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Highlights of the past year
|Current account balance/GDP||-8.6||-7.9||-11.5||-12|
|Net FDI (in million US$)||139||194||253||260|
|Credit to private sector/GDP||35.6||33.4||35.9||na|
After growing rapidly in 2011, the economy slowed down in 2012. GDP expanded by 6.4 per cent in 2011 as manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade benefited from the favourable external environment and the agricultural sector recovered from the 2010 drought. However, the pace of output growth declined to 0.8 per cent in the first half of 2012 as industrial output suffered from the contracting external demand and lower agricultural production following a harsh winter. Remittances have also fallen although remain significantly higher than during the 2008‑09 crisis. Consumer price inflation peaked at 9.2 per cent in August 2011, declining to below 4 per cent in June 2012 as global food prices decelerated and base effects of last year’s large increase wore off. After tightening monetary policy in 2011 to contain inflation, the central bank reduced policy interest rates significantly as inflation subsided.
The authorities’ reform programme continues to benefit from significant international assistance. The fiscal adjustment programme is progressing, although corrective measures were needed in early 2012 to address revenue shortfall, unbudgeted revenue commitments and external assistance delays. The central bank continues to pursue inflation targeting. The banking sector remains generally stable, and the risk of spillover from the eurozone crisis limited. However, in February 2012 the central bank put a small bank into liquidation. This measure had only a limited impact on the stability of the overall banking system. However, the state-owned Banca de Economii has seen its financial situation deteriorate further. The current account deficit widened in 2011 to around 12 per cent of GDP.
The country’s longer term prospects depend on the government’s ability to create a conducive environment for private sector development. In the immediate future, the economy will continue to be affected by the developments in the European Union and Russia. With output per capita very low, Moldova has strong potential to increase labour productivity and maintain a fast pace of growth over time. However, as the public sector balance sheet is relatively stretched and the country requires fiscal adjustment to be able to graduate from dependence on international financial support, growth would have to come from the private sector. Reforms to improve the functioning of the judiciary, reduce public sector corruption and strengthen tax administration and customs and gain greater access to the CIS and EU markets should help attract significant foreign and domestic investment in the export-oriented sectors.
The authorities have made strides to improve the country’s business environment. Reforms to cut red tape, improve competitiveness, and stimulate trade are ongoing. In the 2012 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Moldova advanced by 18 positions to rank 81st (out of 183 countries) on ease of doing business and came second in the top reformers list. The report highlighted that Moldova improved conditions for starting a business and its credit information system, made enforcements of court judgments more efficient, and amended the insolvency law to grant priority to secured creditors. The authorities have been implementing a “Regulatory Guillotine 2” programme to systematically reduce unnecessary regulations and improve legislation. The government is also pursuing a strategy of justice system reform. The main objective of the medium-term reform programme is to establish an independent and accessible justice system, consistent with EU standards. If implemented, the announced reforms should help make the judicial system more effective, decrease corruption and ensure citizens’ equality before the law.
A draft law on state control over business has been passed. The law, passed by the parliament at its first reading in March 2012, is aimed at improving the business climate in the country by reducing the number of state bodies controlling business from 64 to 33, as well as decreasing the number of state control measures over businesses. A single system of audit and inspection activities will be introduced, and no inspecting agency will benefit from revenues generated from penalties levied on inspected enterprises. If implemented, the law could help to significantly improve the business environment by further limiting red tape, which is an important constraint to doing business in Moldova.
Legislation was amended to strengthen governance of financial institutions and increase transparency of banks’ ownership. In January 2012 the parliament approved amendments to Laws on Financial Institutions and Securities Markets, mandating that equity interest in the capital of a commercial bank may be transferred from one entity to another only with the prior written consent of the National Bank of Moldova, and requiring more transparency of shareholders. The amendments, adopted in response to several high profile illicit transfers of banks’ equity in the summer of 2011, should help improve corporate governance and the stability of Moldova’s financial sector. In July 2012 parliament adopted legal amendments to increase the transparency of banks’ beneficiary owners.
The government is pursuing privatisation of medium companies and expanding the privatisation list to include several large companies. In February 2012 the government auctioned the Chisinau jewellery factory raising US$ 5 million. In July 2012 the list of companies excluded from possible privatisation was amended to allow privatisation of Banca de Economii, the national airline and railways companies, and the landline telephone incumbent Moldtelecom. Privatisation of the majority state-owned Banca de Economii, if it goes ahead, should help modernise the banking system. However, the bank will need significant pre-privatisation restructuring and its governance problems will need to be addressed to attract a reputable international bidder at a time when bank equity is very difficult to raise. Other large-scale privatisations would also be expected to increase competition and address the fundamental conflict of interest whereby the government is both a regulator and owner of dominant enterprises in the sector.
Competition policy has been strengthened. The government has started to apply the new law on competition, approved in September 2011, which intends to emulate best EU practices and strengthen procedures for identifying, investigating and eliminating anti-competition practices. A council on competition will be established as a legal successor of the National Agency for Protection of Competition. The law was developed with assistance from the European Union, in the context of the country’s ongoing negotiations on a deep and comprehensive free trade area with the European Union. The legislation on competition will be supported by a legal framework for state aid, aimed at creating a fair competitive environment in the economy.
Reforms to facilitate debt resolution should increase financial intermediation over time. The financial sector in Moldova had suffered from complicated procedures for debt restructuring and execution of loan collateral. The procedures could last for years, thus making collateral effectively worthless. Amendments to the relevant laws, passed in June 2012, will simplify the procedures for debt collection and restructuring by clarifying instances when rights on collateral property can be exercised automatically and specifying the procedures for transfer of the collateral property to a claimer.
Monetary policy tools to fight inflation are being enhanced. The National Bank of Moldova switched to explicit inflation targeting in 2010, setting the medium-term target at 5 per cent, and has been following forward-looking policies, thus contributing to economic stability. An EBRD technical cooperation project is helping the central bank to make more informed policy decisions and strengthen its policy credibility by enhancing its forecasting and communication capacities.
This is the fourth consecutive Transition Report to be written in the shadow of an economic crisis in the transition region.