Saturday, 10 April 2021

Croatian National Bank Makes First Foreign Exchange Intervention of 2021

April the 10th, 2021 - The Croatian National Bank (HNB/CNB) has made the very first foreign currency exchange market intervention of the year to stabilise the Croatian kuna.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made life very difficult for banks, not in terms of revenue so much but in terms of attempting to stabilise domestic currencies as economic blows keep on being dealt by the spread of the virus and the subsequent introductions of lockdown measures to try to mitigate the escalating public health crisis.

The Croatian National Bank, with Boris Vujcic as its governor, hasn't been immune to the proverbial storm clouds caused by this unprecedented and seemingly unrelenting global situation, and numerous interventions involving the euro and the kuna have taken place over the last pandemic-dominated year.

On Thursday last week, the Croatian National Bank stepped in to make its first foreign currency exchange intervention of 2021.

As Ana Blaskovic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, to be more precise about what the intervention entailed, the central bank sold 190 million euros to the banks at an average exchange rate of 7.570405 Croatian kuna per euro, as such withdrawing a massive 1.438 billion kuna in total from the system.

This was, as previously stated, the very first foreign exchange intention of 2021, which was done to stabilise the Croatian national currency. The previous intervention by the national bank took place back at the end of March 2020, as the pandemic began to errupt across Europe.

Back then, 618.5 million euros were sold to the banks, and the exchange rate stabilised at 7.608529. In the meantime, four interventions were held in which the Croatian National Bank was the one to purchase the euros.

For all you need to know about Croatian banks and financial institutions operating within the Republic of Croatia, whether you're a local or a foreigner, make sure to bookmark this page.

 

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Decision to Return Child to Biological Family Was Bad"

ZAGREB, 7 April, 2021 - PM Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday, in a comment on the death of a 2.5-year-old girl caused by domestic violence, that the decision to return the child to its biological family was bad and that those who made it should bear the consequences, noting that social care did not require a separate ministry.

"I don't know why the proposal to separate social care from the 'mega-ministry' is being made," Plenković told reporters in the parliament.

He recalled that in 2013, during the term of the Zoran Milanović government, a case similar to the last one happened in Slavonski Brod, and at the time there was a separate ministry of social care.

When they lack arguments, people make banal, nonsensical statements, Plenković said, adding that Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović was capable of heading the ministry because the ministry had its services, directors, state secretaries and social welfare centres across Croatia.

"In this specific case with a fatal outcome, the assessment and decision to return the little girl to her biological family was a bad one and for that kind of professional mistake responsibility lies with those who make it," he said.

Plenković went on to say that since the case of an incident on Pag Island in 2019, when a father threw his four underage children from the first-storey balcony of his house, a lot had changed in the social care system.

"During the terms of ministers (Nada) Murganić, (Vesna) Bedeković and now Minister Aladrović, we have worked to strengthen the system of social care. We have worked to raise social workers' wages as well as standards of physical and technical security, so now welfare centres have guards," he said.

The government has increased outlays for social care and allowances and it expects the system to function better and to the benefit of children, he said.

Unfortunately, there are problems, there are dysfunctional families, horrible things are done by biological parents but they will all answer for their actions in a legal procedure, Plenković said, adding that he was appalled and extremely saddened by the latest case.

Speaking of illogical provisions in the foster care law, adopted by his government, Plenković said that every legal solution could be improved.

It is important to speed up foster care procedures and that all children who live in environments that are not appropriate and not safe find a safe place to live. We will improve the law. There is always something to improve, he said.

AstraZeneca vaccine

Plenković also talked about a decision the European Medicines Agency is expected to make on the age groups for which the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is acceptable.

He said he would meet today with Health Minister Vili Beroš and the directors of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Croatian agency for medicinal products to discuss the information they had, and that later today Beroš would participate in a video conference of EU health ministers.

