Central and Eastern European economies growing at break-neck speed
On March 2, GMF's Bratislava office and Economic Policy Program hosted a conference examining problems of economic reformism in Central and Eastern Europe. The proceedings were opened by Christoph Rosenberg, the IMF's senior representative for the region.
Laza Kekic, the regional director for Central and Eastern Europe for the Economist Intelligence Unit, produced a graph showing the relative position of the region to the Western European average in terms of GDP per capita at purchasing power parity over time. According to his data, the region, which included the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania, as well as countries such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, stood at around 39% of the EU average in 2005. In 1910 the comparable figure was 52.6%, in 1950 it was 46.9% and in 1990 it was 38.8%. Such data provides startling evidence of how relative economic performance has suffered over the last 100 years due to World Wars I and II, as well as communism.
Participants generally acknowledged that reform momentum had slowed down since accession to the European Union in May 2004, but also noted that economic growth in some parts of the region was still moving at break-neck speed. Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia are all growing at or around 10% a year in real terms.
The other keynote speakers included Rafal Antczak, chief economist at the PZU group, Poland's largest insurer, Alf Vanags, director of the Baltic International Centre for Economic Policy Studies, Jan Toth, Chief Economist at ING bank in Bratislava, Tamas Reti, senior research fellow at the Economy Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Janusz Bugajski, director of the New European Democracies program at CSIS, and GMF fellow Robin Shepherd.