DIKI KAPITALISM: It's all over bar the bill

By bne IntelliNews April 26, 2011

Ben Aris in Moscow -

The World Bank sent out a press release on the day before the Easter Break to give people something to celebrate: the economic crisis that started in 2008 is over for the business in the 10 biggest economies of the EU.

"Two and a half years after the global financial crisis broke, the economic activity in the EU10 rebounded in parallel with the EU15," according to the World Bank's new EU10 Regular Economic Report launched in Bucharest. "Growth strengthened in the second half of 2010, supported by restocking, a double-digit expansion of industry, and a rebound in consumption."

However, that's not to say we have gone back to where we were in 2008: the major difference (a huge difference) is the cost of all the excess risk has simply been transferred onto national balance sheets in the form of horrendous budget deficits and massive sovereign debt. That mess will take generations to fix, but at least with the return of commercial growth all these countries can in theory grow their way out of debt and these problems are fixable.

Of course, the crisis has had an impact on all the countries of the region in that they're growing at different paces, not the same relative paces as they were before the crisis: there have been winners and losers. But the pace of the recovery in the EU10 is set to accelerate in 2011 and 2012, says the report. Moreover, the integration with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe has been a boon for the old guard in Western Europe, as they provide dynamic markets that bolster what would have been soggy growth had they been left to their traditional stomping grounds.

"The performance of Slovakia and Poland is set to remain solid thanks to low pre-crisis imbalances, deep integration into European production networks, EU funds, and, in the case of Poland, solid consumption. Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia are likely to build on the export-led upswing as domestic demand continues to recover. Romania and Bulgaria, where the crisis hit later than elsewhere, are set to see the biggest improvements in growth in 2011, aside from Latvia and Lithuania. Growth in Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary is set to increase at a more measured pace, in part because these countries have already converged more to EU income levels," the report said.

"The strong rebound in global trade benefited exports in the EU10, which recovered to pre-crisis levels by the end of 2010," said Kaspar Richter, senior economist in the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia Region and lead author of the report. "However, growth prospects are subject to risks related to the feeble private investments, winding down of construction projects, and tight international financial constraints."

"Romania is expected to lead the recovery in 2012 compared to the other EU10 countries, with a projected GDP growth of 4.4%," said the report.

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