The Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief has urged banks to share more consumer credit data to help combat a large rise in bankruptcies. 'The rapid increase in the number of bankruptcy cases has attracted much attention recently,' said Joseph Yam Chi-kwong in his weekly column on the authority's Web site. Mr Yam said that a fundamental problem was the limited scope in Hong Kong for sharing consumer credit data. 'Even the most cautious banker cannot accurately assess his risks without sufficient information,' he said. 'To the extent that he seeks to compensate for this uncertainty by charging a higher rate of interest across the board, the rest of us, who have a good credit history, suffer.' Mr Yam said personal data privacy must be respected. But there ought to be scope for greater sharing of positive data on consumer credit, to help the banks assess credit risk. He said the indebtedness of the borrower and the number of credit cards they had were examples of information which could be shared. With the endorsement of the Banking Advisory Committee, the Monetary Authority has written to the Privacy Commissioner to support greater sharing of positive data. Mr Yam said that in June the authority recommended that authorised institutions active in credit card business should review their policies and practices. The authority suggested they should not normally dispense with income proof in considering applications for cards, he said. Bankers blame the rising number of bankruptcies on the economic slowdown, which has worsened the negative equity that many people have been carrying. Other factors include the shortening in 1998 of the discharge period in bankruptcy legislation from seven years to four; the indiscriminate issuing of credit cards by banks; and changing public attitudes towards bankruptcy. Figures released last week by the Credit Information Services showed 3,395 people received bankruptcy orders from the courts in the first half of the year, a 56.7 per cent rise from the 2,166 orders in the same period last year. The Hong Kong Association of Banks and the Official Receiver's Office have formed a working committee to try to tackle the issue. Danny Liu, country business manager of Citibank, which has a representative on the committee, said about 50 per cent of its write-off loans were incurred from bankruptcies in the first half of this year. He refused to disclose the amount, but said its bankruptcy cases represented a rise of 18 per cent from last year.