major macro economic indicators
|2019||2020||2021 (e)||2022 (f)|
|GDP growth (%)||3.5||-8.1||8.0||5.0|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||0.8||0.0||2.3||2.0|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||0.3||-7.4||-4.1||-2.9|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||2.8||-0.9||0.6||0.7|
|Public debt (% GDP)||71.1||87.3||82.8||79.6|
(e): Estimate (f): Forecast
- Long coastline
- Oil and gas potential
- The country joined ERM II in 2020, perspectives of joining the Eurozone in 2023
- Support of EU funds
- High-quality infrastructure
- Dependence on tourism (20% of GDP), which has strongly suffered from the pandemic
- Private and public debt still high
- Institutional gaps: inefficient administration, health and justice; overlapping administrative levels, corruption
- Time-consuming and inefficient business insolvency procedure
- Low industrial diversification / lack of competitiveness
- High youth unemployment (20% in September 2021), low participation of women
- Labour shortages fuelled by emigration of skilled workers and a declining population
Recovery supported by robust domestic demand
The Croatian economy will record a solid growth rate in 2022, albeit at a slower pace than in 2021, as the base effect fades. Domestic demand is expected to remain robust with both household consumption and fixed asset investments contributing to GDP growth. Private consumption will be supported by an improving labour market, accumulated savings and consumer loans growth. Households’ spending and employment is already benefitting from the strong recovery in the Croatian tourism industry (20% of GDP) in 2021. Indeed, while it remains 22% below 2019 levels, the country recorded a 46% increase in overnight stays from January to August 2021, compared to the same period of last year. As a result, the vital summer season led to a decrease of the unemployment rate, from 8.6% in mid-2020 to 7.3% in September 2021. The upcoming 2022 summer season should be also supportive for the Croatian economy, especially as the government is likely to continue opening the country to foreign tourists. Net exports’ contribution to GDP growth should remain positive, albeit lower due to imports increasing at a faster pace than exports. Nevertheless, the risk of containment measures should not be ruled out for 2022, as the vaccination rate lags behind the EU average (46% of the Croatian population fully vaccinated compared to 66% for the EU average in November 2021). Moreover, the acceleration of household consumption could be limited by a surge in inflation, which hit an eight-year high in September 2021 at 3.3% year-over-year. Increased energy and food prices, as well as pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions have led to growing consumer inflation. While inflationary pressures could ease in 2022, these effects will continue to be felt in the coming months.
Investments, and in turn, economic growth will be boosted by the inflow of EU funds. It includes both ‘traditional’ funds from Multiannual Financial Frameworks, as well as the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). Regarding the latter, in July 2021, the European Commission approved a EUR 6.3 billion grant (12.8% of Croatia’s 2020 GDP) for 2021-2026, with Croatia receiving the first payment (EUR 818 million) of this recovery package in October 2021. Funded projects include research and development of self-driving vehicles, investment in broadband access - including infrastructure to develop a 5G network -, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, as well as decarbonisation initiatives.
Improving public finances amid upcoming euro adoption
Both public deficit and debt are expected to decline in 2022, after an improvement already recorded in 2021. Croatia is focusing on fiscal consolidation to facilitate the adoption of the euro by 2023. Therefore, it is likely that the state deficit will drop below 3% as early as in 2022. Revenues, especially value-added tax, are expected to grow strongly thanks to rising household and tourist consumption. Expenditures will increase in line with higher public investments co-financed by RRF funding. Nevertheless, while Croatia is among the biggest net beneficiaries of such funding, the effectiveness of EU funds will ultimately depend on the country’s absorptive capacity.
The current account balance is expected to remain in a slight surplus in 2022 after temporarily turning negative in 2020. Merchandise exports will closely follow the economic activity of Croatia’s main trading partners, while services exports growth will still be strongly supported by the tourism sector. Indeed, the surplus in the services balance will continue to offset the merchandise trade balance deficit resulting from the country’s high import dependence.
Political stabilization, but strained relations with its neighbour
The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won the July 2020 parliamentary election. It formed a government coalition with two liberal parties - namely the Croatian People's Party (HNS) and the Reformists - and the support of eight ethnic minority members of parliament. The coalition has a majority by just one in the 151-seat Hrvatski Sabor (parliament). Prior to that, in the January 2020 presidential election, former prime minister and centre-left candidate Zoran Milanovic defeated the conservative incumbent, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, by winning 52.7% of the vote. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) backed Mr Milanovic. At the international level, relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina are strained over a number of political and geostrategic issues, like the Peljesac bridge. Work on the latter, which will span Bosnia's maritime access to provide a road connection between the north and south of the Croatian coastline is continuing, and scheduled to be opened in 2022. Nevertheless, economic ties between the two nations remain strong with high trade volumes, while Croatia is the second-largest foreign investor in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Last updated: February 2022