Selected Issues

Abstract

Selected Issues

Drivers of Slovenia’s Export Performance1

In the last ten years, Slovenia’s external balance has experienced a dramatic increase, with the current account rising from a deficit of −4 percent of GDP in 2007 to a surplus of almost 7 percent of GDP in 2016. Such a large surplus is unusual for an advanced economy with a relatively older population. A decomposition of Slovenia’s external position shows that most of the increase was due to an increase in goods exports. Thus, to understand the reasons for Slovenia’s external surplus it is important to understand the drivers of goods exports. This chapter compares Slovenia’s export performance to other countries in the region, examines the pattern of exports by product and partner, and assess the impact of factors such as partner growth and factor intensities.

A. Developments since the Global Financial Crisis

1. Slovenia’s current account balance has improved dramatically since the onset of the global financial crisis. This improvement was mainly driven by goods exports rather than a reduction in goods imports or an improvement in the services balance (Figure 1). Since 2007, Slovenia’s current account balance improved by 11 percentage points of GDP, from −4.1 percent of GDP in 2007 to +6.8 percent of GDP in 2016. Most of the improvement in the current account was driven by good exports. These increased from 55½ percent of GDP in 2007 to 62¾ percent of GDP in 2016, about two-thirds of the total improvement. The increase was driven by strong export growth rather than a decline in output. In particular, the real growth of goods exports averaged 2½ percent per year from 2007 to 2016, while Slovenia’s annual real GDP growth averaged only 0.1 percent. Imports declined marginally between 2007 and 2016 from 59½ to 58¾ percent of GDP. Within this overall aggregate, real imports of consumer and investment goods declined by 11 percent from 2007 to 2009 and remained subdued thereafter as businesses and consumers reduced consumption and investment due to lower income, reduced confidence, and uncertainty about the future. While services, in particular tourism, also boosted Slovenia’s economy, they were a smaller contributor, with the services balance increasing from 2¾ to 5¾ percent of GDP.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Current Account Developments

(Percent of GDP, 2007-16 Est.)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: Bank of Slovenia and IMF staff calculations.

2. The performance of Slovenia’s exports after the crisis was also strong relative to that of other countries (Figure 2). In Europe, different countries saw different patterns of GDP growth. In Slovenia, strong exports offset a decline in domestic demand and overall GDP growth was relatively flat. A few countries (e.g., Croatia and Hungary) followed a similar pattern. But in others (e.g., Austria and Poland) domestic demand was the main contributor to growth. The Slovak Republic is the only country in the sample in which both exports and domestic demand played a significant role.

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Changes in Real Net Exports and Real GDP

(Annual Average as a Percent of GDP, 2008-16 Est.)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: WEO database and IMF staff calculations.

B. Structure of Goods Exports

3. Slovenia’s export structure has remained relatively stable over time, despite significant changes in the international trading environment (Figure 3). These include Slovenia’s 2004 accession to the EU, 2007 entry into the Euro Area, the 2007 global financial crisis, and a 2012–13 banking crisis.

  • By product, the top 5 categories of gross goods exports in 2015 (at the HS 2-digit level) included vehicles, electrical machinery, general machinery, pharmaceuticals, and fuel. The top 10 export categories were relatively stable between 2007 and 2015, with only one new product (fuel) appearing. The shares in total exports were also relatively stable, with the top 5 export categories making up 50 percent and the top 10 making up 80 percent of total exports in both years. Moreover, Slovenia’s exports are relatively concentrated compared with other European countries and have become more concentrated over time (Figure 5).

  • Similarly, by trading partner Slovenia’s export markets have remained stable over time, with no changes in the top 10 export destinations. The top 5 markets are Germany, Italy, Austria, Croatia and France, which accounted for just over 50% of total exports in 2007 and 2015. The top 10 export markets accounted for about 70% of total exports in both years.

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Top 10 Gross Export Categories before and after the Crisis

(Share of Total Trade)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Source: UN Comtrade Database and IMF staff calculations
Figure 4.
Figure 4.

Top 20 Export Categories at the HS 4-Digit Level

(Share of Total Trade)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: UN Comtrade Database and IMF staff calculations
Figure 5.
Figure 5.

