Pre-pandemic, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) economy was growing, but at a pace below the more successful countries in Eastern Europe. The pandemic generated a substantial output contraction in 2020. Early in the pandemic, the authorities successfully implemented restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus and took measures to support firms and households. However, the ongoing second wave poses additional challenges. A gradual recovery is expected for the second half of 2021. Political disagreements about policy coordination at the BiH State level have hampered program implementation under the 2016 EFF arrangement and the deepening of the single economic space. The challenge is to deal with the pandemic and put the economy on a higher medium-term growth trajectory.
Kosovo has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite policy support, economic activity is estimated to have fallen 6 percent in 2020 on account of the combined effect of strict domestic containment measures and international travel restrictions. The fiscal deficit increased to 7.7 percent of GDP, given the large fall in tax revenues and the implementation of mitigation and recovery measures of 4.2 percent of GDP. The current account deficit is estimated to have increased to 7.5 percent of GDP mainly due to a large decline in diaspora-related inflows, most notably in tourism. Gross international reserves declined but remain adequate in part due to the purchase under the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) in April 2020 and the use of other external financing. Banks have weathered the recession well to date, and the high pre-COVID19 liquidity levels and ample capital buffers bode well for the system’s stability.
This paper presents Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Request for Purchase Under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI). RFI is expected to help provide support for scaling up priority spending on health and social assistance, while preserving debt sustainability. Preserving the currency board arrangement and raising the resilience of the banking system play a crucial role for restoring external and internal balances. High frequency monitoring of the banks, including their liquidity positions and asset quality, is crucial at this juncture. Economic activity is tentatively projected to decline by 5 percent in 2020 on account of a pronounced fall in exports and remittances and reduced domestic demand and supply. High political uncertainties pose additional downside risks. Despite a recent easing of political tensions, the complexity of the political environment is a downside risk, which could lead to policy slippage and weakened response measures. The IMF staff supports the authorities’ request for a purchase under the RFI considering the urgent nature of the external financing needs caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 crisis.