If you are a homemaker with no independent source of income, some Azerbaijani banks are still ready to extend an unusual offer to you: a so-called “housewife” loan, repayable at an average annual interest rate of 25 percent, and few questions asked.
The pervasiveness of such loans – they also exist, supposedly tailor-made, for teachers, government employees, soldiers, pensioners and oil-industry employees – has become a prominent campaign topic in Azerbaijan’s October 9 presidential election.
The country’s energy-rich economy may be booming, critics say, and with it the availability of goods and services. But can residents afford the loans they are increasingly taking out to snap up the latest household gadget or imported car?
About 18 percent of the country’s total population of 9 million people, or some 1.75 million residents, are now paying interest on loans. That marks an over 100 percent increase in the number of debtors over the past three years.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance correspondent based in Baku.