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.
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 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.
IMF staff are projecting a resumption of growth in southeast Europe in 2000. GDP for the region is estimated to have contracted slightly in 1999, in part because of the Kosovo crisis but more so because of underlying macroeconomic and structural problems in the two largest economies, Romania and Croatia. Nevertheless, generally prudent macroeconomic management in most countries has provided a stable environment in which economic growth should rebound quite strongly in 2000 (see upper table). On average, Romania and Croatia are projected to continue to grow more slowly than the smaller countries in the region, but for both countries, growth is projected to firm during the year. In all countries, the sustainability of growth will depend on further progress in addressing macroeconomic imbalances and implementing structural reforms.
Inflation in Southeastern European (SEE) countries has been comparable with euro area inflation, partly owing to on the one hand, high initial price levels. On the other hand, the exchange rate regime is of paramount importance, including the inflation-targeting regime pursued in Albania. The analysis also explores additional heterogeneity between SEE and other regions. Two fiscal rules—a debt rule and an expenditure rule with a debt brake—are discussed in the context of Albania’s current economic outlook. Both rules will contribute toward enhancing fiscal sustainability in Albania.
This paper discusses the first phase, to be constructed from 2015 to mid-2019, comprises a 41-kilometer section that is to provide an efficient and safe transport link between Podgorica and the poorest northern region in Montenegro. It runs through the mountainous terrain in the center of the country that is economically undeveloped. Due to its large cost (25 percent of 2017 GDP), the first phase of the highway has used up most of Montenegro’s fiscal space and will crowd out other productive spending. For the foreseeable future, the second and third parts of the highway could only be financed with concessional funds, because loans would destabilize the debt sustainability of Montenegro. The government’s main motivation for this large project is the need to improve connectivity, particularly to Europe through Serbia, boost tourism and trade, improve road safety, and strengthen national security. The highway is a part of Montenegro’s plans to integrate the Montenegrin transport network with those of neighboring countries.
This paper discusses Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Sixth and Seventh Reviews Under the Stand-By Arrangement and Requests for Augmentation of Access and Modification of Performance Criteria (PC). Program performance became more uneven in late 2013 and early 2014, reflecting both economic factors and delays in policy implementation. Fiscal policies were broadly on track, but two end-December 2013 fiscal PCs were missed. As revenue collection steadily improved, all end-March 2014 PCs were met. Given the authorities’ overall performance and corrective actions, the IMF staff recommends the completion of the sixth and seventh reviews.
Threats to external stability in the pre-crisis period have now been reduced substantially and foreign non-debt creating flows have declined, sufficient to support external stability. The global economic downturn has raised challenges for evaluating the countries’ fiscal stance and fiscal policy focus should be lowering support to debt sustainability, private sector development, and the currency board stability. The two entity pension funds have been under increasing financial pressures. Putting the public pension systems on a sound footing will encompass a number of complementary steps.