Search

 

Cablegate: Estonian Central Bank Cites Signs Of

VZCZCXRO7159
PP RUEHAST
DE RUEHTL #0597 1731116
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221116Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8776
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

UNCLAS TALLINN 000597

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

REF: TALLINN 0568

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETTC PREL EUN EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK CITES SIGNS OF
OVERHEATING


1. (U) Summary: On June 14, Central Bank Governor Andres
Lipstok warned of signs of overheating in the Estonian
economy, announcing that wage growth was twice as large
as productivity growth in the first quarter of 2006. He
urged the GOE to forego a planned supplementary budget
and recommended using the estimated 3 billion kroon
(about $250 million) budget surplus to prop up reserve
funds such as the pension fund. He also urged the public
to curb consumption which is being fueled by record
numbers of housing loans. Reaction to the Central Bank
warning was subdued as the Ministry of Finance continued
its plan for the supplementary budget (part of which will
be directed toward the pension fund). Major banks
continue to state that the economy's fundamentals are
good, even if inflation numbers call into question
Estonia's ability to meet Maastricht criteria for euro
adoption in the near future. End Summary.

2. (U) Central Bank Governor Lipstok gave a briefing
about the Estonian economy shortly after his meeting with
Treasury U/S Timothy Adams June 14 (reftel). Lipstok
cited newly-released first quarter economic figures which
showed that growth in real wages was more than double
productivity growth. He said that while Estonia's first
quarter economic growth was more than 11 percent, "the
situation is not as rosy as the figures show." He noted
that export growth slowed somewhat in the first quarter,
meaning that the high growth was fueled by wage increases
and domestic demand. He urged consumers to curb their
hunger for easy credit, particularly housing loans, which
were issued in record numbers in May. Lipstok also urged
the GOE to forego a supplementary budget and instead use
its expected 3 billion kroon (about $250 million) budget
surplus to increase reserves such as the pension fund.

3. (SBU) Reaction to the Central Bank's announcement was
muted. The Ministry of Finance continued with its plans
for a supplementary budget, some of which will be
directed to the pension fund. The two leading banks
announced that while May saw a record number of housing
loans, the high season for such loans would end in June
and then lending would drop off. The CEO of Hansapank,
Estonia's largest bank, told econoff June 16 that his
bank viewed the Central Bank's warning as a message
directed at politicians who might be tempted to boost
spending in the run-up to presidential elections in the
fall and parliamentary elections in spring. He said the
fundamentals of the Estonian economy are strong, as are
the balance sheets of Estonian banks. He added that
contrary to the Central Bank's warning, in Hansa's view
the Estonian public is not over-extended.

4. (U) Conclusions from an April IMF staff visit
underscored the strong fundamentals of the Estonian
economy, noting the country has achieved nominal
convergence under its euro-linked Currency Board
Arrangement and has maintained a history of fiscal
surpluses and low interest rate spreads. It stated that
Estonia's plan to limit inflation to within Maastricht
criteria bounds by re-phasing planned increases in excise
taxes has a good change of succeeding, as long as the GOE
maintains a strong fiscal posture. Estonia now hopes to
adopt the euro on January 1, 2008, but many analysts are
saying this target could be postponed by one to two years
given continued expectations for strong growth
accompanied by higher inflation, in the next few years.

5. (SBU) Comment: Current trends in growth and wage
increases appear unsustainable. Foreign investors are
already talking about canceling plans for expansion due
to rapid wage growth and a growing labor shortage.
Still, Estonia's fundamentals are sound. Public sector
debt is the lowest in the EU, and with budget surpluses
running over one and a half percent of GDP it will be
politically difficult to argue that yet more fiscal
discipline is required to reduce inflationary pressure.
Though experts widely expect some bumps along the way
(despite a recent plateau the potential for a real estate
bubble is present), we believe the benign view of a
gradual deceleration in GDP growth to the longer-term
potential of approximately seven percent remains the most
likely.

WOS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

OECD: COVID-19 Crisis Puts Migration And Progress On Integration At Risk, Says

Watch the live webcast of the press conference Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic ... More>>


Pacific Media Watch: How Pacific Environmental Defenders Are Coping With The Covid Pandemic

SPECIAL REPORT: By Sri Krishnamurthi of Pacific Media Watch Pacific Climate Warriors - creative action to trigger better responses to climate crisis. Image: ... More>>

Reporters Without Borders: Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Marred By Barriers To Open Justice

After monitoring four weeks of evidence in the US extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates concern regarding the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism, and calls ... More>>

OHCHR: Stranded Migrants Need Safe And Dignified Return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to ... More>>