Turkey calls on private banks to step up efforts during pandemic

Turkey on Sunday called on private banks to increase efforts in helping customers hurt by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, following in the footsteps of state-owned banks that are offering extensions on repayments for loans during the outbreak.

“While our state banks are standing by our citizens with all the resources they have, we are utterly saddened by the attitude of the privately held banks,” Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said in a video message he shared on Twitter.

Albayrak said state-owned Ziraat Bank, Halkbank and VakifBank had allowed customers to delay payments of loan and credit card debt worth more than 60 billion lira ($9 billion) in effort to help those hard hit by the pandemic.

Ziraat Bank said it would allow all individual and corporate clients to postpone interest and principal payments due on March 31 while VakıfBank vowed to give clients flexibility in repaying loans until June 30.

“I, once again, invite private banks to be a part of our unity and solidarity during these times,” Albayrak said, but stopped short of calling out private banks by name or listing what action he expected them to take.

Turkey’s total death toll from COVID-19 has risen to over 1,100 as the country battles one of the fastest contagion rates in the world.

Around 60 million people in 31 provinces across the country have been placed on a weekend lockdown in a bid to stave off the pandemic.

The Turkish has launched a donation campaign for low income families and offered state-guaranteed loans for companies and small businesses affected by the outbreak.