EC to Review Possible Macroeconomic Imbalances in Croatia again

By 18 November 2020
EC to Review Possible Macroeconomic Imbalances in Croatia again

ZAGREB, Nov 18, 2020 - Croatia entered the COVID-19 crisis with vulnerabilities linked to the government, private sector, and external debt in a context of low potential growth, so the European Commission on Wednesday again recommended making an in-depth review to estimate macroeconomic imbalances.

In the Alert Mechanism Report, a screening device to detect potential macroeconomic imbalances, the Commission recommends that in-depth reviews to identify and assess the severity of possible macroeconomic imbalances should be prepared in 2021 for the same 12 member states that had already been identified as having imbalances or excessive imbalances in February 2020.

Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden have imbalances, while Cyprus, Greece, and Italy have excessive imbalances.

"With the COVID-19 crisis, debt ratios and unemployment are expected to increase. Overall, the Commission finds it opportune, also taking into account the identification of an imbalance in February, to examine further the persistence of imbalances or their unwinding," the report says about Croatia.

For several years until 2019, Croatia had excessive macroeconomic imbalances. In February of that year, the Commission established that the imbalances were no longer excessive.

Croatia's considerably negative net international investment position "continued improving in 2019 and the current account surplus increased towards 3% of GDP. Risks to external sustainability are alleviated by the relatively large share of FDI (foreign direct investment) in total foreign liabilities. The current account balance is expected to turn negative in 2020, much on account of the weak tourism," the Commission says in the latest report.

"The private sector debt ratio continued declining in 2019. The large share of debt remains denominated in foreign currency generating exchange rate risk," the Commission says.

"Real house price growth accelerated in 2019 to above 8%, supported by the accelerating growth in mortgage lending... House price growth is forecast to decelerate in light of the COVID-19 crisis."

"Government debt continued declining to a still relatively high 73% of GDP in 2019. In 2020 it is forecast to rise by more than 15 pps. due to the sharp economic downturn and measures to support the economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the report.

"The banking sector is characterized by moderate profitability and relatively strong capitalization, but also relatively high, though declining, NPLs (non-performing loans). NPLs are likely to increase once government support measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis have been phased out."

"The unemployment rate reached an all-time low of 6.6% in 2019, accompanied by strong decreases in both long-term and youth unemployment. However, unemployment is forecast to increase with the current crisis," the Commission says.