IMF Executive Board Concludes 2013 Article IV Consultation with the Republic of Slovenia

Press Release No. 14/13
January 17, 2014

On January 13, 2014, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation1 with the Republic of Slovenia.

After a brief stabilization in 2010, the recession resumed in 2011 and the economy now has contracted for eight consecutive quarters. While a sharp contraction in investment was the main driver of the downturn in the early stages, consumption—until then buffered by healthy household balance sheets—also started to decline from 2012, weighed down by deep fiscal cuts, stagnant wages, and growing uncertainty. The current account has moved into a substantial surplus. While competitiveness is on the mend, the bulk of the external adjustment has come from import compression. In all, through mid-2013, real GDP has fallen by 11 percent from its pre-crisis peak, the largest output loss among the euro area members after Greece.

The combination of an overly indebted corporate sector and weak banks has led to a vicious circle of deepening recession, mounting bankruptcies, rising nonperforming loans (NPLs), and further deleveraging. NPLs (inclusive of guarantees) increased from 11.2 percent at end-2011 to 20.9 percent by end-October 2013. NPLs are highly concentrated in large corporate debtors and in state banks. The deterioration in asset quality has led to an erosion of profitability and capitalization, forcing banks into deleveraging. At the same time, Slovenian corporates have one of the highest leverage ratios in the euro area, mainly because of a lack of equity. The average interest bill to earnings ratio has reached 90 percent, pushing into the red companies that might be viable with lower debt.

On December 12, 2013, the Slovenian authorities announced the results of the comprehensive bank asset quality review and stress test exercise carried out by independent consultants. The exercise found that the banking system would need €4.8 billion in additional capital to withstand a severe adverse macroeconomic scenario. The authorities have since proceeded to address these capital needs by recapitalizing the three state-owned banks from budgetary resources, with the remaining five banks expected to raise private capital in the first half of 2014.

Public debt has been increasing rapidly. Before the global financial crisis public debt was low (22 percent of GDP) and the fiscal position close to balance. The prolonged recession and the burden of supporting the state-owned banks have put public finances under considerable strain. Public debt has more than doubled since 2008, reaching 55 percent of GDP by end-2012, and is set to increase sharply after bank restructuring. The deficit is slated to exceed 4 percent of GDP in 2013 (excluding bank support costs), despite a significant fiscal consolidation over the last three years. Reflecting in part concerns about the fiscal impact of bank restructuring, government bond yields averaged about 2 percentage points higher than in similarly-rated Spain and Italy in the second half of 2013, posing a challenge for debt sustainability, before moderating to about 1 percent following the announcement of the bank asset quality review results.

Executive Board Assessment2

Executive Directors noted that, with the economy still in recession, comprehensive bank and corporate restructuring is essential to achieve financial stability, fiscal and debt sustainability, and durable growth, and called on the Slovenian authorities to step up the current reform effort. Directors welcomed as key milestones the completion of the bank asset quality review and stress tests, recent bank recapitalization, ongoing transference of banks’ problem loans to the Bank Asset Management Company (BAMC), and the adoption of new insolvency legislation.

Directors supported the authorities’ 2014 fiscal deficit target, but raised concerns about the quality of the fiscal measures underpinning the budget. They advised more ambitious public employment reduction, better targeting of social transfers, and specific cuts in transfers and subsidies. Directors noted that further gradual consolidation would be necessary beyond 2014 to support debt sustainability in the face of sizeable government guarantees and bank restructuring costs, and highlighted the need for pension reform, given unfavorable demographic trends.

Directors underscored that durable financial stability hinges on reducing banks’ vulnerabilities through improved bank governance, risk management, and profitability. In this regard, reducing the role of the state, including through privatization, is particularly important. Directors also recommended strengthening financial sector supervision and addressing shortcomings in the bank resolution framework. At the same time, Directors noted that public banks should focus on core activities, including through divestment of their corporate holdings, and that limiting connected lending is essential to contain moral hazard and excessive risk taking.

Directors emphasized that comprehensive non financial corporate restructuring that addresses the debt overhang is essential to break the negative feedback loop of recession, bank deleveraging, and corporate distress, which has been at the root of Slovenia’s recent problems. They cautioned that budgetary support of distressed corporates would amplify fiscal risks, and should be avoided given limited fiscal space. Directors encouraged the authorities to utilize the tools provided by the BAMC and the new insolvency law for restructuring the sector, and welcomed the recent launching of the privatization program. They supported the authorities’ plans to adopt a coherent state owned enterprise management strategy and a centralized management agency for state assets.