Export Concentration of Selected Countries

(Normalized Herfindahl index, higher indicates greater product concentration)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: UNCTAD Trade Analysis and Information System

4. The largest changes in Slovenia’s exports were concentrated in a small number of product categories and trading partners (Figure 6).

  • By product, the 5 categories at the HS 2-digit level with the greatest increases (fuel, medicines, electrical machinery, and plastic products) accounted for 74 percent of the total. At the same time, furniture and machinery saw significant decreases. As even the largest categories comprised only 6 percent of total exports in 2007, it does not appear that production bottlenecks were a constraint on export growth (see Figure 5).

  • By trading partner, the 5 countries with the greatest increases from 2007 to 2015 were Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, and Poland, accounting for 43 percent of the total increase. France, Ukraine, and Italy saw the largest decreases.

Figure 6.
Figure 6.

Largest Changes in Exports

(Percentage points of GDP, 2007 to 2015)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: UN Comtrade Database and IMF staff calculations

5. The changes at the overall level, however, mask significant changes within industries (Figure 7). For example, although overall vehicle exports were the largest share of exports in both 2007 and 2015, this category was not one of the top categories for changes between 2007 and 2015. In fact, there were significant movements according to trading partner, with vehicle exports to Germany showing a large increase and vehicle exports to France and Italy showing significant decreases. A similar divergence occurred for aluminum exports.

Figure 7.
Figure 7.

Largest Changes in Good Exports by Product and Trading Partner, 2007 to 2015

(Percentage points of GDP, HS 2-digit level)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

6. A decomposition of growth shows that most of the increase occurred in exports to existing markets rather than exports to new markets or introduction of new products (Figure 8).

  • Increases in existing goods to existing markets represented 95% of the increase in exports from 2007 to 2015. Of this, the top 10 export categories contributed 40% of the increase, while all other goods contributed 55%.

  • Only 5% of the increase was due to exports to new markets or of new products to existing markets. With a mature economy that is well integrated into global markets, Slovenia already exports in 1,140 of 1,241 (or 92%) of the HS 4-digit product categories. Thus, it is not surprising that growth occurred in existing markets and products.

Figure 8.
Figure 8.

Decomposition of Export Growth

(Increase in export to GDP ratio, 2007 to 2015)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: UN Comtrade Database and IIMF staff calculations.

C. Effects of Structure on Performance

7. Despite the good overall performance from 2007 to 2015, Slovenia’s export structure was actually a drag on growth of exports.

  • Between 2007 and 2015, the top 10 exports grew more slowly than overall exports, falling from 70 to 67 percent of total exports.

  • Similarly, an examination of the growth orientation of exports (Figure 9) shows that Slovenia’s exports were growing more slowly than might be expected. Those partners or categories comprising the largest share appear on the right and are highlighted in red. As can be seen, Slovenia’s exports have been concentrated in partners and in product categories that grew slower than average during 2007–15.

  • These findings suggest that Slovenia’s export would have done even better if the largest export categories had performed at the average level.

Figure 9.
Figure 9.

Growth Orientation of Exports

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: WEO database and IMF staff calculations A negative slope indicates exports are concentrated in products and partners with lower growth rates.

D. Slovenia’s Comparative Advantage

8. The product composition of exports can be used to estimate Slovenia’s comparative advantage by industry and type of labor input.

  • The first approach is based on Balassa’s (1965) revealed comparative advantage index (RCA). This index identifies the categories where Slovenia’s export shares are higher than the world average and thus are expected to have a competitive advantage. (Figure 10).

  • As expected, pharmaceuticals are one of the categories, but most of the top 10 exports are not included. In fact, only three of the products (wood articles, aluminum, pharmaceuticals) in Figure 10 are in Slovenia’s top 10 export categories (see Figure 3) and only two (pharmaceuticals and wood articles) are among the largest contributors to the growth in exports from 2007 to 2015 (see Figure 6). As discussed below, 4 of the top 10 are primarily produced with low-skilled labor, 4 with medium-skilled white-collar labor, one with medium-skilled blue-collar labor (wood products), and one (pharmaceuticals) with high-skilled labor.

Figure 10.
Figure 10.