"The most important thing is that the member states' ministers of health have a consolidated position, whatever the EMA's recommendation, and that there are no different practices. Different practices undermine the reputation of a vaccine, whatever its quality, which has happened with AstraZeneca from the start, unfortunately."

Plenković said the confusion about that vaccine had resulted in some people refusing it, which was not pleasant either for the company or anyone involved in vaccination.

He also responded to criticism that he had promised that a majority of the Croatian population would be vaccinated by spring yet had now postponed this until July.

He said AstraZeneca had promised to deliver 120 million doses to the EU in the first quarter but delivered 30 million. Croatia was to have received 1.7 million doses by 31 March and vaccinated more than 800,000 people, he added.

Plenković said 600,000 doses had been delivered and that 2.6 million would be by 30 June, adding that the government was working on having other vaccines available in case of more problems with AstraZeneca.

"Had we ordered 100% from each company and paid for 25 million doses, then all questions would have been - whose money are we spending and why are we buying three or four times as many doses as we need?"

He said an unforeseen thing had happened, not with a no-name company but one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Central bank governor, fighter jets, former JANAF CEO's arrest

Asked if he had known about central bank governor Boris Vujčić's correspondence with representatives of the Knighthead fund concerning the Agrokor conglomerate, Plenković said the question should be put to Vujčić.

Speaking of the procurement of fighter jets, he said consultations were under way and that a decision would be made in time. All offers are valid and we'll take some more time to decide, he added.

Asked to comment on the new arrest of Dragan Kovačević, former CEO of the JANAF oil pipeline operator, Plenković said everything about it should be said by the USKOK anti-corruption office and the State Attorney's Office.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Croatian National Bank: "45% of Croatia's Citizens Support Euro Adoption"

ZAGREB, 19 March, 2021 - The percentage of Croatian citizens who support the adoption of the euro in February this year has reached 45%, up by four percentage points from 41% in a previous survey, conducted in March 2020, the Croatian National Bank (HNB) said on Friday.

The fourth public opinion poll on the adoption of the euro was carried out for the HNB by the Ipsos agency from 23 February 2021 to 1 March 2021.

Nineteen percent of citizens are against the adoption of the euro, while 26% are either against or in favour depending on other factors, and 10% of the respondents do not know, the HNB said.

Also, they said, an increasing number of citizens think that the effect of the euro will be positive. Some of the advantages they see include easier payment and business, as well as the fact that the euro is the common currency in the euro area, which would make Croatia equal to other members of the monetary union.

On the other hand, they see a decline in the standard of living and purchasing power as the main risk, and over a third of citizens think that the adoption of the euro will further increase prices.

To date, the poll has been carried out four times: in August 2018, in February 2019, in March 2020 and in February 2021. The survey is conducted on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 respondents, aged 18 to 79, using computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), and it covers four thematic units: the use of the euro in the Republic of Croatia by foreign citizens, how informed citizens are on the adoption of the euro, citizens' attitudes to the adoption of the euro and their expectations.

The aim of the survey is to determine whether Croatian citizens support the strategic commitment of the government and the HNB to adopting the euro as the official currency in Croatia and whether they are aware of all the benefits that the adoption of the euro will bring to them and the national economy.

For more about business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Advantages of Euro Currency Significant but Economy Needs to be More Flexible

ZAGREB, 19 March, 2021 - Croatia will enter the euro area on 1 January 2023 at the earliest, and introducing the euro has a number of advantages but for those advantages to be greater the economy needs to be more flexible, including with regard to the labour market, a conference heard on Friday.

The conference, focusing on the introduction of the euro as the official currency in Croatia, was organised by the students' association Financial Club.

Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić said in his opening remarks that Croatia cannot enter the euro zone before 1 January 2023.

"Whether Croatia will enter the euro area on 1 January 2023 or a year or two later, depends on when it will meet the nominal convergence criteria," said Vujčić, recalling that in July 2020, Croatia entered the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II), a sort of waiting room for the euro.

