Mr. Nadeem Ilahi, Mrs. Armine Khachatryan, William Lindquist, Ms. Nhu Nguyen, Ms. Faezeh Raei, and Jesmin Rahman
In the past 25 years, exports have contributed strongly to growth and economic convergence in many small open economies. However, the Western Balkan (WB) region, consisting of small emerging market economies, has not fully availed itself of this driver of growth and convergence. A lack of openness, reliance on low value products, and weak competitiveness largely explain the insignificant role of trade and exports in the region’s economic performance. This paper focuses on how the countries in the WB could lift exports through stronger integration with global value chains (GVCs) and broadening of services exports.
The experience of countries that joined the European Union in or after 2004 shows that participation in GVCs can help small economies accelerate export and income growth. WB countries are not well integrated into Europe’s vibrant GVCs. Trade within the region is also limited—it tends to be bilateral and not cluster-like. Our analysis shows that by improving infrastructure and labor skills and adopting trade policies that ensure investor protection and harmonize regulations and legal provisions, the region can greatly enhance its engagement with GVCs.
Services exports are an increasingly important part of global trade, and they offer an untapped source of growth. The magnitude of services exports from the WB region compares favorably with that of peers in Europe, particularly in travel services where several of these countries have a revealed comparative advantage. But there is significant room for growth in tourism exports and an untapped potential in business and information technology services exports that these countries can materialize through policy efforts that increase openness and enhance connectivity and labor skills. Serbia offers a good example of how decisive efforts, including education policies to ensure a sustained supply of skilled labor, can help information technology services exports to take off.
The economy of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia suffered a setback owing to the Kosovo crisis. The impact of the crisis, however, was less severe. Inflation remained low, the balance-of-payments position and the fiscal situation improved, and indicators of external vulnerability remained satisfactory. The National Bank of Macedonia faced contrasting challenges in the conduct of monetary policy. The pace of structural reforms picked up and a value-added tax was introduced. However, structural weaknesses in the financial system have prevented a more vigorous economic recovery.
The paper analyzes the export performance and external competitiveness in FYR Macedonia. It describes the trends in the account balance, external vulnerabilities, and different approaches to estimate the equilibrium real exchange rate; and reviews economic growth experience and prospects and reveals areas of weakness. It also discusses many different factors responsible for Macedonia's high unemployment rate and examines the main factors behind the low level of intermediation.
The broad-based GDP growth supported by public investment, improved credit and labor market conditions, and robust exports is expected to moderate in the near term. Domestic political uncertainties and the crisis in Greece constitute significant downside risks. Fiscal policy space built up in pre-crisis years has largely been depleted. Rebuilding policy space and buffers to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability is a priority now.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes export competitiveness in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYR Macedonia). Export performance in FYR Macedonia has been strong over the last decade, critically contributing to overall growth. Exports have been re-oriented toward new products with higher technological content, allowing for the build-up of revealed comparative advantages in these products. The analysis based on Constant Market Share analysis shows that the overall competitiveness gap of FYR Macedonia with respect to other emerging European countries has narrowed. There appears to be significant room for quality improvement, including for the most successful export products. Although the contribution of exports to GDP growth has been significant, spillover into the domestic tradable sector from the foreign investment led export sector remains limited so far.
This 2015 Article IV Consultation highlights that the economic recovery of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has strengthened. Real GDP growth accelerated to 3.8 percent in 2014, from 2.7 percent in 2013. Strong growth was attributed to double-digit growth in investment driven by activities in the Technological Industrial Development Zones and public infrastructure, as well as strong private consumption supported by robust credit growth and improving labor market conditions. GDP growth in 2015 is expected to moderate to 3.2 percent, with significant downside risks. A derailment of recent political agreement could negatively impact economic sentiment and growth.
This Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix paper examines the scope for improving the effectiveness of fiscal policy of Serbia and Montenegro in containing the persistently large external imbalance. The paper discusses the causes of the current problems and presents preliminary results of the projected finances of the Fund for Employees (FE). It suggests options for reducing the cost of pension outlays, and provides preliminary estimates of the impact of the authorities’ recent reform package on the FE finances. The paper also provides a description of the main parameters of the Serbian pension system.
This paper reviews a broad set of indicators of competitiveness in the Macedonian economy and estimates the equilibrium real effective exchange rate (REER) using different methodologies. Although the REER is broadly in equilibrium at present, structural factors are found to hamper competitiveness. While a more competitive exchange rate might improve short-term export performance, sustained improvements require enhanced productivity and resource reallocation to more dynamic sectors, which depends on reforms to improve the business environment.