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  • 12/19/2018

    Ljubljana, 19 December (STA) - Slovenia's central bank has somewhat downgraded its economic outlook for the country, projecting GDP to expand by 4.2% this year, then slow down to 3.4% in 2019 before stabilising at 3% in 2020 and 2.9% in 2021.

    The growth rates in the latest forecast are being revised by 0.4 percentage points on Banka Slovenije's July outlook and are more pessimistic than those of the government forecaster IMAD and most international institutions.

    Commenting on the latest outlook in Ljubljana on Wednesday, acting governor Primož Dolenc said that Slovenia would continue to enjoy a favourable growth rate although a somewhat slower-paced one.

    The slowdown is due to a shift to a more moderate phase of growth in Slovenia and its main trading partners.

    However, growth will continue to be broad-based, supported by domestic consumption and private investment as well as by external demand and export activity.

    Exports growth will slow down from 8.2% this year to about 6% in 2021. Since imports are expected to grow at a somewhat higher pace than exports, the current account surplus will drop slightly.

    Due to favourable trends in the labour market and wage growth, private consumption is expected to grow by 2.5% this year and by 2.4% before stabilising at 2.1% by 2021.

    Central bank officials have been somewhat surprised by data showing that private consumption has been lagging behind the favourable wage growth trends.

    Dolenc said it was hard to pinpoint the exact reason but that one factor might be an increased level of general risk and uncertainty in the international environment.

    Arjana Brezigar Masten, the head of the central bank's analytics and research centre, noted continued caution and conservativeness of Slovenian households.

    Similar goes for the investment activity of Slovenian businesses. Even though capacity utilisation rate is among the highest in the EU, and despite the improved financial position of companies with increased amount of own funds and favourable lending terms, investment has not yet reached the expected levels.

    Dolenc noted that some companies had been putting off investment even elsewhere in the eurozone.

    Nevertheless, the central bank expects companies to continue with an investment drive and a further growth in residential investment. State investment activity is also expected to increase next year.

    Gross capital formation is projected to increase by 9.1% this year and by 7.8%in 2019 before slowing down to 5.7% by 2021.

    Positive trends will continue in the labour market with the labour survey unemployment rate projected to fall from 5.3% this year to 4.5% in 2021 thus falling below the natural unemployment rate.

    Employment growth is to stabilise, dropping from 2.8% this year to 0.4% by 2021.

    The trends are creating problems for companies to find the right staff. Companies have been resorting to foreign workers, who have been filling half of new jobs recently, a trend that is set to continue.

    However, Brezigar Masten made it a point of saying that most new job openings are in sectors that generate lower added value and where earnings are lower. They also take most foreign labour force.

    She said this indicated that companies had not yet managed to restructure so as to generate higher value added. This is also where Banka Slovenija sees scope for new investment.

    The pressure for higher wages has increased but not to the levels before the crisis, nor do earnings weigh on the competitive edge of companies.

    The main risks to GDP growth are geopolitical ones such as the developments in Italy and France or those related to Brexit, and a potential step-up in protectionist measures.

    An additional increase in US import duties would affect about 1.2% of Slovenia's exports directly or indirectly. However, a major deterioration in economic conditions, reflected in more serious decline in consumer confidence and business sentiment, would have a bigger impact.

    Among risks from the domestic environment, the upward ones prevail, including potentially increased state investment activity given a more effective phasing of EU funds, and a larger than projected increase in private spending.

    Inflation risks are upward as well, related to rising labour costs in light of the expected continued decline in unemployment and pressures on wages, and trends in prices of raw materials.

    Considering Slovenia's growth will outpace the eurozone average, inflation will somewhat exceed the European Central Bank's mid-term goal. It is projected to hit 2% this year, before increasing to 2.2% and 2.3% 2020.

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