Saturday, 18 September 2021

Investment Rating Confirmation of Good Gov’t Policy, Says PM

ZAGREB, 18 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday the affirmation of Croatia's investment rating and forecast of a 6.5% economic growth this year were a confirmation of the government's good policy, which retained Croatia's economic and financial stability during the pandemic.

"The Standard & Poor's agency has affirmed Croatia's investment rating with a stable outlook and raised the economic growth estimate in 2021 to 6.5%! This is another confirmation that Croatia has retained economic and social stability as well as jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic with the government's measures for the private sector," the prime minister tweeted.

With a successful tourism season behind and the implementation of reforms and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan thanks to European funds, Croatia is on the path of a strong and fast recovery, he wrote.

"Another priority is to go back to the policy of public debt reduction and budgetary stability. Entry to the eurozone will contribute to the further strengthening of the credit rating," he added.

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Saturday, 22 May 2021

PM Says Satisfied with Fitch Rating, Gov't Working on Creating Conditions for Growth

ZAGREB, 22 May 2021 - PM Andrej Plenković on Saturday expressed satisfaction with Fitch rating agency's having maintained Croatia's rating at BBB- with a stable outlook, saying his government was working to create conditions for economic growth so that this and next year its growth rate could be among the highest in the EU.

Fitch Ratings on Friday affirmed Croatia's rating at 'BBB-', with a stable outlook, saying that pressure on state finance linked to the pandemic should be neutralised by economic recovery on the back of tourism and EU support.

"We are very happy. The... rating confirms what we have been doing in the past 15 months," Plenković told reporters while visiting Crikvenica and Rijeka in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, where he met with candidates of the local branches of his HDZ party ahead of the second round of local elections set for 30 May.

Plenković stressed that Fitch had sent a message that Croatia had maintained political stability.

"We had parliamentary elections last year, we quickly formed the government, continued working, fought against the pandemic while at the same time keeping the stability of public finances," he said, adding that owing to public finance stability it was possible to secure funding for healthcare, wages, pensions, and job-keeping support.

"The coronavirus crisis has cost us so far HRK 32 billion, the damage caused by the earthquakes in Banovina and Zagreb amounts to HRK 125 billion. But despite that, we have managed to make sure everyone continues receiving their wages, we have secured job-keeping support in the amount of HRK 10.5 billion, 680,000 workers have received wages owing to the government's political decision to compensate employers for their workers' wages, and we have introduced measures for shorter working hours, various forms of support for liquidity in numerous sectors, and the coverage of fixed costs," he said.

"With a timely entry into the domestic capital market and access to international sources of financing, clever agreements with the Croatian National Bank and the European Central Bank, we have managed to maintain our reputation with credit agencies and all international institutions," he said, adding that apart from functioning normally and heading towards the euro area, Croatia was also in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

"A budget revision will be on the agenda soon, in early June, and we will try to maintain, this year as well, the framework that will make it possible for our growth in 2021 and particularly in 2022 to be among the highest in the EU," said Plenković.

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

He put this in the context of vaccination against COVID-19, calling on Croatians to get vaccinated.

Plenković believes that as regards reputation, Croatia has a very stable position and that with vaccination it is also creating conditions for an excellent tourist season, which, he says, together with the green digital certificate and the pandemic subsiding, will enable economic growth.

"Croatia is on the right track and I am encouraged by the assessment of those who have an unbiased and very precise judgment of our performance in the current crisis, it is very encouraging in my opinion," said Plenković.

In its latest rating, Fitch has upgraded the projection for Croatia's economic growth in 2021 from 3.8% to 5.5%.

Fitch forecasts GDP growth to accelerate to 6.1% in 2022 before averaging 4% in 2023-25, driven largely by investment and notes that Croatia will receive around €6.3 billion in grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, in addition to €1 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund for earthquake reconstruction and €12.6 billion in the 2021-27 Multi-Annual Funding Facility.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Fitch Affirms Croatia at 'BBB-', Outlook Stable

ZAGREB, 22 May 2021 - Fitch Ratings on Friday affirmed Croatia's rating at 'BBB-', with a stable outlook, saying that pressure on state finance linked to the pandemic should be neutralised by economic recovery on the back of tourism and EU support.

