This 2019 Article IV Consultation with Montenegro highlights that while the implementation of large publicly financed infrastructure projects has added economic growth, the accompanying use of fiscal resources has contributed to a large increase in government debt including guarantees, which reached 79 percent of gross domestic product in 2018. Despite the recent intervention in two non-systemic domestic banks, the overall banking sector exhibits improving asset quality, strong credit growth, high liquidity, and is well capitalized. Efforts to improve banking and Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) supervision are paramount. The emphasis should be a shift to risk-based tools for supervision in both off-site and on-site functions, and the establishment of a stronger supervisory structure within the central bank. The main priorities are reduction of the labor tax wedge and implementation of the new labor law that aims to increase labor market flexibility. Future decisions on the minimum wage should consider a broad set of indicators and require careful analyses of the impact of past increases.
This 2018 Article IV Consultation highlights that Montenegro’s economy is growing strongly, boosted by the implementation of large investment projects, including the construction of the Bar-Boljare highway. Growth should continue over the medium term, albeit at a more moderate pace as highway construction ends. The IMF staff projects the economy to expand by 3 percent in 2018 and 2.5 percent in 2019, with fiscal consolidation also acting as a moderate drag on growth. Although the implementation of large publicly financed infrastructure projects has added to economic growth, the accompanying use of fiscal resources has contributed to a large increase in government debt. Economic growth should remain strong in 2018, notwithstanding fiscal consolidation, and maintain momentum over the medium term.
This report highlights the recent economic developments and outlook and risks related to the Montenegro’s economy. It also discusses policies which need to be implemented to boost growth. Montenegro’s economy has rebounded in the past year, and strong growth looks set to continue in 2016, at slightly more than 4 percent. Although the government’s growth strategy can bring substantial gains, it also carries sizable risks, notably to the public finances. The authorities have taken various policy measures to (1) contain fiscal sustainability risks, (2) sustainably revitalize credit conditions, (3) safeguard financial sector stability, and (4) boost competitiveness and economic flexibility.
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.
COVID-19 hit the economy hard, but a strong recovery is underway. Public debt, already elevated before the pandemic, has increased further. The government has embarked on a reform program ‘Europe Now’, which aims to arrest outward migration through a sharp minimum wage increase, labor tax wedge reduction, and the introduction of a progressive tax code. The financial sector appears to have withstood the COVID-19 shock well.