFC for example, the Tunisian administration is not closing all doors. Taoufik Baccar suggested in this regard that “the promotion in Tunisia of private structures that operate in the same way as that of BCT unit, requires, except lifting of professional secrecy, that the law organizes the business and establish a strict framework for data communication with the Credit Bureau. ”
The promoter Omar El Materi clarified his plans in the programme “Thursday of the economy” broadcasted by RTCI (French-speaking Tunisian radio) as he said that “what we want is a law specific to that activity that defines the roles and responsibilities of each sector, those providing information, those using information, the credit bureau and the consumer. This is how banks and other economic actors can work in peace, consumers will have their rights guaranteed, and credit bureaus have a code of conduct and way of functioning that can reassure all parties. ”