The 'BBB-' rating balances strong structural features, the agency says, singling out better indicators of human development and governance in comparison with countries with a similar rating and higher GDP per capita.

The rating is restricted by a high public debt and periods of weak economic growth, in part due to the slow adoption of structural reforms.

The stable outlook "weighs large short-term downside risks related to pandemic developments against stronger medium-term growth prospects linked to substantial EU fund support and our fiscal consolidation and debt reduction baseline that is underpinned by the authorities' commitment to fulfilling convergence criteria under the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERMII)."

"Fitch expects the economy to expand by 5.5% in 2021, from a combination of base effects (growth was stronger than expected in 2H20), the resilience of sectors such as construction and goods exports, and a gradual recovery in consumption," the agency says.

"Our forecasts rest on an improved tourism sector outlook (at around two-thirds of 2019 levels), assuming a pick-up in summer tourism as the health crisis in Europe continues to abate. However, renewed travel restrictions due to the still uncertain evolution of the pandemic, including the spread of new variants, cannot be discounted."

European support

Fitch expects the economy to grow this year, "even if tourism levels remained at 2020 levels (50% of 2019), but the weaker recovery could increase the risk of longer-term scarring and put pressure on public and external finances."

Fitch forecasts GDP growth to accelerate to 6.1% in 2022 before averaging 4% in 2023-25, driven largely by investment and notes that Croatia will receive around €6.3 billion in grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), in addition to €1 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund for earthquake reconstruction and €12.6 billion in the 2021-27 Multi-Annual Funding Facility.

Work force problem

According to those projections, Croatia will likely reach pre-crisis output in early 2022, "limiting the risks of labour market hysteresis and corporate sector bankruptcies."

Rapid labour tightening in sectors such as construction could delay some of the investment momentum, as could the need to pass a large number of reforms, in a short timeframe in order to get RRF fund disbursement.  

"Croatia's absorption capacity lags the EU average and the sheer size of funds accentuates the implementation challenges."

"If the authorities are successful at adopting long-standing reforms, this could mitigate major growth challenges such as adverse demographics. According to the EU Commission, the working age population could contract by 26% by 2050."

Deficit forecast raised

Fitch raised the public deficit forecast from 3.5 to 4% of GDP in 2021 and forecasts a fall to 3% in 2022, up by 0.8 percentage points from the forecast made last December.

"The authorities put in place relatively generous and effective pandemic support measures that are gradually being wound down, with very limited direct budget costs expected beyond 2Q21."

That will help bring public spending/GDP down from a record 55.4% of GDP in 2020, while revenue should benefit from strong nominal growth, but recovery in certain segments could be jeopardised if tourism activity disappoints.

Eurozone entry in 2024

Public debt/GDP should fall to 82.7% of GDP in 2022 from 88.7% in 2020, Fitch said, reducing the forecast from December by 2.8 percentage points.

Croatia benefits from favourable financing conditions and deposits, reducing liquidity pressures.

"Over 75% of public debt is foreign currency-denominated (almost all in euros), but there are few concerns about exchange rate stability and this long-standing vulnerability will dissipate once Croatia joins the eurozone."

The authorities continue to target euro adoption by early 2023, but the biggest challenge remains fulfilling the public finance convergence criteria targets, as the government deficit and debt reduction strategy could face challenges in the near term if macroeconomic conditions do not improve as expected.

Fitch maintains its forecast that Croatia should enter the eurozone in 2024.

Consolidation

The agency says that it could upgrade Croatia's rating if near-term macroeconomic risks dissipate and if criteria are met and eurozone accession goes as planned. A stable reduction of the public debt and budget deficit through budget consolidation would also have a favourable effect.

