President Marcelo
President Marcelo Image: António Cotrim/ Lusa

President Marcelo “hopeful banks’ eyes open to mortgage problem”

Speaks as top 5 banks register over €900 million in first quarter profits 

Portugal’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has said today that he hopes the country’s banks are “awake to the problem” of mortgages – and that the Bank of Portugal is also considering this matter for the government to act “on a smaller scale”.

The president’s concerns come as the country’s five leading banks have registered hefty first quarter profits, combining to reach over €919 million.

Speaking to journalists with this clearly in mind he said he welcomed the words of BCP chief executive Miguel Maya (BCP declaring a 90% increase in profits in comparison to the same period last year), who has called for “a reflection on the terms, rates and installments” of housing loans.

“I considered it to be a good sign because that is the problem, that and inflation, which can either hinder or delay the arrival of those very good macro numbers to the pockets of the Portuguese,” said Marcelo.

Quizzed over whether he believes the government should adopt more measures to help people with vastly increased mortgages, the president said, “I think that this first hand is dependent on the decision of the banks and the monitoring by the Bank of Portugal”.

According to Marcelo, “it is clear that government subsidies have helped a limited number of cases, but there are 1.1 million loans , which means, multiplied by the number of people in the household, some three million people.

“So I would say that I am hopeful that the banking sector is awake to the problem, the Bank of Portugal too. And that the measures the government is taking in terms of the budget will also contribute, but on a smaller scale – it’s smaller, for those who are really in need, it doesn’t reach all those who have home loans”, he added – stressing that the increase in interest payable on housing loans is still a problem with no clear “way out”, while banks are paying those who ‘save’ with them, “very little”.

Faced with today’s announcement over profits, Marcelo said more than once how cheered he was by the words of Miguel Maya, who recognises “the president has a genuine concern for the Portuguese”, and pledged to “see if there is anything more” that BCP can do to help its customers”.

On a personal level, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa professed to being “a militant tenant“.

“I have never been a landlord, nor do I intend to be until the end of my life, but I respect that the overwhelming majority of Portuguese want to be landlords because it is what they have left as insurance for the future, it is one of the important insurances they want to leave for the future for their families,” he said, referring to the recent news that the government’s housing plans have seen a number of landlords ‘sell up’, rather than face the prospect of State interference.

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