Middle East and Central Asia > Armenia, Republic of

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Iulia Ruxandra Teodoru and Klakow Akepanidtaworn
The COVID-19 crisis raises the risk of renewed financial sector pressures in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region in the period ahead. Bank distress and its economic and fiscal fallout have been recurring features of many CCA countries, as seen after the global financial crisis and the 2014–15 oil price shock. Strong policy responses have delayed the full impact of the COVID crisis so far, but financial sector risks will increase once public support is phased out. If these risks are not preemptively addressed, banks’ ability to lend during the recovery phase could be impaired and there may be a need for costly public interventions, as in the past.
Iulia Ruxandra Teodoru
Limited access to finance and its high cost have contributed to relatively low levels of private investment and subpar growth in the Kyrgyz Republic. Interest rate spreads have moderated in recent years, but remain high from both a regional and global perspective. At the same time, collateral requirements applied by banks are onerous and also constrain the quantity of credit supplied. This paper identifies a range of factors that could lower spreads in the Kyrgyz Republic: more competition, higher capital, lower credit risk, larger loan size, lower deposit rates and external funding costs, as well as a stronger legal framework. Lower operating costs appear critical to reduce relatively higher spreads for small and medium-sized banks. At the same time, a stronger legal framework and greater transparency on borrowers’ creditworthiness would help reduce the high collateral requirements. Reforms in all these areas would support greater financial inclusion in the aftermath of the pandemic, and could thus be a key source of sustainable and inclusive growth in the Kyrgyz Republic.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
The Armenian banking sector is recovering from the 2014 economic slowdown, aided by additional capital injected by shareholders, several mergers, and improved regulation and supervision. However, banks, including the largest ones, are vulnerable to external shocks because high levels of dollarization expose them to FX-related credit and liquidity risks. These risks can be mitigated with the adoption of a stressed debt service to income ratio limit, the gradual introduction of reserve requirements in foreign currency for liabilities denominated in foreign currency, and the adoption of the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) and Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) in domestic currency and in United States dollars (USD). The introduction of the capital surcharge for domestic systemically important banks is also needed.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This 2014 Article IV Consultation highlights that after a steady recovery during 2010–12 from the deep 2009 recession, Armenia’s growth softened in 2013 and has remained subdued in 2014. The softening of economic activity has been broad based, as growth of exports and remittances slowed, and government spending was lower than budgeted. Construction, which had declined since the 2009 crisis, was relatively flat. Growth is projected at 2.6 percent in 2014 and is expected to increase only gradually in 2015 and over the medium term in light of expectations of slow growth in key trading partners. The authorities’ policies remain geared toward maintaining macroeconomic stability and fostering sustainable and inclusive growth.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
KEY ISSUES Context. Georgia’s previous Fund-supported program, which expired in April 2014, met most of its objectives, in particular by reducing Georgia’s external and fiscal imbalances. The program also helped preserve the central bank’s independence after the 2012–13 political transition and strengthened its inflation-targeting framework. However, over time it proved increasingly difficult to reconcile the program’s fiscal objectives with the new government’s policies of increasing social spending, especially after the economy slowed and revenues fell short in 2013. Also, despite the progress achieved under the program, macroeconomic challenges remain. The current account deficit and external debt are high, leaving the economy susceptible to shocks. Strong and inclusive growth is needed to reduce widespread poverty and high unemployment. More recently, the external outlook has worsened, opening up a balance of payments need in 2014. Program and its objectives. To address these challenges, the authorities request a new three-year SDR 100 million (67 percent of quota) Stand-by Arrangement to address an external financing need in 2014 related in part to the realignment of fiscal policies to more social spending. The program will facilitate Georgia’s external adjustment, reduce key macroeconomic vulnerabilities, rebuild policy buffers, and support growth. Program policies. In 2014, the program balances supporting domestic demand with the need to safeguard external stability. To reduce the output gap, fiscal policy provides a measured stimulus, while monetary policy remains accommodative. However, the authorities will tighten policies and allow the exchange rate to adjust if balance of payments pressures were to intensify. From 2015, the fiscal deficit will be reduced to keep public debt low and to create space for countercyclical policies. This consolidation will rely on raising revenue by broadening the tax base and containing current expenditure, while protecting pro-poor spending and public investment. Monetary policy will aim at price stability through improved inflation targeting. The program will seek to rebuild international reserves while encouraging greater exchange rate flexibility. Strengthening of the financial sector will continue, helped by the recommendations of the recent FSAP mission. The program also aims to contain risks from quasi-fiscal activities and support improvements in tax administration, and will complement the authorities’ reforms to strengthen the business environment, improve education and training, create jobs and reduce poverty and inequality.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This paper discusses Armenia’s Request for Arrangement Under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). Performance under the 2010–2013 program, which was supported by arrangements under the EFF and Extended Credit Facility (ECF), was sound, with growth restored, large fiscal and external imbalances reduced, and buffers rebuilt. However, challenges remain, particularly in further reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening medium-term growth dynamics. Fiscal policy will support the growth recovery in 2014 by providing a modest stimulus, before moving to a gradual consolidation stance in 2015–2017. The IMF Staff supports the authorities’ request for an IMF-supported program.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This paper discusses the Republic of Armenia’s Sixth reviews under the Extended Fund Facility Arrangement, and the Extended Credit Facility Arrangement. The Central Bank of Armenia has kept the policy rate at 8 percent since 2011, and has narrowed the corridor around the policy rate from 600 to 300 basis points while strengthening fine-tuning operations. Interbank interest rates have become less volatile. External adjustment slowed considerably in 2012, and external vulnerabilities persist. The current account deficit improved by just 0.3 percentage points of GDP as exports, and remittances grew at a healthy pace, as did imports.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
The postcrisis recovery in Armenia has accelerated, but challenges remain. Economic policies have been broadly consistent with IMF advice. Credit growth has been strong, especially in foreign currency (FX). The banking system is sound. The central bank (CBA) is improving the regulatory and supervisory framework in line with Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) recommendations. Risks are mainly on the downside and come from potential external shocks, political uncertainties, and regional conflicts. Strong adjustment is continuing in 2012 with the deficit again expected to be lower than budgeted.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
Armenia’s growing financial system is dominated by banks, and its regulatory and supervisory system is robust. The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recommended the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) to develop a program to gather information and monitor the hedging ability of borrowers. Liquidity requirements in foreign currency would be an important risk mitigant particularly because the CBA has a limited ability to extend foreign currency emergency liquidity assistance. Implementation of the pension reform in 2014 will bring additional investments to the market.
International Monetary Fund
This paper discusses findings of the Fourth Review of Armenia’s economic performance under a program supported by Extended Fund Facility and Extended Credit Facility Arrangements. Adherence to the policies agreed under the IMF-supported program has played an important role in helping Armenia restore solid growth. The 2011 fiscal deficit was well below program targets, reflecting restrained spending. The deficit is likely to be moderately higher in 2012, but still in line with the program, and with higher expected revenues allowing for increases in priority spending.