The rating could be downgraded in case of failure to reduce general government debt over the medium term, "for example due to a more pronounced and longer period of fiscal loosening and economic contraction," as well as in case of deterioration in macroeconomic prospects, for example through a setback to the tourism sector.

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

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Commission Receives Croatia's National Recovery and Resilience Plan

ZAGREB, 15 May 2021 - The European Commission has received Croatia's National Recovery and Resilience Plan and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday thanked government members and all who worked on the key document for structural reforms and investments.

He tweeted that by implementing the reforms, Croatia will ensure more than HRK 47 billion in grants that will contribute to economic growth.

Croatia's plan is based on a green and digital economy; public administration and judiciary; education, science and research; the labour market and welfare; healthcare; and post-earthquake reconstruction.

The plan covers 77 reforms and 152 investments which, Plenković said earlier, will also make Croatia more resilient to future crises.

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Saturday, 19 December 2020

Croatia Agriculture and Food Exports Jump in 2020, Imports Fall

December 19, 2020 – A surprising success story in a difficult year as Croatia agriculture and food exports jump in 2020, while imports of the same have fallen

Good news from any place is welcome in this most difficult of years. According to provisional data from the country's Central Bureau of Statistics, the total value of Croatia agriculture and food exports in the period from January to September 2020 amounted to 1.7 billion Euros, an increase of 5 percent from the same period in 2019. Within the same period, the value of agricultural and food imports into Croatia was 2.5 billion Euros, a decline of 7.3 percent from last year.

The success of Croatia agriculture and food exports in the period means that the country's trade deficit has decreased by huge 26.6 percent compared to the same period last year. With this year's findings taken into account, the trade deficit now stands at 758.8 million Euros.

fieldsromi2.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

Croatia agriculture and food exports covered 69 percent of total imports this year, an increase of 8.11 percent. A total of 15.86 percent of all exports from the country come from the Croatia agriculture and food exports sector.

The most important item of production within the sector is corn, which accounts for 5.4 percent of all Croatia agriculture and food exports.

From January to September 2020, the most significant products in exports were: cereals (205.4 million Euros – a growth of a huge 62.6 million Euros); various food products (168.1 million Euros – including manufactured/processed foods like sauces, soups, ice cream, sugar products); fish and other seafood (a huge 147.4 million Euros – showing a growth of 14.5 million Euros); cereals, flour, starch or milk products; confectionery products, including chocolate (135.9 million Euros – a growth of 13.8 million Euros), and tobacco-related products (122.6 million Euros). TCN recently took a closer look at the successful and well-established Croatian chocolate industry

Other successes within 2020 Croatia agriculture and food exports were live animals, with an increase of 10.1 million Euros, and the residue and waste of the food industry, which is exported to go into prepared animal foods. The latter saw an increase of 8.6 million Euros.

brancinsfinal.jpg

So far this year, Italy was one of the most important destinations for Croatia agriculture and food exports. Their total consumption of Croatia agriculture and food exports was 300.8 million Euros, which amounts to 17.76 percent of Croatia's exports in the sector. Croatia agriculture and food exports to Italy increased by 21.9 percent this year, while imports from Italy to Croatia in the same period was 263 million Euros, a decrease of 16.6 percent on 2019. This creates a surplus of 37.6 million Euros.

The most important Croatia agriculture and food exports to Italy are maize, wheat and soybeans, tobacco-related products, sea bass (brancin) and bream (orada).

For the last five years, Croatia agriculture and food exports top consumer has been Germany. For the past seven years, Germany has also been the country from which Croatia has imported the most.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Capannelli: No Progress Unless Government Changes Public Policies

ZAGREB, October 22, 2020 - If the government does not change the public policies, there will be no progress, World Bank (WB) Country Manager for Croatia Elisabetta Capannelli said in Thursday's issue of Vecernji List daily.

