AT the end of the first quarter of this year, families in the Balearic Islands were in debt to banks, building societies, and savings banks to the tune of 20'000 million euros.

The figure, one of the highest in the country, means that each inhabitant in the region owes an average of 24'000 euros.
Across the country as a whole, the total debt of families and resident companies totalled 792'031 million euros at the end of the first quarter of 2004, meaning that each Spanish citizen owed an averge of 19'390 euros.

According to statistics published by the Bank of Spain, homes and businesses at the end of March were in debt 109'192 million euros more than at the same date the previous year, when credit given by financial organisations reached 682'839 million euros.

These figures show a year-on-year growth of 15.99 percent in the debt rate of families and businesses, a testimony to the increasing financial burden taken on my Spanish households, given that in March 2003, the year-on-year growth was 13.5 percent, 2.5 percent less.

Madrid remains as the province showing the highest levels of debt, with 180'648 million euros, equivalent to 33'309 euros per inhabitant; followed by Barcelona, with 128'190 million euros, which represents 26'673 euros per citizen.

This high debt figure reflects not only the large population mass concentrated in both provinces, but also the fact that a large part of the most important companies of the country are situated in Madrid and Barcelona.

Also amongst the regions with the highest indebtedness, figure the Balearic Islands, Alava, Vizcaya and Castellón, where the the average amount owed exceeds 22'000 euros.