Boris Vujcic: Croatia Will Spend €17 Billion in Reserves in Event of Escalation

Lauren Simmonds

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 30th of March, 2020, the financial markets are in constant turmoil, the level of uncertainty is extremely high, and all this will require very careful management of budget financing, the governor of the Croatian National Bank, Boris Vujcic, said.

”The Croatian National Bank (CNB) has taken a number of measures to maintain exchange rate stability, strengthen the financial system’s liquidity and revive the government bond market. The main measures were promptly announced to the general public, with all the aims that were initially sought. In mid-March, we intervened four times on the foreign exchange market totalling €1.6 billion to stabilise it. That’s what we’ve achieved, the exchange rate has now been stabilised. The second objective was to create additional, and partly longer-term, cheap liquidity. On regular and structural operations, we created 4.5 billion kuna of additional, mostly long-term liquidity for banks at a very low interest rate,” said Boris Vujcic, according to a report from Vecernji list.

”We’ve placed the funds for banks for five years at an interest rate of 0.25 percent, and short-term loans are at an interest rate of 0.05 percent. Thirdly, since the additional liquidity created by banks didn’t reach other financial institutions and threatened to freeze the government securities market, which would adversely affect the financing conditions of all domestic sectors, we intervened in regard to that market as well. The situation was such that when we announced our interventions, even the market for the highest quality German Government securities was under a huge amount of stress. At two auctions, we purchased 4.3 billion kuna in government bonds, which is the first time the CNB has acted in such a manner,” Boris Vujcic went on to explain.

”Finally, given the need for additional funding from the state due to the package of measures released in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, we reduced the reserve requirement last week, freeing up an additional 10.5 billion kuna. These amounts cannot be added together because they’re different measures. While foreign exchange interventions convert kuna liquidity into foreign currency, the bank financing operation and the redemption of bonds create additional kuna liquidity, and lowering the reserve requirement rate gives banks existing liquidity blocked by central bank monetary measures. However, all of these moves were complementary and were aimed at preserving favourable financing conditions for all bank clients despite the economic downturn and huge disruptions affecting global financial markets, all while maintaining exchange rate stability,” Vujcic said, adding that government funding would could facilitate the expected increase in private savings that will ultimately require secure investments. On the other hand, financial markets are facing constant upheaval, uncertainty is extremely high, and this will all require very careful management of budget financing, the governor noted.

”We’re entering a health crisis from a position of considerable surplus in the current and capital account, in other words, we’ve got higher exports than imports, and higher capital inflows than capital outflows. We’ve used this surplus in recent years to repay foreign currencies and strengthen our foreign exchange reserves, which is our first shock absorber in a situation where exports fall. Although funding conditions have tightened for emerging markets, including the Croatian market, borrowing is still possible. We’ll only spend more on reserves if the coronavirus crisis escalates. If that does happen, it will be a sign that our foreign exchange reserves have served a purpose and that we’ve been able to maintain domestic demand. The CNB’s gross reserves, even after the foreign exchange interventions that stabilised the exchange rate after the outbreak of the epidemic, are in excess of €17 billion,” Boris Vujcic assured.

”The foreign exchange assets of banks needs to be added to that, which amount to approximately five and a half billion euros, and they can serve the same purpose as foreign currency reserves. Foreign exchange sold recently are mainly in the foreign exchange assets of banks and therefore haven’t disappeared from the country’s financial system,” Boris Vujcic concluded.

For rolling information and updates in English on coronavirus in Croatia, follow our dedicated section. For more on the Croatian economy, follow our business page.


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