This Selected Issues paper examines corporate productivity growth in Bulgaria using firm-level data. Firms with a higher share of innovative assets and lower financial distress are estimated to have higher productivity growth. Foreign, larger, and younger firms and firms in the tradable sectors also generally had faster productivity growth. The convergence of productivity to frontier firms may have slowed after the global financial crisis for existing firms. The evidence points to technological convergence for both total factor productivity and labor productivity to industry leaders. The result is robust with the coefficient statistically significant at the 1 percent level in all specifications. Policies that support R&D and innovation, improve business environment, and reduce debt service burden could potentially help raise productivity growth. Bulgaria’s R&D spending lags behind other EU countries and there is ample room for improvement. A better business environment supported by stronger institutions could help improve company’s profitability and financial health, raise investment, and attract more foreign direct investment, all conducive to raising productivity growth.
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) play an important role in Emerging Europe’s economies, notably in the energy and transport sectors. Based on a new firm-level dataset, this paper reviews the SOE landscape, assesses SOE performance across countries and vis-à-vis private firms, and evaluates recent SOE governance reform experience in 11 Emerging European countries, as well as Sweden as a benchmark. Profitability and efficiency of resource allocation of SOEs lag those of private firms in most sectors, with substantial cross-country variation. Poor SOE performance raises three main risks: large and risky contingent liabilities could stretch public finances; sizeable state ownership of banks coupled with poor governance could threaten financial stability; and negative productivity spillovers could affect the economy at large. SOE governance frameworks are partly weak and should be strengthened along three lines: fleshing out a consistent ownership policy; giving teeth to financial oversight; and making SOE boards more professional.
Was the postcrisis growth slowdown in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe (CESEE) structural or cyclical? We use three different methods—production function approach, basic multivariate filter, and multivariate filter with financial frictions—to evaluate potential growth and output gaps for 18 CESEE countries during 2000-15. Our findings suggest that potential growth weakened significantly after the crisis across most countries in the region. This decline appears to be largely due to stagnant productivity and weaker capital accumulation, which were associated with common external factors, including trading partners’ slow potential growth, but also decline in global trade and stalled expansion of global value chains. Our estimates suggest that output gaps in 2015 were largely closed in many countries in the region.
This paper focuses on EU structural and cohesion funds assistance to Bulgaria during the 2007–13 program period. Initial weaknesses resulted in a low absorption rate, which was mitigated by increasing advance payments; applying electronic application and reporting procedures; simplifying and unifying tender processes; and strengthening the role of international financial institutions and banks in project preparation, evaluation and monitoring. The possible impact on growth and potential output is briefly discussed, while the risks of improper absorption are acknowledged. Valuable lessons have been learned, but it is recommended that additional steps be taken for the next program period 2014–20.
This paper on Romania was prepared by a staff team of the International Monetary Fund as background documentation for the periodic consultation with the member country. It is based on the information available at the time it was completed on September 13, 2012. The views expressed in this document are those of the staff team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the government of Romania or the Executive Board of the IMF.
Mr. Ruben V Atoyan, Mr. Dustin Smith, and Mr. Albert Jaeger
A push-pull-brake model of capital flows is used to study the effects of fiscal policy changes on private capital flows to emerging Europe during 2000-07. In the model, countercyclical fiscal policy has two opposing effects on capital inflows: (i) a conventional absorptionreducing effect, as a tighter fiscal stance acts as a brake on capital flows; and (ii) an unconventional absorption-boosting effect, as a tighter fiscal stance increases investor confidence in the country. The empirical results suggest that push factors (low returns in flow-originating countries), rather than pull factors (high returns in flow-destination countries), drove most of the private capital flows to emerging Europe. And active countercyclical fiscal policy once the fiscal stance is adjusted for the automatic effects on the fiscal position of both internal and external imbalances acted as a brake on capital inflows. However, the empirical results also suggest that, even abstracting from political feasibility and fiscal policy lag considerations, countercyclical fiscal policy alone is unlikely to be an effective policy tool to put an effective brake on sudden capital flow surges.
Labor productivity levels in Bulgaria lag well behind that in the EU, weighing on the convergence process. Stronger productivity growth would allow Bulgaria to close the income gap with the EU average more quickly and to alleviate the structural problems in its labor market, reflected in its high long–term and youth unemployment. Our analysis of the drivers of labor productivity suggest that for Bulgaria closing the gap with EU standards in the areas of institutional and infrastructure quality, goods market efficiency, higher education, and innovation would permanently boost productivity growth by a total of 1 percentage point a year. This would be enough to close the income gap with the EU average by 2040, compared to the status quo where it would take an additional 10 years.
Bulgaria’s potential output growth in future could be markedly lower, and it may take considerable time for the excess labor and resources to be absorbed by other sectors, in particular by the export sector. This suggests that the natural level of rate of unemployment will rise and remain higher, and the full employment level is likely to decline. There is a requirement of significant improvements in labor productivity and competitiveness, as well as reforms to further improve labor mobility and participation.
This Selected Issues paper for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is examined. Real GDP growth accelerated to 5 percent in 2007 and 6 percent in the first half of 2008, from its historical average of about 3 percent. Increased investment, partly financed by FDI, is the main driver boosting domestic demand, as seen in the fast-growing import of investment and intermediate goods. Simultaneously, the current account deficit has widened substantially since 2007 and has become a major concern for macroeconomic stability.