Directors welcomed the reduction in unit labor costs and labor market rigidities that have enhanced Slovenia’s external competitiveness. They called for further regulatory and product market reforms to strengthen the business climate and better attract foreign direct investment.


Slovenia: Selected Economic Indicators, 2010−14
(Annual percentage change, unless noted otherwise)
 

Key Export Markets: Germany, Italy, Countries of Former Yugoslavia, France, Austria

Population (2012): 2.1 million

Quota (as of August 31, 2013): SDR 275 million

Literacy Rate (in percent): 99.5

Main products/exports: Automotive, Machinery-Appliances, Tourism, Transportation

Poverty Rate (in percent, 2012): 13.5

 
        Projections
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
 

Nominal GDP (EUR millions)

35,485 36,150 35,319 35,006 34,966

GDP per Capita (EUR)

17,335 17,633 17,183 16,986 16,923

 

         

Real economy

 

 

 

 

 

Real GDP

1.3 0.7 -2.5 -1.7 -1.1

Domestic demand

-0.5 -0.3 -6.4 -4.8 -3.0

Private consumption

1.5 0.8 -4.8 -3.4 -2.8

Public consumption

1.3 -1.6 -1.3 -3.0 -2.5

Gross capital formation

-7.3 -2.3 -16.5 -9.0 -4.2

Net exports (contribution to growth)

1.9 1.1 4.0 2.5 1.5

Exports of goods and services

10.2 7.0 0.6 4.1 3.7

Imports of goods and services

7.4 5.6 -4.7 1.1 2.1

Output gap (in percent of potential GDP)

-1.2 -0.5 -2.7 -3.8 -4.8

 

     

 

 

Prices

     

 

 

Consumer prices (national definition, period average)

1.8 1.8 2.6 1.8 1.4

Core inflation (period average)

-0.4 -0.4 0.7

 

         

Employment and wages

         

Unemployment rate (in percent, ILO definition)

7.3 8.2 8.9 10.5 10.8

Employment (Full time basis, national accounts)

-2.2 -1.6 -0.8 -2.0 -0.3

Nominal wages (all sectors)

3.9 2.0 0.1 0.0 -0.3

Real wages (all sectors)

2.0 0.2 -2.5 -2.2 -1.7

Unit labor cost (all sectors)

0.4 -0.4 1.8 -0.3 0.6

 

         

Public finance (percent of GDP)

         

General government balance 1/

-5.4 -5.6 -3.2 -5.7 -15.3

Structural balance 2/

-4.9 -4.1 -2.3 -2.0 -2.3

Primary balance 1/

-4.1 -4.3 -1.5 -3.1 -11.9

Structural primary balance 2/

-3.1 -2.3 -0.4 0.8 1.2

General government debt 3/

38.7 46.9 54.3 70.9 77.7

 

         

Monetary and financial indicators

         

Credit to the private sector

1.9 -2.6 -3.2

Lending rates 4/

4.9 5.0 4.7

Deposit rates 5/

1.8 2.2 2.3

Government bond yield (10-year, average) 6/

3.8 5.0 5.8

Balance of payments (percent of GDP)

         

Trade balance (goods)

-2.3 -2.6 -0.3 1.3 2.2

Current account balance

-0.1 0.4 3.3 6.8 7.5

Gross external debt (percent of GDP, end-period)

114.8 110.9 115.7 120.6 125.1

Nominal effective exchange rate (2000=100)

100.6 101.1 99.9

Real effective exchange rate (2000=100, CPI-based)

103.1 102.5 101.2
 

Sources: Data provided by the Slovenian authorities; and IMF staff calculations and projections.

1/ Includes capital injections into banks and repaymens to depositors of two failed banks. These amount to 0.3 billion euros in 2013 projections, 3.8 billion in 2014, and 0.1 billion in 2015.

2/ Excludes capital injections into banks and repaymens to depositors of two failed banks. These amount to 0.3 billion euros in 2013 projections, 3.8 billion in 2014, and 0.1 billion in 2015.

3/ Includes a debt shock of EUR 1.7 billion (4.8 percent of GDP) in 2013 due to assumed debt issuance of the new Asset Management Company for loan carve-outs.

4/ Floating or up to one year fixed rate for new loans to non-financial corporations over 1 million euros.

5/ For household time deposits with maturity up to one year.

6/ 12-month average. Eurostat Data


1 Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board.

2 At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country's authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm.



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