This 2018 Article IV Consultation highlights that Latvia’s government revenues overperformed in 2017, buoyed by strong economic activity and wage growth. Nonetheless, the 2017 general government structural balance recorded a deficit of 0.8 percent of GDP, which resulted in a positive fiscal impulse rendering fiscal policy procyclical. Despite the suspension of activities of Latvia’s third largest bank on money laundering concerns, the banking system remains well capitalized and liquid, with capital-to-risk-weighted assets of 22.4 percent and liquid assets exceeding 80 percent of short-term liabilities at end-March 2018. Deleveraging of both households and nonfinancial corporations continued, with household debt to income now at half of its pre-crisis levels.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that Latvia’s economic growth eased to 2 percent in 2016, as gross investment contracted significantly by 11.7 percent on the back of lower than expected absorption of European Union (EU) funds. This effect was compounded by a drag from net exports, as import volume growth accelerated markedly, while export growth remained modest. Despite a strong rise in imports, the current account recorded a surplus of 1.5 percent in 2016 as the terms of trade, driven largely by falling energy prices, improved by over 4.7 percent. Growth is expected to pick up to 3.2 percent in 2017 on the back of an accelerated pace of disbursement of EU funds and continued robust private credit growth.
This volume book brings together nine background papers prepared for an evaluation by the IMF Independent Evaluation Office of “the IMF and the crises in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.” It presents an authoritative work on the evolving relationship between the IMF and the euro area, a common currency area founded in 1999 consisting of advanced, highly integrated economies in Europe. The euro area, or any common currency area for that matter, has posed challenges to the IMF’s operational activities as its Articles of Agreement contain no provision for joint membership. The challenges became intense when a series of crises erupted in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal from 2009 to 2011, and the Fund was called upon to help intervene by offering its financing and crisis management expertise. The IMF found itself in uncharted territory where there was no precedent or established procedure. The chapters, many of which are prepared by prominent academics and former senior IMF officials who are thoroughly familiar with internal procedures, discuss various aspects of the IMF’s engagement with the euro area, including precrisis surveillance, how key decisions were made, how the IMF collaborated with European institutions, and how it designed and implemented its lending programs with the three crisis countries. The book gives prominence to governance-related issues, given the large voting share (of more than 20 percent) within the IMF of euro area members and the subsequent public perception that the IMF treated the euro area more favorably than it does developing and emerging market members. The approaches are both cross-cutting and country-based. Some chapters deal with issues related to the euro area as a whole, while others focus on how the Fund engaged with individual euro area countries. The book contains a statement on the IEO evaluation by the IMF Managing Director and a Summing Up of the Executive Board discussion held in July 2016.
International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office
This evaluation assesses the IMF’s response to the global financial and economic crisis, focusing on the period September 2008 through 2013. It assesses the IMF’s actions to help contain the crisis and navigate a global recovery, assist individual economies to cope with the impact of the crisis, and identify and warn about future risks.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes household savings ratio in Spain. The household savings ratio has fallen to its lowest historical rate in 2012, as households cut back savings to support consumption in response to negative income shocks. Household savings fell across all households, but the declines were likely more material among lower income and highly indebted groups. Declining household income and savings slowed deleveraging and put household balance sheets under pressure. Looking ahead, households may need to restrain consumption further to free resources for repaying debt. Household savings rates will likely stay below historical levels for some time then slowly increase.
Fiscal expansion after euro accession led to a buildup of large economic imbalances, and a program to make fiscal policy and the fiscal and debt position sustainable was initiated. However, the program saw opposition from the outset and structural reforms stalled, which unsettled the investment climate. The Greek government’s determination to push ahead with reforms has seen progress in fiscal adjustment and perseverance of the financial sector. However, the social cost of the recession has been very high, and the current program can only succeed if policymakers address the root causes.
International Monetary Fund. Strategy, Policy, & and Review Department
The IMF has approved an exceptional access Stand-By Arrangement for Latvia. The program is part of a coordinated international effort that has improved financial and economic stability. By early 2008, the fast growth has leveled off but severe vulnerabilities turned the slowdown into a crisis. Immediate steps to stabilize the financial sector and help stem reserve losses has focused on resolving the systemic Parex Bank, which is experiencing a deposit run. Measures to ensure long-term external viability has focused on fiscal and income policies.
Latvia has rebounded from the crisis, after successfully undertaking a difficult adjustment program. The recovery has been well balanced between external and domestic demand. The labor market is improving but unemployment is still high. Past consolidation efforts have brought down the fiscal deficit. The banking system is recovering. Nonresident deposits in the banking system have been expanding rapidly. Economic growth is expected to weaken slightly in 2013, before picking up later. Euro adoption in 2014 appears within reach, subject to some technical uncertainties.
This Selected Issues paper on the Republic of Moldova was prepared by a staff team of the International Monetary Fund as background documentation for the periodic consultation with the member country. It is based on the information available at the time it was completed on September 17, 2012. The views expressed in this document are those of the staff team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the government of the Republic of Moldova or the Executive Board of the IMF.