Revealed Comparative Advantage by Product

(Normalized RCA index, 2007 & 2015)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: UN Comtrade Database and IMF staff calculations.

9. Another method originated by Peneder (1999) and used by Banerjee et al (2016) reveals competitiveness according to skill levels and factor intensities embodied in exports (Figure 11).

Skill Level

  • By skill level, goods are classified as primarily utilizing low-skilled (metal manufactures, textiles, and rubber), medium-skilled blue-collar (e.g. vehicles, furniture, and miscellaneous manufactures), medium-skilled white-collar (e.g. electrical equipment, paper products, and power generating equipment), or high-skilled (e.g. pharmaceuticals, specialized industrial equipment, and metal working machinery) labor.

  • By value, exports classified as using low-skilled, blue-collar, or white-collar labor are each about 30% of Slovenia’s exports. And these shares have declined only modestly over time.

  • There was a clear increase in the value of exports that use primarily high-skilled labor. This category rose from 14 to 20 percent of total exports from 2002 to 2015, with growth concentrated in specialized industrial equipment and pharmaceuticals. Most of the increase, however, occurred between 2002 and 2009, with the share of high-skilled exports relatively constant since then.

  • The pattern during the GFC is also informative. Prior to the crisis, the pattern of exports suggests a trend away from white-collar towards high-skilled exports and blue-collar exports. In the immediate aftermath of the GFC, the greatest decline in exports share was concentrated in goods produced primarily by blue-collar workers, while goods produced with white-collar labor bounced back. Changes since 2011 have been relatively modest.

  • Surprisingly, compared with selected advanced economies (Austria, France, Germany, and Italy), Slovenia exports greater shares of goods that embody white-collar and high-skilled labor and smaller shares of goods that embody low-skilled and blue-collar labor. This may be because of the relatively large share of manufacturing in these economies. However, Slovenia’s export pattern is similar to other eastern European countries (Croatia, Hungary, Poland, and Serbia).

Figure 11.
Figure 11.

Evolution of Exports by Embodied Skill Level and Factor Intensities

(Percent of Exports, 2002–15)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: UN Comtrade Database and IMF staff calculations

Factor Intensity

  • By factor intensity, goods are classified as primarily intensive in the use of natural resources (e.g. wood, metals, or rubber), labor (e.g. textiles, apparel & footwear, and food & beverages), or medium- to high- technology (e.g. vehicles, electrical equipment, and pharmaceuticals).

  • Examination of the figure shows that the shares of Slovenia’s exports classified by factor intensity were relatively constant over time.

  • Compared with France and Germany, Slovenia’s export pattern is relatively intensive in exports that are classified as using natural resources and labor and less intensive in medium- and high-technology goods. As with exports classified by skill level, Slovenia’s pattern is very similar to other eastern European countries.

E. Explanations for the Positive Contribution of Exports and Prospects for the Future

10. As shown in previously, the rapid growth of Slovenia’s exports was not due to a favorable orientation of products or trading partners; it was largely due to the strong increase in partners’ imports relative to GDP and in the market share of Slovenia’s exports in Europe.

  • Eight of the top 10 export categories (all except furniture and vehicles) saw increases in their market shares in the EU. And market shares of a few categories (wood and plastic products, iron and steel, and electrical machinery) rose by more than 20 percent in 2015 relative to 2007.

  • Similarly, Slovenia’s exports declined to some markets, including France, Italy, Poland, & Serbia). But this was more than offset by an increase in market share in large markets such as Austria, Germany, Croatia, and Russia. As can be seen in Figure 12, the overall result was that Slovenia’s market share of its top 10 exports in the EU increased by 7 percent between 2007 and 2015.

Figure 12.
Figure 12.

Changes in Market Shares in Top 10 Export Categories, 2007 to 2015

(Percent)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: UN Comtrade Database and IMF staff calculations

11. Another factor that contributed to the large increase in exports as a share of GDP was that Slovenia’s trading partners experienced strong import growth during this period.

  • As seen in Figure 13, from 2007 to 2015, the average growth rate of Slovenia’s trading partners’ nominal imports exceeded that of Slovenia’s nominal GDP (2.5 vs. 1.0 percent). And due to the increase in market share, Slovenia’s export growth (averaging 3.0%) did even better than partner import growth.

