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 2021 Article IV Consultation determines that Kosovo’s people and its economy experienced a return to a certain degree of normality in 2021. Increased vaccination rates allowed a relaxation of stringency measures, supported mobility, and created the conditions for a resumption of diaspora travel. The fiscal response to the pandemic has been broadly adequate. Moreover, fiscal policy needs to return to a supportive stance in 2022. Focus, composition, and transparency of public spending needs strengthening including supporting economic resilience. While the objective to intensify vaccinations is both appropriate and commendable, intended policy actions under the “Economic Revival Program” need to be better defined, new social transfer programs should be more targeted, and the growth of existing transfers needs to be contained. Kosovo’s intentions to reduce carbon emissions are commendable. A credible climate and environment mitigation strategy should be centered around carbon pricing, while allocating its proceeds to investment in green projects and to mitigate the impact of higher energy prices on vulnerable households.