Boosting the efficiency of the Croatian judiciary, increasing the public administration's efficiency by streamlining administrative procedures and reducing bureaucracy and investing in education, research and development and innovation are the crucial but not the only areas of the public sphere in need of an urgent reform so that the business climate would improve and that the trust in Croatian public institutions would be strengthened, Capannelli said.

In an interview for Vecernji List she analysed the goals of Croatia's draft 2030 National Strategy and warned that economic growth could not be the only aim.

What is economic growth without justice, fairness, the voice of the people and democracy? Growth cannot be the only goal of public policy, Capannelli said.

She said that Croatia could move closer to EU averages faster, but more effort was required if we wanted to achieve stronger and more inclusive economic growth.

However, it will not succeed if it continues pursuing public policies of the past ten years in the next decade. Strategies turn into reality only when they are implemented, and Croatia has not really been successful in implementing good ideas. If the government and, what is even more important, the entire society are truly committed to implementing important reforms, Croatia can really escape the low-growth trap it is in today, Capannelli said.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Veljko Ostojić: Only Lowering Taxes Can Save Croatia

As Novac/Veljko Ostojic writes on the 8th of April, 2019, after almost a decade of high growth rates in Croatia's domestic tourism indicators, the dominant feature of this season, at least from the market's point of view, is uncertainty. The only thing we can be sure of, however, is the rapid growth period behind us. Facing Croatia is a period of struggle for each tourist owing to extremely turbulent broadcasting markets.

Such a destiny is shared by all Mediterranean markets with the exception of Turkey, and tourism in the Mediterranean as a whole is influenced by two dominant trends.

The first concerns the general insecurity in the European Union's economy, driven by the slowdown in individual national economies, primarily in big players such as Germany and Italy. An additional element that generates general uncertainty is the potential of Brexit (should it ever happen at all), the real effects of which at this stage can't really be estimated. These movements deter people from spending too much money, which is felt by the lack of bookings and reservations. In the first two months of 2019, the annual cumulative booking from Germany to Croatia was a little less when compared to 2018, while the decline in British tourist reservations throughout the Mediterranean was much more apparent, with Brits booking their holidays in the sun in advance being 10 percent lower on average than last year.

The second trend is the return of an old tourism king, Turkey, which has been a source of discomfort and nerves for Western Mediterranean countries, especially Spain, especially with its policy of subsidised travel arrangements last season, this season, Turkey is set to continue to record high growth rates of reservations from key European emission markets.

Such is an environment that defines the prospects of Croatian tourism not only this year, but over the next few years. The Croatian Tourism Association decided to quantify the effects of these trends on the expectations of Croatian tourist companies and the results of that survey were published in the first issue of Tourism Impulse, which will be published continuously every quarter. They surveyed the fifteen of Croatia's largest tourism companies, which account for 81 percent of the country's hotel sector.

The survey has shown that Croatian travel companies are experiencing revenue declines on one hand, and rising costs, primarily regarding labour, on the other. Croatian tourist companies are expecting slower annual revenue growth by 11.4 percent when compared to last year. Without changing the business environment in which Croatian tourism operates, this will result in a reduction in profitability and of course, a reduction in investment potential. With Croatia's damning reputation among foreign investors on the world stage, this really is the last thing it needs to seek to encourage.

The rather damp expectations of some of Croatia's largest tourist companies also show a drop in profitability this year by almost five percent and, as a consequence, the reduction of investments this year by a concerning twenty percent. Over the next two years, a further decline in investment is expected at a rate of 33 percent when compared to the periods in 2018 and 2019.

Reducing investment potential in tourism has a significant impact on the long-term prospects of Croatia's tourism. It is clear to all that in the long-term, Croatia must compete exclusively with quality rather than price. Reducing prices as much as possible to compete with Turkey on a surface level will only destroy the Croatian coast and Croatia's tourism sector as a whole. This isn't an option.

To be able to really compete with quality, apart from having determination to do so, it is crucial to attract and stimulate investments, something Croatia lacks in, and rather severely.

