Agriculture minister ups heat on banks

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Venezuela's agriculture minister Efren Andrade has reminded banks of their legal obligation to meet lending targets for the agriculture sector, government news service Venpres reported.

Andrade added there is political consensus in congress to push through a resolution that would oblige banks to earmark 12% of their total loan portfolio for agricultural projects.

The government will also look to force banks to make good on about 225bn bolivares (US$140mn) in unissued loans that were set aside last year for agriculture.

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Since being elected in 1999, Venezuela's left-leaning President Hugo Chavez has passed laws forcing banks to give the agriculture sector special priority, reprogram inflation indexed mortgage loans, and earmark 1% to 3% of their capital for small business loans.