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After the collapse of socialist regimes in the early 1990s, ensuing conflicts in the region caused major disruptions, and income per capita fell. The pace of recovery was uneven in the second half of the 1990s: some countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia experienced a sharp turnaround in growth, while others such as Serbia and Albania faced high growth volatility. By the end of the decade, however, real GDP per capita in the region had recovered to its pre-1990 level, despite another recession around the turn of the century, when output in Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia shrank by over 10 percent in a single year.
This chapter reviews macroeconomic developments in the Western Balkans over the past 15 years. The countries of the region underwent substantial changes as they made the transition toward a more market-oriented model. In terms of the external environment, the period is dominated by two events: the introduction of the euro in 1999, and the financial crisis that swept across the globe starting in 2007. The euro brought further integration of capital markets in advanced EU economies; the global financial crisis interrupted capital flows significantly. For the Western Balkans, which had substantial capital needs, both events were very significant.
In the years since 2000, transition and transformation in the Western Balkans have been particularly significant in the banking sector. These banking systems have undergone significant financial deepening, more so than did those of the New Member States at the same stage of economic transition. In the run-up to the global financial crisis, the banking systems of the Western Balkans relied less on fast-moving wholesale funding than did the New Member States (with the exception of Montenegro), which suggests that a significant part of the precrisis credit expansion in these countries was perhaps part of a long-term trend of financial deepening. But financial development in the Western Balkans over this period has also been uneven. While banking sectors have developed rapidly, growth of nonbank financial services has been lackluster, with equity, pension, and insurance markets remaining shallow and corporate debt markets largely nonexistent, even today.
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.