As a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and earthquakes, real GDP in the first half of 2020 contracted by 7.8% year-on-year, due to a drop in personal consumption, investments and exports, while government spending rose mildly, Croatian Central Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujcic said on Thursday.
Vujcic presented the HNB’s annual report on the financial situation and price and monetary policy stability in the first half of 2020.
He recalled that in the first half of 2020 a strong contraction of the global economy was recorded due to the spread of coronavirus and the introduction of restrictions. He added that the fall in real GDP in developed countries was the most pronounced during the peak of the spring pandemic wave.
Personal consumption contracted by 6.8% on the year, reflecting a decrease in available income due to negative trends on the labour market, a fall in the consumption of services whose provision of limited due to epidemiological restrictions as well as citizens’ being less inclined to spend due to the need for physical distancing to avoid the risk of being infected and a decrease in consumer optimism. Those trends were also reflected in the lower indebtedness of the population, said Vujcic.
The annual inflation rate slowed down from 1.4% in December 2019 to -0.2% in June 2020 under the impact of the decreased prices of oil products, caused by the fall in global demand. The spread of the pandemic led to a decrease in inflationary pressure overall, notably in services related to tourism due to a significant drop in the number of passengers, and in durable consumer goods, due to a drop in investments. Basic inflation slowed down mildly from 1.2% in December 2019 to 1.1% in June 2020, which was mostly due to a drop in annual rates for individual food products and catering and accommodation services.
The contraction of economic activity due to the pandemic resulted in the import of goods falling at a significantly greater rate than exports, and the current and capital accounts in the first half of 2020 recorded a decrease in the deficit compared to the same period in 2019. On the other hand, the current and capital accounts were adversely affected by a significant drop in the net export of services, notably due to the situation in tourism.
HNB promptly adapted its monetary policies, using all the available measures with the aim of preserving the stability of the exchange rate and favourable conditions to finance citizens, the corporate sector and the state, said Vujcic. HNB sold a total of €2.7 billion to banks after which the kuna exchange rate was stabilised, he said.
Thanks to this and other measures kuna liquidity reached record levels and the state and private sector were able to continue taking loans with domestic banks under virtually the same terms as before the crisis, however, the weaker economic activity and demand for loans resulted in stricter terms to approve loans as a result of which consumer lending slowed down.
The budget deficit of HRK 13.2 billion in the first half of 2020 reflects the negative impact of the crisis caused by the pandemic on the economy and budget revenue. Temporary measures designed to relieve the consequences of the pandemic, such as the writing off of tax obligations and job-keeping support measures, also contributed to the fall in revenue. This is particularly obvious in the second quarter, when the deficit amounted to almost HRK 10 billion, HNB’s report notes.