For that, Croatia will have to make numerous significant changes to its business framework. Today, Croatia is one of the least competitive in investing in tourism in the entire Mediterranean and has the highest tax burden of them all, especially if we look at the VAT rate. Spain, France and Italy have a reduced their VAT rates to help boost tourism. Croatias VAT rate, however, is 13 percent for hotel accommodation and 25 percent for hospitality services. Only Denmark is operating anywhere close to that in the whole of Europe, and one can hardly compare Croatia to Denmark.

Tourism directly and indirectly generates nearly twenty percent of Croatia's GDP, the sector generated eleven percent of all investments in Croatia. There is a lot of discussion about the optimal structure of the economy in which tourism makes up such a big part of it, and this, like many such discussions in Croatia, is often a waste of time. In a situation where tourism is experiencing significant growth rates and becoming an increasingly important factor in the receptive Mediterranean market, such discussions are quite unnecessary.

Of course, the priority requirement for Croatia's tourism growth is to boost investment, which will continually increase the country's overall quality.

If VAT on the entire tourist service is reduced to the level of Croatia's competitive countries, tourism can attract an additional three billion euros of investment, it can increase employee salaries by twenty percent and continue to rise over the next few years, which will further stabilise budget revenues and raise the standard life in Croatia in general.

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Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Vienna Institute: Croatia Continuing to Slow Down, Kosovo is Rising Star

As Adriano Milovan/Novac writes on the 2nd of April, 2019, the economic expansion period for most of the transition countries, including the Republic of Croatia, is now over, and in the coming years we can count only on very modest rates of economic growth, this was the message from experts from the renowned Vienna Institute for International Economics Studies (WIIW).

According to the latest forecasts of the Vienna Institute, this year, Croatia can expect a growth rate of 2.6 percent. However, in the coming years, economic growth will slow down even more, meaning that the Croatian economy will likely grow at a rate of 2.5 percent in 2020 and again in 2021. Although the GDP growth rate of 2.5 percent doesn't deviate much from the previous growth rates in Croatia, given that they were still less than in other comparable countries of the so-called "New Europe", it's worth noting that this rate is still less than was previously expected.

Additionally, and more concerningly yet, the Republic of Croatia will be among the new EU member states with the lowest rates of economic growth of all. On the other hand, the fastest growing economies among transition countries will rather surprisingly be non-EU European countries, such as Kosovo and Albania and even more surprisingly, Moldova, at least according to an analysis taken by the esteemed Vienna Institute. According to these forecasts, Kosovo's economy, for example, was to grow at a rate of 4.1 percent this year, in the following year at a rate of four percent, and in 2021, at a rate of 3.9 percent.

In their forecasts, the analysts of the Vienna Institute cited the slowdown of economic growth in the world as a whole, especially in Germany, and the strengthening of protectionism in world trade and uncertainty brought about by Brexit (should it occur at all), as among the main reasons for the ''cooling'' of the transition economies.

Openly, however, the question remains about how the current crisis in Uljanik will reflect on the Croatian economy as a whole. Vladimir Gligorov, a longtime analyst at the Vienna Institute and now an external associate, says the events in Uljanik will have negative effects on the Croatian economy in the short term, primarily through the activation of state guarantees and the cost of dealing with former workers who will be left jobless, but in the medium term, it shouldn't actually reflect all that much on the macroeconomic image of the country that significantly.

The attitudes of Croatian macroeconomists, Zeljko Lovrinčević from the Zagreb Institute of Economics and Zdeslav Šantić, the chief economist of OTP banka, don't differ significantly from the above statement from the Vienna Institute, and they also don't expect huge consequences on the Croatian economy from the collapse of Uljanik. Moreover, Lovrinčević believes that the first half of this year could be even better for Croatia than expected, whereas we will likely only feel a slight slowdown in the second half of this year and next year.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Adriano Milovan for Novac/Jutarnji

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