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Capital Inflows, Household Debt and the Boom-bust Cycle in Estonia

  • Zuzana Brixiova
  • Laura Vartia
  • Andreas Wörgötter

From 2000 to 2007, Estonia was one of the fastest growing emerging market economies. A housing boom, fuelled by capital inflows and credit, resulted in skyrocketing house prices and an over-expanded construction sector. However, the currency board limited the Bank of Estonia’s ability to curb credit growth, while the fiscal policy framework amplified the cycle through pro-cyclical spending increases and tax cuts. As credit was mostly financed by cross-border loans from foreign banks, the risks of disruptions to credit flows and financial contagion have increased. Some have already materialised through tightened lending standards and capital outflows. Estonia is now in a severe recession. To restore high and sustainable growth, the country will need to rebalance its resources from non-tradables towards exports. Regaining external competitiveness will be challenging, however, given the fixed exchange rate and recent devaluations in partner countries. Flexibility of the economy will thus be crucial. Over the medium term, policymakers could also strengthen incentives for a better functioning of the housing finance market and gradually remove the pro-cyclical bias of fiscal policy. Entrée de capitaux, endettement des ménages et alternance expansion-contraction en Estonie Entre 2000 et 2007, l’Estonie a été l’une des économies de marché émergentes qui ont connu la plus forte croissance. Une rapide progression de l’investissement privé, surtout dans l’immobilier résidentiel, a été alimentée par les entrées de capitaux et par le crédit. En conséquence, les prix immobiliers se sont envolés et le secteur de la construction s’est surdéveloppé. Le système de caisse d’émission a toutefois limité les possibilités d’action qui s’offraient à la Banque d’Estonie pour freiner la croissance rapide du crédit. Parce que le crédit était essentiellement financé par les prêts transnationaux que consentaient les banques mères étrangères, les risques d’arrêt brutal et de contagion financière se sont aggravés. Certains de ces risques se sont déjà concrétisés par un durcissement des conditions de prêt et par des sorties de capitaux. L’Estonie est maintenant en proie à une sévère récession. Son PIB réel s’est contracté de 3.6 % en 2008 et de 9.7 % au quatrième trimestre par rapport à la même période de 2007. Pour en revenir à une croissance forte et durable, l’Estonie devra rééquilibrer ses ressources en favorisant l’exportation par rapport au secteur non exportateur (en particulier la construction et l’immobilier). Mais il sera difficile de rétablir la compétitivité extérieure sachant que le taux de change est fixe et que plusieurs pays partenaires ont récemment dévalué. La flexibilité de l’économie sera cruciale. A moyen terme, il faudrait aussi renforcer l’incitation à un meilleur fonctionnement du marché du financement du logement.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/224121736171
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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 700.

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Date of creation: 27 May 2009
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Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:700-en
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  1. Guy Debelle, 2004. "Household debt and the macroeconomy," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
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