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International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This paper discusses potential growth and its drivers for Latvia 6 years after the growth turnaround and presents projections for the medium term. As the labor force is projected to decline, implementation of policies to increase investment and support total factor productivity (TFP) growth will be essential to ensure income convergence going forward. The level of potential growth has direct consequences for Latvia’s convergence path. Latvia’s GDP per capita was about 62 percent of the EU-15 average in 2015. A better understanding of potential output is important for policy setting. For example, an estimate of the output gap enters the fiscal reaction function through the cyclical adjustment of the fiscal balance and therefore directly influences policy makers’ assessments of whether fiscal policy should respond to deviations from potential. Potential output is an elusive concept and can be defined in various ways. Potential output is generally defined according to the Okun concept as the level of output consistent with stable inflation, while short-run deviations of actual from potential output, due to the slow adjustment of wages and prices to shocks, reflect the output gap—or economic slack.
Daniel A Dias, Christine J. Richmond, and Carlos Robalo Marques
Recent empirical studies document that the level of resource misallocation in the service sector is significantly higher than in the manufacturing sector. We quantify the importance of this difference and study its sources. Conservative estimates for Portugal (2008) show that closing this gap, by reducing misallocation in the service sector to manufacturing levels, would boost aggregate gross output by around 12 percent and aggregate value added by around 31 percent. Differences in the effect and size of productivity shocks explain most of the gap in misallocation between manufacturing and services, while the remainder is explained by differences in firm productivity and age distribution. We interpret these results as stemming mainly from higher output price rigidity, greater labor adjustment costs and more informality in the service sector.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

Macroeconomic conditions are broadly favorable: the output gap is almost closed; the fiscal and current account deficits are at sustainable levels; and unemployment continues to fall. Nevertheless, GDP growth has slowed recently, hampered by a weak external environment, diminishing productivity gains, and delays in EU funds absorption. Credit growth remains elusive, wage pressures have surfaced, and the gray economy remains pervasive.

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

International evidence from countries that previously attained a level of relative income similar to Latvia shows that subsequent growth of well over 4 percent per annum is feasible, but not guaranteed. Over one-third of countries reaching a similar stage of development as Latvia in 2014 outperformed the United States’ per capita real GDP growth by more than 2 percent. A decomposition of growth drivers shows that Latvia faces particular challenges from adverse demographic trends; to counter these, efforts will be needed to increase the employment ratio by reducing still high structural unemployment. On the other hand, Latvia has much scope for improving its convergence prospects by generating higher investment ratios, which are well below the levels achieved by good performers in the sample.

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

This 2014 Cluster Consultation report examines common themes and challenges facing the three Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It identifies common features and common challenges, and discusses policies—both national and joint—that could help to address these challenges. The Baltic economies have performed well during the last two decades. The global financial crisis exposed vulnerabilities that had built up in the Baltics, but the postcrisis recovery revealed inherent strengths as well. This report highlights that national policies are necessary to address all of the challenges, but collaboration is also important in some areas.

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2014 Cluster Consultation report examines common themes and challenges facing the three Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It identifies common features and common challenges, and discusses policies—both national and joint—that could help to address these challenges. The Baltic economies have performed well during the last two decades. The global financial crisis exposed vulnerabilities that had built up in the Baltics, but the postcrisis recovery revealed inherent strengths as well. This report highlights that national policies are necessary to address all of the challenges, but collaboration is also important in some areas.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

This note presents estimates of potential growth and the output gap in Latvia. The estimates suggest that the output has marked below potential in the early 2000s but the output gap becomes positive and large after EU accession. With unemployment still well above its natural level, the output gap is estimated to be negative in 2012, but is expected to narrow gradually and be closed in the next 3–4 years. Potential growth is expected to be substantially lower than in 2002–07.

Miss Catriona Purfield and Mr. Christoph B. Rosenberg
The paper traces the Baltics’ adjustment strategy during the 2008-09 global financial crisis. The abrupt end to the externally-financed domestic demand boom triggered a severe output collapse, bringing per capita income levels back to 2005/06 levels. In response to this shock, the Baltics undertook an internal devaluation that relied on unprecedented fiscal and nominal wage adjustment, steps to preserve financial sector stability as well as complementary efforts to facilitate voluntary private debt restructuring. One-and-half years on, the strategy is making good progress but not yet complete. Confidence in the exchange rate was maintained, the banking system was supported by its parent banks, external imbalances and inflation have largely disappeared, competitiveness is improving, and fiscal deficits are gradually being brought back towards pre-crisis levels. However, amid record levels of unemployment, further reforms are needed to foster a return to more balanced growth, fiscal sustainability, and a healthier banking system.
Christoph B. Rosenberg

Growth in the Baltic countries has been exceptionally high. Lately, however, the economic headlines have been dominated by unwelcome news. Will the skeptics, who have long contended that these countries' rapid convergence has been too much, too fast, be proved right?

International Monetary Fund

The external imbalances that accompanied Latvia’s integration into the global economy have generated mixed effects. Stabilizing net foreign liabilities will require an improvement in the goods and services balance. Outward migration from Latvia has raised concerns about social and economic stresses that could intensify in the near future if labor flow increases. Several steps have to be taken to mitigate any adverse consequences of outward migration. The purpose of this paper is to examine macroeconomic and prudential aspects of the rapid growth of lending in Latvia.