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Mr. Nadeem Ilahi, Mrs. Armine Khachatryan, William Lindquist, Ms. Nhu Nguyen, Ms. Faezeh Raei, and Jesmin Rahman
In the past 25 years, exports have contributed strongly to growth and economic convergence in many small open economies. However, the Western Balkan (WB) region, consisting of small emerging market economies, has not fully availed itself of this driver of growth and convergence. A lack of openness, reliance on low value products, and weak competitiveness largely explain the insignificant role of trade and exports in the region’s economic performance. This paper focuses on how the countries in the WB could lift exports through stronger integration with global value chains (GVCs) and broadening of services exports. The experience of countries that joined the European Union in or after 2004 shows that participation in GVCs can help small economies accelerate export and income growth. WB countries are not well integrated into Europe’s vibrant GVCs. Trade within the region is also limited—it tends to be bilateral and not cluster-like. Our analysis shows that by improving infrastructure and labor skills and adopting trade policies that ensure investor protection and harmonize regulations and legal provisions, the region can greatly enhance its engagement with GVCs. Services exports are an increasingly important part of global trade, and they offer an untapped source of growth. The magnitude of services exports from the WB region compares favorably with that of peers in Europe, particularly in travel services where several of these countries have a revealed comparative advantage. But there is significant room for growth in tourism exports and an untapped potential in business and information technology services exports that these countries can materialize through policy efforts that increase openness and enhance connectivity and labor skills. Serbia offers a good example of how decisive efforts, including education policies to ensure a sustained supply of skilled labor, can help information technology services exports to take off.
Christine J. Richmond, Ms. Dora Benedek, Ezequiel Cabezon, Bobana Cegar, Mr. Peter Dohlman, Michelle Hassine, Beata Jajko, Piotr Kopyrski, Maksym Markevych, Mr. Jacques A Miniane, Mr. Francisco J Parodi, Gabor Pula, Mr. James Roaf, Min Kyu Song, Mariya Sviderskaya, Rima Turk, and Mr. Sebastian Weber
The Central, Eastern, and South Eastern European (CESEE) region is ripe for a reassessment of the role of the state in economic activity. The rapid income convergence with Western Europe of the early 2000s was not always equally shared across society, and it has now slowed dramatically in many countries of the region.
Mr. Ruben V Atoyan, Ms. Dora Benedek, Ezequiel Cabezon, Mr. Giuseppe Cipollone, Mr. Jacques A Miniane, Ms. Nhu Nguyen, Mr. Martin Petri, Mr. Jens Reinke, and Mr. James Roaf
An assessment of public infrastructure development in the Western Balkans. The paper quantifies the large gaps across various sectors/dimensions, evaluates current infrastructure plans, and discusses funding options available to countries in the region. The paper also identifies important bottlenecks for increased infrastructure investment. Finally, the paper quantifies potential growth benefits from addressing infrastructure gaps, concluding that boosting the quantity and quality of infrastructure is vital for raising economic growth and accelerating income convergence with the EU. The paper concludes with country-specific policy recommendations.
Nazim Belhocine, Ernesto Crivelli, Ms. Nan Geng, Tiberiu Scutaru, Mr. Johannes Wiegand, and Zaijin Zhan
The demands on monetary and exchange rate regimes in CESEE have evolved, in line with the region’s development. In the 1990s, the immediate challenge was to rein in excessive inflation following transition, and to establish basic monetary order. These objectives have been achieved, owing largely to successful exchange rate–based stabilization. With this accomplished, the focus has shifted to cyclical monetary management, and to appropriately managing monetary conditions during CESEE’s growth and income convergence to the euro area. Flexible exchange rates—and the ensuing capacity of monetary conditions to adapt to the economies’ needs—are likely to remain advantages, especially to extent that CESEE’s GDP and income levels will resume convergence to the euro area. Once this process restarts, tighter monetary conditions will again be needed to limit goods and asset price inflation, and to contain growth imbalances.