Taking Away the Punch Bowl: Lessons from the Booms and Busts in Emerging Europe

By Bas B. Bakker and Christoph Klingen

With all eyes on the euro area, it is easy to forget that only a few years ago the emerging economies of Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, went through a deep economic and financial crisis. This crisis is the topic of a new book that we will introduce to the public this week in Bucharest, London, and Vienna.

One lesson is that your best chance to prevent deep crises is forcefully addressing booms before they get out of hand. Another is that even crises that look abysmal can be contained and overcome— policies to adjust the economy and international financial support do work.

In the half decade leading up to the crisis, easy global financial conditions, confidence in a rapid catch-up with western living standards, and initially underdeveloped financial sectors spawned a tremendous domestic demand boom in the region. Western banking groups bankrolled the bonanza, providing their eastern subsidiaries with the funds to extend the loans that fueled the domestic boom. Continue reading “Taking Away the Punch Bowl: Lessons from the Booms and Busts in Emerging Europe” »

Convergence, Crisis, and Capacity Building in Emerging Europe

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.

Debt Hangover: Nonperforming Loans in Europe’s Emerging Economies

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.

How to Exit the Danger Zone: IMF Update on Global Financial Stability

Many of the root causes of the euro area crisis still need to be addressed before the system is stabilized and returns to health. Until this is done, global financial stability is likely to remain well within the “danger zone,” where a misstep or failure to address underlying tensions could precipitate a global crisis with grave economic and financial consequences.

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