Interest income from foreign reserves is one of the main revenue sources for most emerging market central banks. For central banks in the Western Balkan region, the low global interest rates during 2008–2021 negatively affected their revenues, and the impact was more pronounced for central banks in Kosovo, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina because they cannot use seigniorage to finance their operations. This paper explores how these central banks coped with the long period of low-interest rates. The main finding is that the decline in interest income from foreign reserves was partially compensated by higher fees, commissions, and other regulatory revenues.
Gohar Minasyan, Ezgi O. Ozturk, Magali Pinat, Mengxue Wang, and Zeju Zhu
After trailing Euro Area inflation closely in the recent past, inflation in the Western Balkans has accelerated faster since early 2022 on the back of the shocks to global commodity prices, strong recovery from the pandemic, and lingering supply bottlenecks. This paper employs two complementary empirical approaches of an augmented Phillips curve and structural VAR, adapting them to the data availability and country specificities of the Western Balkans, to analyze the inflation dynamics in the region. It finds that international food prices affect not only headline but also core inflation as well as inflation expectations. Further, inflation in the Western Balkans is not just determined by foreign shocks, and domestic factors, aggregate demand shocks in particular, have a significant impact on inflation. These findings imply a possible role for policies to temporarily limit an immediate and complete pass-through of international to domestic food prices while also stressing the importance of an appropriate domestic macroeconomic policy mix to keep inflation expectations anchored and safeguard credibility in the face of high inflation persistence.
This Selected Issues paper focuses on challenges and opportunities in Kosovo’s electricity sector. Energy market pressures in Europe are likely to continue throughout 2023. Higher energy prices represent a heavy blow for Kosovo’s current account. The tariff-setting framework is broadly sound, but the increase in European electricity prices has led to challenges. Higher European electricity prices have stressed the sector’s flows, creating liquidity choke points. Higher European electricity prices and lower domestic electricity supply may result is significant stress for Kosovo’s energy sector and budget. In the short term, more efficient use of electricity should reduce demand and contribute to balance the system in 2023. In the medium term, boosting energy efficiency and diversification away from lignite is priority. To that end, creating a fund for the renewal and expansion of domestic electricity generation capacity in green technologies could be explored. Starting to explore carbon pricing would strengthen price signals and result in more efficient demand and less carbon intensity.
Mr. Alain Jousten, Mario Mansour, Irena Jankulov Suljagic, and Charles Vellutini
This paper examines how labor taxation (personal income taxes and social security contributions) in the Western Balkan contributes to labor market outcomes such as high informality and a significant gender gap in participation rates. We find that limited progressivity combined with high tax wedge on low incomes poses a major twin equity-efficiency challenge in the region, resulting in low redistributive capacity and inadequate incentives to enter the job market. Policy implications are discussed with a view to alleviating the excessively high tax wedges on low incomes, while improving progressivity of income taxation.