Figure 13.
Figure 13.

Growth of Slovenia’s GDP, Exports, and Partner Imports

(Average annual percent change, Euro millions)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Sources: WEO database and IMF staff calculations

Prospects

12. Prospects for future export growth are relatively positive.

  • Based on IMF projections for Slovenia’s trading partners, robust export growth is expected to continue for 2016–2022. As Europe’s growth recovers, Slovenia’s largest trading partners are expected to have improved growth prospects relative to their past performance (Figures 13 & 14).

  • A continued rise in Slovenia’s market shares in partner imports would also be favorable, although this is hard to predict.

Figure 14.
Figure 14.

Future Growth Orientation of Exports

By Trading Partner

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2017, 126; 10.5089/9781484300749.002.A002

Source: WEO database and IMF staff calculationsA negative slope indicates exports are concentrated in partners with lower growth rates.

F. Conclusions

13. The improvement in Slovenia’s goods exports in the wake of the GFC was not due a particularly favorable orientation with respect to products or trading partners, but due to strong growth of partner imports and increasing market share. Slovenia’s current account improved dramatically from 2007 to 2016. This improvement was mainly due to higher exports of goods and, to a lesser extent, services like tourism. The strong growth of exports is striking from a cross-country perspective as Slovenia’s exports performed better than most other countries in the region. Surprisingly, given the good performance, Slovenia’s export structure was actually a drag on export growth from 2007 to 2016. Exports were concentrated in product categories and trading partners that grew more slowly than average during the period. Measures of Slovenia’s revealed comparative advantage suggest competitiveness in medium-skilled white-collar products. Moreover, exports of products that use high-skilled labor (pharmaceuticals and specialized industrial equipment) rose quickly, although they plateaued after 2009. Given that Slovenia’s export orientation was not particularly favorable in 2007, the increase in exports’ share in the economy was due primarily to strong growth of partner imports and an increase in the market shares of many of Slovenia’s exports in the European Union, stemming from improved competitiveness and deeper integration in regional supply chains. Prospects for future growth of exports should be good as the market orientation of exports appears better in 2016 than in 2007. Moreover, the IMF projects that the imports of Slovenia’s trading partners will grow even faster from 2016 to 2022. As a result, goods exports are expected to continue supporting economic activity in Slovenia.

References

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Annex

Table 1.

Changes in Export Products’ Share of GDP

(in Percent, by HS 2-Digit Category)

article image
Sources: UN Comtrade Database and IMF staff calculations
1

Prepared by Lawrence Dwight.

Republic of Slovenia: Selected Issues
Author: International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
  • View in gallery

    Current Account Developments

    (Percent of GDP, 2007-16 Est.)

  • View in gallery

    Changes in Real Net Exports and Real GDP

    (Annual Average as a Percent of GDP, 2008-16 Est.)

  • View in gallery

    Top 10 Gross Export Categories before and after the Crisis

    (Share of Total Trade)

  • View in gallery

    Top 20 Export Categories at the HS 4-Digit Level

    (Share of Total Trade)

  • View in gallery

    Export Concentration of Selected Countries

    (Normalized Herfindahl index, higher indicates greater product concentration)

  • View in gallery

    Largest Changes in Exports

    (Percentage points of GDP, 2007 to 2015)

  • View in gallery

    Largest Changes in Good Exports by Product and Trading Partner, 2007 to 2015

    (Percentage points of GDP, HS 2-digit level)

  • View in gallery

    Decomposition of Export Growth

    (Increase in export to GDP ratio, 2007 to 2015)

  • View in gallery

    Growth Orientation of Exports

  • View in gallery

    Revealed Comparative Advantage by Product

    (Normalized RCA index, 2007 & 2015)

  • View in gallery

    Evolution of Exports by Embodied Skill Level and Factor Intensities

    (Percent of Exports, 2002–15)

  • View in gallery

    Changes in Market Shares in Top 10 Export Categories, 2007 to 2015

    (Percent)

  • View in gallery

    Growth of Slovenia’s GDP, Exports, and Partner Imports

    (Average annual percent change, Euro millions)

  • View in gallery

    Future Growth Orientation of Exports

    By Trading Partner