He explained that the ERM II envisaged a minimum two years of participation in it so that a candidate aspiring to join the euro area can meet the nominal convergence criteria (Maastricht criteria). On the other hand, if it does not satisfy the criteria, which refer to the stability of the exchange rate, prices and interest rates, the budget deficit and the level of foreign debt, a country can remain in the ERM II indefinitely, Vujčić said.

He recalled a survey indicating that citizens fear that with the introduction of the euro the standard of living will deteriorate and prices will increase. However, surveys in countries that have already introduced the euro indicate that prices increased by 0.23 percentage points on average in the year when the euro was introduced, mostly for everyday goods such as coffee. Prices of such products are relatively lower so their increase could have been relatively high due to rounding off.

"That left the impression in public that prices increased more than they did," explained Vujčić, underscoring that the standard of living did not fall in any country that introduced the euro but rather it improved.

Ćorić: Biggest advantage to companies exporting to euro area

Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić said that it was clear that citizens would not start living better on the first day of introducing the euro, however, what points to better prospects was the fact that the macro environment in the euro area was free of risks that non-member countries were faced with.

The risk premium in all countries that entered the euro area has dropped, said Ćorić, noting that that was something that in normal circumstances should  bring benefits to Croatia, such as reducing yields on long-term security instruments and lower interest rates on commercial and consumer loans.

Considering, however, that we live in "fairly radical economic times," and a period of very low interest rates, the effects which countries that entered the euro area some ten years ago had would be somewhat lower, however, they would still be significant, he said.

The advantages are potentially biggest for export-oriented companies considering that the exchange rate risk will be eliminated, he said.

Ćorić said that the project for euro introduction was not an end in itself but was primarily a very good tool for Croatia's long-term economic growth and development.

Mačkić: Flexibility of labour market, final goods and services market

President Zoran Milanovic's economic adviser, Velibor Mačkić, conveyed the president's message saying that it was necessary to discuss the benefits and potential harm of Croatia joining the euro area.

Mačkić believes that Croatia has not developed its own institutions sufficiently and that that poses a problem. "The country needs a different economy, a much more flexible economy, to be able to benefit more significantly from the monetary union," said Mačkić.

He added that the labour market and the market of final products and services need to be more flexible.

Mačkić underlined the importance of an efficient fiscal policy and of the reform of the tax system which Mačkić believes needs to change from "a consumption-based to income-based tax system."

For more about business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Croatia's General Government Debt Reaches €43.7 Billion at the End of November 2020

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - At the November of 2020, Croatia's public debt totalled HRK 327.8 billion, rising by 35.3 billion, or 12.1%, from the end of 2019, and the country's public debt-to-GDP ratio increased by 15.3 percentage points to 88.6%, according to the Croatian National Bank (HNB) data.

Month on month, the public debt increased 0.6% at the end of November 2020.

A strong rise in the public debt in the first eleven months in 2020 is a result of the response to the crisis caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced a large number of economic activities and consequently budget revenues while the state stepped in to cover a budget gap, according to assessments made by RBA bank's analysts.

The analysts also expect the reduction of the debt-to GDP ratio in 2021 below 85%, provided that economic recovery forecasts come true in the course of this year.

(€= HRK 7.5)

Monday, 25 January 2021

HNB Governor Boris Vujčić Winner of the 2021 Lamfalussy Award

ZAGREB, 25 January, 2021 - The Executive Board of the Central Bank of Hungary (MNB) has decided to give the 2021 Lamfalussy Award, named after the late Baron Alexandre Lamfalussy, the "father" of the euro, to Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić.

The MNB Executive Board said it wanted to acknowledge Vujčić's achievements as HNB Governor, namely the reform of Croatia's monetary policy that had enabled the stability of the kuna in relation to the euro, which led to Croatia's accession to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II) last summer.

The MNB Executive Board also cited Vujčić's role in organising the Dubrovnik Economic Conference, which is attended every year by renowned economists and creators of monetary policies from around the world.

