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July trade deficit at record high CZK 19bn!

22.8.2001 9:48
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Trade deficit in July reached unexpected high CZK 19bn, while the market consensus was CZK 10bn only. The deficit comes second highest in the history, only after the massive Christmas fueled 23bn deficit in December 2000. There may be some sloppy statistics involved, as the June deficit was confirmed at lowly CZK 5bn, suggesting that some June trades might have slipped to July.

Even then, though, the trade deficit development in 2001 looks alarming: after seven months it stands at CZK 72bn, some 30% higher than in 2000. Imports have been growing by 19.2%, i.e. faster than exports that have grown by 18.3%. The gap widened in July, though, when imports grew 16.8% and exports by 13.7% only. It appears as the Germany's economic slowdown is beginning to take its toll at the Czech exports (40% of Czech exports are headed to Germany). The Czech economy finds itself in an odd situation: due to heavy government spending and surging FDI, it accelerates exactly when the rest of Europe is slowing down. This strains the trade balance, deficit of which is expected to grow above the CZK 140bn threshold this year. The current account will then be above the 5% of GDP level, sure trigger for worries about the sustainability of economic growth. It is sad to see that even this year's paltry growth rate around 3% seems to be more than the economy can bear without growing overheated.

(Martin Kupka)

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