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 2008 Article IV Consultation highlights that Montenegro has made significant progress in overhauling its economy. The authorities have taken several welcomed steps to help strengthen financial sector stability. Executive Directors have welcomed the structural reforms implemented over the past few years and financial integration that have helped Montenegro attract substantial foreign direct investment and generate rapid growth with moderate inflation. Directors have also supported the authorities’ actions to bolster financial system stability and reduce vulnerabilities by intensifying supervisory oversight, tightening prudential regulations, and lifting bank capitalization requirements.
To support the compilation of external sector statistics (ESS) in Montenegro, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s Statistics Department (STA) conducted a technical assistance (TA) mission during December 4–15, 2017. The mission was requested by the Central Bank of Montenegro (CBM), the main ESS compiling agency, and supported by the IMF’s European Department. STA’s mission for the Enhanced General Data Dissemination System (e-GDDS) during June 28-July 4, 2017 also suggested TA for Montenegro to start compiling international investment position (IIP) and external debt statistics (EDS). The mission focused on assisting the CBM in preparing IIP, EDS, Reserves Data Template (RDT), and addressing persistent net errors and omissions. Compilation of IIP and EDS is required to be qualified for Threshold 2 of the e-GDDS. Montenegro does not participate in the Eurosystem, but it is fully eurorized. Euro circulating in Montenegro should be included in the assets of the IIP for Montenegro, but difficulty in estimating the amount had been preventing the CBM from compiling IIP for several years.
This 2013 Article IV Consultation highlights that Montenegro’s recovery from the collapse of the lending boom in 2008 has been slowed by the debt overhang that remains in the private sector. Output contracted in 2012 because of unusually severe winter weather early in the year, as well as a sharp decline in aluminum production as the financial position of the troubled aluminum company (KAP) continued to worsen. Activity picked up in early 2013 as more favorable weather conditions resulted in a sharp increase in hydro-based electricity production. A sustained, multi-year fiscal consolidation effort is needed to reduce the public debt burden to an appropriately low level in the medium term.
This 2010 Article IV Consultation highlights that the authorities’ adjustment program has contributed to limiting the fallout of the global crisis on Serbia. Although the output slump has been limited relative to regional peers, the decline in domestic demand has been significant, resulting in a strong external adjustment. The outlook for 2010 points to a slow but balanced recovery. The pickup in growth will likely be moderate, reflecting slow trading-partner recovery, protracted corporate deleveraging, nominal freezes in public wages and pensions, and lagging labor market adjustment.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that Montenegro’s economy continues to grow at a moderate pace. The growth should continue over the medium term, boosted by the implementation of large investment projects, including the construction of the Bar–Boljare Highway. The IMF staff projects the economy to expand by 3 percent in 2017 and 2.75 percent in 2018, with planned fiscal consolidation acting as a moderate drag on growth. Conditions in the banking sector continue to strengthen, with improving asset quality and recovering credit growth. Nonperforming loans, however, remain elevated, and the sector appears to be over-banked, presenting a challenge for bank profitability.
The IMF’s Statistics Department (STA) conducted a technical assistance mission to support the Central Bank of Montenegro (CBM) for the compilation of external sector statistics in Montenegro during January 20–31, 2020. The mission recommended that the CBM compile preliminary quarterly International Investment Position data and submit them to STA for review by the end of December 2020. The mission recommended that the CBM start recording the Economic Citizenship Program (ECP) according to the characteristics of the payments from the applicants by the end of March 2020. The ECP was just introduced in 2019 and details of the program were not made available during the mission. The mission advised that the payments from applicants for the ECP should be recorded in services, current or capital transfers, or direct or portfolio investment, according to the characteristics of the payments. The CBM plans to start recording data based on the information obtained from the international transaction reporting system (ITRS). The mission advised that the CBM approach the agency in charge of the ECP to collect precise information on the characteristics of the payments and cross-check the data from the ITRS.
Since its independence in 2006, Montenegro has experienced an economic and financial roller coaster ride. The baseline is predicated on continued improvements in cost competitiveness and productivity-raising foreign direct investment (FDI). Avoiding a relapse into recession will thus require strengthening the health of the banking system and removing impediments to restructuring the economy. Montenegro’s attractiveness to investors will depend on reducing macroeconomic and structural vulnerabilities. The business environment needs to be further improved. Redressing solvency issues and improving liquidity were jointly seen as priority tasks.
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 Technical Assistance Report on Montenegro highlights work of the mission with the authorities which included compiling monetary data based on the IMF standardized report forms (SRF), 1SR, and SRF 2SR, for depository corporations. While the depository corporations sector currently dominates the financial system in Montenegro, the Central Bank of Montenegro (CBCG) should also ensure the availability of source data for the compilation and dissemination of a quarterly Other Financial Corporations (OFC) survey given the sector’s potential to grow. The mission found the CBCG’s current data collection framework is broadly appropriate for the compilation of monetary data in line with the MFSMCG 2016 for the depository corporations’ sector, but further work is needed for OFCs. The mission advised on the correct treatment of negative interest accruals (due to negative interest rates) to ensure that the negative accruals diminish the value of the asset.