Vujčić, the keynote speaker at an online conference on the future of monetary policy after COVID-19 pandemic, thanked the MNB for the award.

Lamfalussy, a Belgian economist and central banker, was born in 1929 in Kapuvár, Hungary. He studied at the Catholic University in Leuven and Nuffield College in Oxford, where he earned a PhD in economics. He took part in the work of the Delors Commission, which laid foundations for the European Economic and Monetary Union, was the first president of the European Monetary Institute and had a prominent role in the establishment of the European Central Bank and in the creation of regulations of the European financial system.

The MNB established the Lamfalussy Award in 2014.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

HNB Governor Says Introducing Euro on 1 Jan 2023 Feasible

ZAGREB, September 3, 2020 - Croatian National Bank (HNB) governor Boris Vujcic said on Thursday that although the coronavirus pandemic strongly affected Croatia's economy and public finances, the introduction of the euro on 1 January 2023 was feasible.

Speaking at a conference on the Croatian monetary market in Opatija, Vujcic estimated that GDP would drop 10% this year and increase 6% next year.

"We expect the economy to recover quickly," he said, adding that it was important to meet the remaining Maastricht criteria and carry out the reforms Croatia committed to in the application to enter European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II).

Vujcic said a dynamic economic recovery and maintaining fiscal indicators within the reference framework as of next year were crucial for introducing the euro.

The National Plan for replacing the kuna with the euro is being completed so that we are prepared to introduce the euro on the first day of 2023 and this project, done in cooperation with the government, will be presented soon, while adoption and implementation are expected in the autumn, he said.

The National Plan will regulate the practical steps of introducing the euro as well as inform citizens about it, Vujcic said, recalling that polls showed that sceptical citizens mostly feared that their living standards would decline and prices increase.

It is expected that the Council of the EU will establish in July 2022 that Croatia meets all the requirements, he said, adding that Croatia committed to effect by March 2022 additional reforms to strengthen the fight against money laundering, reduce the administrative and financial burden on the economy, improve management in state companies and strengthen the national bankruptcy framework.

Croatia has been meeting all nominal convergence criteria since 2016 but the pandemic crisis will temporarily obstruct the meeting of fiscal criteria, Vujcic said.

The impact of the epidemic on this year's economy is very strong but real GDP is expected to significantly increase in 2021 after a strong contraction this year, he said, adding that inflation and long term interest rates are very low and that such trends are expected to continue.

The governor said the central bank would continue to implement a stable exchange rate policy, keeping the kuna-euro exchange rate close to the central parity during the ERM II period.

Croatia entered ERM II on July 10 and the central parity was set as HRK 7.53450 for one euro, which was the exchange rate on that day.

Vujcic said HNB and Central European Bank analyses confirmed that the exchange rate was neither undervalued nor overvalued.

The criteria for introducing the euro are clear, no more discretionary decision making nor unwritten rules to which we were exposed before entering ERM II. The pace of the process is only up to us. We have to carry out the reforms we committed to after entering ERM II, spend at least two years in ERM II and meet the Maastricht convergence criteria, Vujcic said.

 

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Tuesday, 1 September 2020

CNB Governor Boris Vujcic: Croatia Will Have Strong Economic Growth in 2021

The CNB Governor Boris Vujcic pointed out that Croatian tax reforms, which will have implications next year, is something that should contribute to increasing personal consumption, ie consumer optimism.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 1st of September, 2020, the CNB Governor Boris Vujcic was a guest on N1 recently, on which he commented on the decline of Croatia's GDP, he also discussed economic expectations for the country in 2021.

Vujcic said that the decline in GDP of just over 15 percent is in line with trends across the European Union, where the average GDP fell by 14 percent, and everything depended on the intensity of epidemiological measures.

"As for the whole year, we expect that in the third quarter, tourism will be better than what we projected it to be in the baseline scenario. Basically, we expected a drop in tourist revenues of 70 percent, and given the achievements, we can say that we expect at this time that the decline will be between 30 and 50 percent when compared to 2019,'' said Vujcic.

