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Artur Eresko ◦ Latvian Economics Gives the Heebie–Jeebies

Artur Eresko ◦ Latvian Economics Gives the Heebie–Jeebies

The quarterly decline in the Latvian economics has continued for the second quarter successively. According to preliminary data of the Central Statistical Office in the 1st quarter of 2016 the GDP of the country reduced yet by 0.1%. The chief culprits – delay in implementation of EU funds and transit problems.

 

Decline in the gross domestic product (GDP) of Latvia, recorded for two successive quarters, forces to speak of a technical recession in economics. But, it is still early to panic.

Despite the quarterly decline, in a year’s perspective the economics is growing, although slower than in the previous quarters. The annual growth rates of GDP of Latvia in the 1st quarter of 2016 made up 1.8% (seasonally non-aligned data).

The economic growth rates in the first quarter of this year to a great extent are attributable to slowdown in January. But in the following months the situation somewhat bettered.

So, the manufacturing output in January shrank by 5.2% if compared to the same month the year before. But, in general, for the quarter this sector showed a growth of 0.5% over the previous year. Something like that was observed also with export in 2016. In actual prices in January its volume decreased by 10.9%, while in February it remained just about at the level of February last year.

The situation in transport also looked not as much gloomily as it might have. Indeed, in the first months the volumes of freight carried by railway and through the ports noticeably reduced. But, in general, in the sphere of transport and storage the amount of services in the first quarter this year showed a growth of almost 3%.

Although at slightly slower rates than the year before, the growth of the retail trade turnover continued. It suggests that private consumption continues growing this year as well. In the first quarter the retail trade turnover showed a growth of 1.3% over the previous year. Generally speaking, however, the amount of services provided in this sphere grew in the first quarter by 2.3%.

In general, the economic growth in Latvia this year, presumably, would gain some momentum if compared to 2015 and might show about 3%.

Experience of our northern neighbours evidences in favour of this forecast. In Estonia in 2013 at the start these data showed a slight recession. As it often happens, the GDP data were revised, and by now they do not show any recession for the time being.

There are, however, the reasons for anxiety. Clearly, implementation of EU funds will not begin until the last quarter this year, but the manufacturing industry is being adversely affected by the suspension of operations of Liepājas metalurgs.

 

Artur Eresko (Артур Ересько) - Candidate of Economic and Legal Sciences.

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  • Artur Eresko ◦ Eurozone development in 2017: slowly, but consistently

    If for European policy the year 2017 promises to be complicated (elections, Brexit, unpredictable relationship with new government of the USA, trade wars with Russia), while in the economic aspect the new year promises to be quite not bad. At least, for the eurozone countries.

     

    The past year was distinguished by controversial signals concerning the economic growth in the eurozone, however, in general, as a result, positive news prevailed. The eurozone in 2016 demonstrated its soundness under the influence of internal and external shocks.

    Despite strong tension in the market in January and February of the past year, Brexit and continuing weakening of the global market, trust of business and of consumers in the eurozone remained amazingly stable. GDP, according to a tentative forecast, grew in 2016 by substantive 1.6%. So, the past year became the second year of a visible growth of the zone of Euro.

    Today we can presume that the moderate rates of recovery of the economy of the currency block shall preserve also in 2017 – GDP of the region shall grow yet by 1.5 %, at the least.

    The key risk factor for the European economics this year is the policy. Europe this year will again encounter a clear-cut political uncertainty, which might affect determination to invest.

    This is about elections scheduled in Europe to 2017: in the Netherlands, in France, in Germany and, probably, in Italy. After the populist surprises in Great Britain and in the USA a similar result in Germany cannot be ruled out.

    Anyway, in Germany the parliamentary elections ought to take place this year, which will result in the election of the chancellor of the country. France will elect its president, in the Netherlands — parliamentary elections. In Italy the situation is different: resigned at the end of the last year from the post of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi did not exclude in the middle of December that early parliamentary election might take place in June 2017.

    Nevertheless, so far we can forecast the growth of investments in the eurozone this year by 2.5%. This is, however, slightly less than 3%, achieved in 2015 and in 2016.

    While inflation in the eurozone is forecasted at the level of 1.5-1.8 per cent.

    The eurozone has lived for several years under the low inflation condition, even the risk of deflation was emerging, which threatened the process of recovery of economics of the region. This year would considerably weaken or even remove the low inflation risk.

    Here it is important to mention that in December last year inflation in the eurozone already jumped by half a percentage point – to 1.1%, which practically was completely caused by oil price hikes. There are not yet any signals of a new fall in price of a barrel, and there is no reason to be worried of a stop of rise in consumer prices in the eurozone countries.

