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.
International Women’s Day—March 8—is one of my favorite days. It is a time to celebrate the impressive progress women at all levels of the career ladder have made in recent decades. More women in the labor force, and in more senior positions is good news for women, for their companies, and for their countries’ economies.
A new IMF staff study finds that in Europe, national policies, even taking account of personal preferences, can boost women’s participation in the workforce and enhance their chances for advancement.
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.
What a difference 25 years can make. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 was a day that changed world history and transformed Europe.
Central and Eastern Europe embarked on a historic transition from communism to capitalism and democracy. We thought this landmark anniversary was a good time to look back at the achievements and also forward to the future, as we do in a new IMF report on 25 Years of Transition. The IMF's First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton also gave a recent speech in Warsaw, Poland on this important chapter in history.
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The conflict in Ukraine and the related imposition of sanctions against Russia signal an escalation of geopolitical tensions that is already being felt in the Russian financial markets (Chart 1). A deterioration in the conflict, with or even without a further escalation of sanctions and counter-sanctions, could have a substantial adverse impact on the Russian economy through direct and indirect (confidence) channels.
What would be the repercussions for the rest of Europe if there were to be disruptions in trade or financial flows with Russia, or if economic growth in Russia were to take a sharp downturn? To understand which countries in Europe might be most affected, we looked at the broad channels by which they are connected to Russia—their trade, energy, investment, and financial ties. See also separate blog on Russia-Caucasus and Central Asia links.
What has been the role of foreign banks in financing growth and convergence in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and how is that role changing? This is discussed in the first issue of a new series of analytical work on the region called Regional Economic Issues, which we launched at a joint IMF/Czech National Bank conference two weeks ago in Prague.
As recognized in our Global Financial Stability Report, actions taken by the European Central Bank have helped remove investors’ worst fears. Now policymakers at both the national and euro area level will need to build on these. The stakes are high. For instance, if pressures continue, total assets of major banks in Europe could shrink by as much as $2.8 trillion, possibly leading to a contraction in credit supply in the "periphery" by 9 percent by the end of 2013.
Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe has been through a lot. In two short decades, the region moved from a communist planned system to a market economy, and living standards have converged towards those in the West. It has also weathered major crises: first the break-up of the old Soviet system in the early 1990s, then the Russian financial crisis in 1998, and finally the recent global economic crisis. How did these countries do it? From the Baltic to the Balkans, the region’s resilience and flexibility are the result of hard work and adaptability. But more than anything, it is the strong institutions built over the last two decades that have enhanced the region’s ability to deal with the momentous challenges of the past, the present—and those to come.
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.
In emerging Europe, the share of loans classified as nonperforming—many of them household mortgages—have exploded from 3 percent before the crisis to 13 percent at the peak. NPLs in some parts of the Baltics and Balkans are already at par with previous financial crises elsewhere. Our analysis finds evidence that nonperforming loans are indeed a serious drag on credit supply and economic growth. They drive up banks’ funding costs and interest margins, and at the same time drain their profits and capital. On the credit demand side, over-extended households and businesses are reluctant to consume and invest.