However, the CNB Governor pointed out that this will be influenced by the further development of the epidemiological situation in Croatia and across Europe as a whole, as well as possible additional measures that will be taken, so the uncertainty is still quite high.

As far as tourism is concerned, considering the epidemiological situation and what other countries are doing, Vujcic believes that we have gained the maximum possible. "We can't expect September to contribute significantly to that picture," he added.

Commenting on the possible growth of household consumption, CNB Governor Boris Vujcic said that that is largely influenced by expectations, consumer optimism, and it depends on the situation on the labour market, the state of employment and unemployment and income expectations. "If people feel uncertainty, they're afraid that they might lose their jobs, if they expect or they 'e afraid that their salaries could be reduced, then they're going to spend less than they might otherwise," Vujcic said.

“At the moment, we're in a situation where, given that the quarantine has ended, personal consumption indicators are improving in the third quarter, but they're far from the levels we had in 2019,” he added. He pointed out that tax reform, which will have implications next year, is something that should contribute to increasing personal consumption, ie consumer optimism.

When it comes to economic downturn, the decline in sources of goods and services stands at 40.6 percent, however, merchandise exports fell by only 10 percent, which analysts are very pleased with.

"The Croatian economy is now much stronger and more resilient than it was back in 2010, 2011 or 2012, and this is a consequence of the fact that Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, after which merchandise exports began to grow strongly and after which our economy became more strongly integrated with the economy of the European Union. Due to social distancing and all of the measures that were taken, services are much more sensitive to this situation with the pandemic,'' said Vujcic.

The CNB expects that Croatia will have a strong recovery in 2021, and there is still a lot of uncertainty and uncertainty about how the situation with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will develop further.

"We can maintain macroeconomic stability without any issues, and fiscal indicators can improve, as far as the trend of public debt-to-GDP ratio is concerned. As for the exchange rate, we're ready to maintain the stability of this exchange rate until entering the Eurozone,'' said Vujcic.

"The CNB provides liquidity, both in kuna and foreign currency, and at the same time we provide favourable financing conditions, favourable interest rates. The exchange rate is stable and interest rates are at their historically lowest levels. Interest rates on housing loans have reached 2.5 percent, which means that they fell during the crisis, and as far as cash loans are concerned, they're at their lowest levels,'' said the CNB Governor Boris Vujcic.

"As far as lending is concerned, we have a situation where banks have given 3.5 billion kuna to companies, and now the demand for loans is declining, and the conditions for lending are becoming stricter, because the risks are growing. The higher the risk, the stricter the conditions will be. Cash loans have fallen, and housing loans continue to grow and have risen about 9 percent this year. In the new cycle of the APN, we can expect housing loans to increase again, while for cash loans we can't expect that,'' he concluded.

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Monday, 24 August 2020

CNB Governor Boris Vujcic Discusses Economy and Unemployment Rate

As Novac writes on the 23rd of August, 2020, the Governor of the Croatian National Bank (CNB/HNB), Boris Vujcic, said as a guest on HTV's Dnevnik that at this moment in time, given the fact that the results from the Croatian tourism sector are better than predicted, a smaller decline in GDP can be expected. He stated that as long as something unforeseen doesn't happen, strong recovery of the Croatian economy is possible next year.

This, he noted, will also depend on other branches of the economy and on what will happen with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in autumn. Boris Vujcic also announced the strong growth of public debt this year, while it is expected to fall again next year. The CNB estimates that the share of public debt in GDP would increase from 73 to 87 percent of GDP this year.

"Public debt will increase more this year than the total reduction of public debt was from 2014 to last year. We've had a continuous reduction in public debt and will now come to 87, almost 90 percent in one year. It's good that we can see a reduction in public debt next year, because we expect the strong recovery of the economy,'' said Boris Vujcic.

