Kosovo: A great place to do business – if you’re a bank
Kosovars feel oppressed by high interest rates and suspect a bank cartel. The banks respond by citing the country’s fragile status as a sovereign, making funding expensive and uncertain. Either way, costly credit is an impediment to growth, and widespread corruption adds its own obstacles. Elliot Wilson reports.
KOSOVO, A TINY disputed west Balkan state, seems to be run by everyone but the country’s own ruling authorities. The European Union is a powerful force behind the scenes, as is the US and, under its local banner, Kfor, the UN. Then there’s the so-called quint, a grouping of five embassies led by the US and the UK, which with quiet but controlled rigour determines how the government and the parliament are run. But there is a far shinier, glossier authority on display if one looks hard enough: a profitable and impressively well-run banking system.
Indeed, wandering the bustling, even chaotic streets of the capital, Pristina, one might think that banking was all that Kosovo did.
Take the emerging market financing specialist ProCredit Bank (PCB). The Frankfurt-based group boasts 22 divisions in 19 countries from Mexico to Moldova. But nowhere is it bigger or more profitable than in Kosovo, a country of 2 million people who announced their independence barely two years ago.
Finding PCB’s headquarters isn’t easy for the first-time visitor.