The number of Russians who are not allowed to leave the country due to their debts continues to grow. During the first quarter, 4.4 million citizens were under travel restrictions, 50% more than last year. The number has been growing for four consecutive years, according to statistics from the Russian Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP).
Between January and March 2016, 1.2 million travel restriction orders were issued. In the same period in 2017, 2 million Russians were prohibited from leaving the country, and 2.9 million in the first quarter of 2018. Around 3 million citizens will be forced to spend the upcoming May holidays within Russia.
The FSSP considers travel restrictions an effective way to influence debtors – between January and March alone, Russians repaid more than 19 billion rubles (around $293 million), 45% more than last year. Travel restrictions can be placed on any citizens who owe more than 10,000 rubles ($154). This includes unpaid credit cards, taxes, alimony, traffic fines, utility bills, etc. The order restricts travel for six months and can be extended repeatedly until the debt is repaid.
The most persistent offenders are banks clients (40% of all debtors under travel restrictions), followed by those owing alimony (20%) and citizens with outstanding traffic fines (10%). People with unpaid utility bills account for 5%, and those who have borrowed from international financial institutions only 1.5%, Izvestia reports.
The increase in the number of debtors is related to the growing number of loans taken out by the general population, believes Igor Nikolaev, director of the Grant Thornton strategic analysis institute. He emphasizes that Russians’ incomes have been declining in recent years, leaving them unable to repay their loans. The bailiffs have also become more active, the expert explained.
According to the Bank of Russia, as of 1 April this year, banks had issued Russian citizens a total of 15.5 trillion rubles (around $239 billion) in loans. The United Credit Bureau reported that in the first quarter of the year, the proportion of delinquencies dropped by 1.9 percentage points year-on-year to 9.8%. However, the number and amount of late payments has actually grown – around 13.3 million debts are classified as bad debts with more than three months of non-payment (compared to 12.8 million in the first quarter of 2018), comprising a total of 1.56 trillion rubles (around $24 billion) of debt, 34% more than last year.