The opening up of Eastern Europe to the rest of the world in the early 1990s brought about tremendous benefits. The inflow of capital and innovation has led to better institutions, better economic management, and higher efficiency. On the flip side, it has also led to sizable and persistent outflow of people.
Inflation has been falling sharply across Europe since 2012 (see Charts 1 and 2). Across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), inflation expectations have also drifted down especially among countries who peg their currencies to the euro (Bulgaria, Croatia, as well as Lithuania, which adopted the euro on January 1, 2015), but also in those that target their inflation rate (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania).
The recent drop in world oil prices has re-ignited the debate about good vs. bad disinflation. For the euro area, risks from low inflation have been discussed in the March 2014 iMFdirect post. Our blog examines the causes and potential consequences of falling inflation from the perspective of EU countries outside the euro zone.
Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe: Safeguarding the Recovery as the Global Liquidity Tide Recedes
(Version in Türk)
Growth is gathering momentum in most of Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe (CESEE) in the wake of the recovery in the euro area. Excluding the largest economies—Russia and Turkey—the IMF’s latest Regional Economic Issues report projects the region to grow 2.3 percent in 2014, almost twice last year’s pace. This is certainly good news.
As we begin the new year, Europe confronts both good and bad news. First the good news. Growth is finally picking up in the euro area as it is slowly emerging from the deep recession. The bad news? Still nearly 20 million people are unemployed. Until the effects on employment have been reversed, we cannot say that the crisis is over.
Two trends are particularly troubling, now and for the future. First, the high level of long-term unemployment gives me great cause for concern: almost half of those without a job have been unemployed for more than a year. Second, I still worry about the large number of young people without jobs: nearly one quarter of Europeans under the age of 25 who are looking for a job cannot find one. In Italy and Portugal, more than one third of under-25s are unemployed, and in Spain and Greece more than one half are.
There is little doubt the era of generous funding from Western Europe's banks to their subsidiaries in the East is over, but this doens't have to translate into a reduction of bank credit in the emerging economies of Europe. The IMF's latest analysis shows an increase in local deposits in most countries of the region has offset the withdrawal of funding from Western Europe.
Following the global economic crisis, Europe's emerging economies will need to find new sources of growth to increase their share of world markets. Marek Belka, head of the IMF's European Department, says growth will need to come from manufacturing and services, rather than, in the past, construction, real estate, and banking. But he argues that Emerging Europe has transformed itself many times before and is quite capable of doing it again.