     

    Artur Eresko (Артур Ересько), candidate of Economic and Legal Sciences.

  • Artur Eresko ◦ Foreign trade: the deficit shrank to the minimum

    The jerk of woodworking industry in September failed to compensate hard landing of export of oil and grain crops. In general, export of Latvian goods in September as compared to the same month of the previous year declined by 2.7%. Over nine months of this year the fall in export of goods made up 1.6% as compared to nine months of 2015.

     

    If to consider in annual terms, then the largest share of contribution to September fall is attributable to re-export. Exactly the fact that the volumes of export of minerals (oil and petroleum products) continued falling (-33.1% in September). This partially can be explained by recent official message on gradual termination of export of Russian petroleum products through Baltic ports. Based on sentiment prevailing in Russian state-owned enterprise Transneft, as well as determination of the Russian party to load, first and foremost, its ports at Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, most probably, no positive trends in this industry are forthcoming either.

    An annual growth of Latvian export is weighted down by export of food from Latvia as well, which shrank by 6%. This is connected with a major fall in export of grain crops (-54%). Here there are two reasons. First, the last year’s crop appeared to be record-breaking on many articles. Accordingly, the current – usual - crop is losing in terms of volumes of harvested and exported grain crops. Second, because of favourable weather the export of grain crops this year began one month earlier than usual: in August the annual growth in export of grain crops grew seven times, but in September noticeably shrank.

    Apart from oil and grain crops, the decline in export was also marked in such segments as mechanisms and equipment (-8.2%) and metal ware (-6.3%).

    In its turn, woodworking keeps on delighting, where the annual growth of export achieved 10.1% (inter alia, the gain in export to Great Britain made up 26%).

    Fears associated with Brexit doubled the energy of Latvian exporters of wood and wood products, who are hurrying to sell as much as possible before exit of Great Britain from the EU. But the date of this monumental for Europe event becomes more and more uncertain. So, the Supreme Court of Great Britain took a decision that the government may not start the Brexit procedure without approval by the Parliament. What would eventually decide the servants of British people is unknown. Anyway, it means postponing of the moment of kiss off, which is positive news for Latvian exporters.

    Moreover, the general growth was facilitated by export of furniture (30.9%) and chemical products (7.6%).

    Nevertheless, the deficit of foreign trade of Latvia in September shrank to the lowest over the recent year level. In September the deficit of foreign trade in goods made up 87.1 million euro and this is the lowest index since 2010.

     

    Artur Eresko (Артур Ересько), candidate of Economic and Legal Sciences.

  • Artur Eresko ◦ Construction projects are waiting for a signal from Brussels

    Latvian statisticians have calculated the number of houses, workshops and roads that have not been built.

     

    Last year, in comparison with 2015, the volumes of construction products in comparable prices for calendar-aligned data decreased by 17.8%. In absolute terms, the fall was 318 million EUR.

    Overall decline does not look so terrible when looking at construction of engineering facilities in 2016 where 33.3% collapse was recorded.

    In 2016, the decline was noted in almost all areas of engineering construction, including ports, waterways, dams and other hydraulic structures - by 31.3%; bridges, overpasses and tunnels - by 29.9%, motorways, streets, roads, runways and railways - by 29.5%.

    There are, however, certain areas where life is getting better. Volume of construction of main pipelines, communication lines and electric power transmission lines has increased by 6.2%.

    Not everything is so bad in the residential sector. During a year, the increase in construction of residential buildings was 2%. Moreover, if compare the fourth quarter of 2016 with the same period of 2015, then can speak of a boom: construction of residential buildings has increased by 36.5%!

    However, emergence of new apartments and power lines could not change the overall sad trend. Latvian construction industry depends too much on the orders of public sector, which in turn is strongly dependent on EU funding. This financing in 2016 was the most meager in recent years.

    Thus, development of construction industry is hampered by low utilization of EU structural funds. Although for 2016 a decline in cash flow from the EU coffers was predicted, at the beginning of the year it was impossible to foresee that the financial flow would become so low and, as a consequence, would affect so much the volumes of construction. As a result, the current drop in construction is comparable to the fall in output in the 2008-2010 crisis.

    Question of future growth of the construction industry should be put not to Latvian builders but to Brussels bureaucrats who have demonstrated their unpredictability in transferring European subsidies to poor EU countries.

    At present, European financing is expected to be received in the second half of 2017. Then new construction sites will appear in Latvia.

    It can be also predicted when these construction projects will begin to close again. In 2020, European financial assistance will be sharply reduced. It can be said for sure. But it is, unfortunately, impossible to assert that by this time also private and public investments in the construction sector will grow sharply.

     

    Artur Eresko (Артур Ересько), candidate of Economic and Legal Sciences.