When asked what citizens can expect, Boris Vujcic said that a further drop in interest rates should be expected as we approach entry into the Eurozone. He also supported the claim that interest rates are currently at the historically lowest levels with the fact that those on housing loans have now reached about 2.5 percent, from some 3 percent back in 2019.

Asked about the possible impact of the coronavirus crisis on the banking system, Vujcic said that the economy will fall sharply this year and banks will feel the consequences in terms of reduced revenues, reduced profits, and some will have losses.

''However, the banks are very well capitalised, so they're able to withstand the decline in results this year. And in that sense, savings are safe,'' the governor said.

When asked about estimates of unemployment, he reminded us of the fact that the biggest contraction in Croatia's economic activity was recorded in the second quarter of 2020 and that part of the effects of rising unemployment will be seen in the fourth quarter. However, this growth will not be nearly as strong as it was after the financial crisis of 2008. Boris Vukcic estimates that it will be relatively moderate.

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Tuesday, 21 April 2020

CNB Governor Boris Vujcic: Croatian GDP Dropping Three Percent Every Month

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 21st of April, 2020, Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujcic spoke on Dnevnik N1 about moves the Croatian National Bank (CNB/HNB) is making in connection with the ongoing coronavirus crisis. He said that Croatia is currently in an unusual situation, as is the case when part of the economy needs to be shut down.

"Estimates which are now being made roughly estimate that one month of shutting down the economy brings us a three-point drop in GDP. According to the IMF, the GDP drop 3 percent every month,'' Boris Vujcic said, adding that at the moment, the need to finance the budget is adding up to about ten billion kuna a month.

''We're doing a scenario model where we go with three scenarios - optimistic, pessimistic and basic. They're based on the assumptions of how long the economy can function in this restrictive model. The longer that time goes on, the longer Croatia's GDP falls. We don't know how long it will take, so we can't do a single projection. The depth of the recession this year will depend on whether it's six, nine or twelve weeks of the economy having to work in quarantine.

We expect strong economic recovery in 2021, but not one that would allow for the economy to reach the GDP level of 2019 by the time 2022 rolls around. In an optimistic scenario, we can expect to reach that level of GDP at the end of the projection horizon,'' Boris Vujcic said.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said Croatia needed between 60 and 75 billion kuna for three months' worth of assistance packages.

''The need for financing can be done partly on the domestic financial market, by banks and other financial participants, the other way of financing is funds and the third part can be done on the foreign market.

The CNB has done several things. At the beginning of the crisis, it ensured the stability of the exchange rate through foreign exchange interventions on the market. The second part of these actions was to provide additional liquidity on the market, and the third part was related to securities, with which we stabilised the Croatian state's bond market.

We're ready to defend that [same] course. The CNB kept the kuna exchange rate stable and will continue to do so until the introduction of the euro happens. Now is the opportunity to see how important it is to have large international reserves,'' the Governor explained.

If Croatia had introduced the euro today, we would have been in a more favourable position, Vujcic added.

"If we were in the Eurozone, we wouldn't have had an issue with maintaining the exchange rate stability, we'd have the monetary policy of the European Central Bank, which prints one of the two major world currencies. We'd have the resources of the European Stability Mechanism, in addition to that of the ECB, where each Eurozone country can obtain two percent of its GDP, which would have meant another billion euros in our case,'' Boris Vujcic said.

"The CNB has changed, adjusting its regulatory framework for banks for a year, which allows banks to be able to allow customers to defer their payments of liabilities for a period of three months to a year. Not every client has the same commitment and not everyone will be equally affected. If a law were written on this issue, it would be difficult to enact it by determining who has a right and who has no right. Some need that for a short period of time, some need it for a long period of time, some don't need any time at all.

At the end of last week, out of 30,000 business owners who had taken out a loan, 9,000 requested a deferral of their obligations. About 30,000 people have asked for a delay in servicing their obligations,'' Boris Vujcic said.

Make sure to follow our dedicated section for more on coronavirus in relation to Croatia.

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