While corporate debt shrank by around one percent last year, household debt increased by seven percent as a result of households borrowing to purchase real estate and cars, Bank of Estonia economist Taavi Raudsaar said in a press release on Friday.
According to Raudsaar, debt liabilities shrank as investment in fixed assets was low despite a recent increase, and companies were able to finance their investments and purchase assets using their own funds. Furthermore, companies reduced the amount of short-term debt liabilities taken from foreign associated enterprises. Borrowing was still primarily from banks operating in Estonia, which reflects the relatively good access to bank loans in the country.
Household debt liabilities, meanwhile, increased by seven percent on year due to households purchasing a lot of housing and cars. Although risks from credit growth have increased, they were softened by the growth in debt liabilities not exceeding that in savings or income.
Banks also became more active in the consumption loan market; the growth in the stock of loans and leases issued by them accelerated in 2017. Previously very strong growth in loans from other lenders, meanwhile, including instant loan providers, slowed.
The indebtedness of companies and households in the Estonian private sector, or the debt-to-GDP ratio, declined notably in 2017 to 116 percent at the end of the year. The decline was due to the fall in corporate debt and the rapid growth in nominal GDP.
The debt burden of the Estonian private sector could have been considered excessive ten years ago and after the economic crisis, but its current level is much more in keeping with core indicators, particularly income levels.
The indebtedness of the Estonian general government, which is still the smallest in the EU, declined somewhat year to 9.5 percent of the GDP at the end of the year.
The Estonian economy was once again a net lender to the rest of the world last year, and the net outflow of financial assets grew by €1 billion to over four percent of the GDP. Since 2009, Estonian residents have put more financial assets abroad than they have taken in from abroad. Compared to the past decade, the primary difference is that Estonian households are saving more now and companies are investing less. Estonia's position as a net lender has meant that external debt figures as well as the country's international investment position have improved, but low investment also restricts the future capacity or economic growth.
Editor: Aili Vahtla